You may be wondering now - what the heck is proactive and reactive onboarding? Well, the reason why you haven't heard those terms before is probably because I've just invented them.

I’ve been teaching onboarding to my customers at Userpilot and I’ve always been a huge proponent of making the user onboarding very activation focused.

Once you understand user onboarding, concepts like proactive and reactive user onboarding will become much simpler.

Let’s dive into these two concepts.

What is Proactive User Onboarding?

Proactive onboarding is when you exactly know the user paths and flows when they initially are going through your Aha moment and activation. You proactively create those flows and force the user to go through it to get a job to be done. So, that the user is not left hanging.

It’s a process when you know if the user goes through this, they’ll find the value the quickest. Most of the software companies are doing this someway. You create a mind map, yes/no, and strings and keep nudging the user for the next action.

At this phase, you do not wait for the user to make an action first.

To give you an example, here's an example action-based work flow looks like

email flow


The main thing is that if the user has/has-not done a custom event, then show this in-app message/email.

For example, postfity is a social media scheduling tool, and the first thing they want to do is to make the user connect with their social media, and then take them to schedule. If their user has not connected the social media network, then they won’t find the value. So, push the user to those two actions with a yes or no-event.

So, this is how you create a decision tree and actively push the user for the next action.

What do you need to have in proactive user onboarding?

To effectively execute this concept, you need to have the following tools:

  • In-app messages via modals, tooltips, and driven actions
  • User onboarding emails based on days, actions, and persona
  • User onboarding checklist

You can learn more about user onboarding email actions here:

This will improve your aha, activation, and onboarding.

What is Reactive User Onboarding?

Reactive onboarding starts when the user has learned about a system already and they have gone through the Aha! And activation moments. Now, they have to further explore themselves to achieve the outcomes.

At this phase, you wait for the user to make an action first.

Here you need some resources for the users to explore as they learn and explore their journey.

Having an in-app live chat would be counted as reactive onboarding. You wait for the user to ask any questions that they have.

Why do you need reactive user onboarding at all?

The more users learn and explore your software, the more users will have questions around it. That’s why you really need it. No software or tech can actually work without reactive onboarding.

In fact, most of the users have thought about reactive onboarding. It has been there since tech hardware/software started, for example, user manuals/guides with how-to docs.

What do you need to have in reactive user onboarding?

To effectively execute this concept, you need to have following tools:

  • Help docs or knowledge base (our research says 90% of SaaS companies have this)
  • In-app help widget
  • Chat tool
  • How-to videos
  • Webinars
  • Academy

It’s important to remember it's all about waiting for the user to explore more software features.

Now that you understand these two concepts. Let’s look at a software that has done a decent job at both of them.

Salesflare -- Reactive & Proactive User Onboarding Case Study

Salesflare is my favorite tool to show a beautiful well-thought onboarding experience.

When I used this software way back in 2017, I almost learned the entire app myself and only had advanced questions. They’ve done a great job at these two concepts.

I’ll show you how they did it.

They’ve the first activation with welcome modals along with a good copy to motivate and introduce a user.

salesflare user onboarding example 1


They give a user choice and ask them to play with their interactive tour.

salesflare user onboarding example 2
salesflare user onboarding example 2


The tour then shows you some of the key features that Salesflare provides. The key part, however, is that you have to complete actions as you go along. This helps you in 'learning by doing'.

salesflare user onboarding example 3


At the end of the tour, right as you experience the Aha! Moment, Salesflare prompts you to connect with a range of different services.

They’ve also added a checklist + help widget to educate the user.

salesflare user onboarding example 5


They’ve everything to set up as a self-serve customer

salesflare user onboarding example 6


Instead of an academy, they have a video library.

According to me, Salesflare has championed proactive and reactive user onboarding with gamification involved.

salesflare user onboarding example 7


Hope this case study helps.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go and create your proactive and reactive onboarding.

Should you build it or buy proactive and reactive user onboarding?

It really depends on your resources, time, and growth goals -- if you need to move fast, look for onboarding software the market.

I did ask the Co-founder of Salesflare (Jeroen Corthout) on how long did it take to build something like this? And, he responded:

jeroen's comment


It took approx 78 hours to build something like a gamification checklist and the previous onboarding was already there with an interactive walkthrough that must have taken similar time too (minus the detailed analytics that such tools provide, and they don’t have it).

Such things do take time, money and resources.

I further asked, how long it took to build this whole onboarding? He said,

jeroen's comment 2


Something like this checklist is not EXACTLY there in the market, and that’s why they build it.