This case study reimagines what onboarding could look like for Concept2’s SkiErg.

Once a customer buys your product – then what? The onboarding experience that follows should be as rich and engaging as everything that led up to that crucial vote of confidence. On its own, a standard sale is not the time to celebrate. Rather it’s a golden opportunity to stay focused on the much bigger prize that is still up for grabs: earning a repeat customer and product evangelist for life.


What could be.  Onboarding at Concept2.
What could be. Onboarding at Concept2.


Many companies have mastered the transition from purchase through onboarding, delivering a consistent brand experience the entire way. For others there is a shift in tone after you buy: After you click “confirm”, emails with subject lines like “Re: order 346678” and raw text arrive. A lot of that magic and inspiration that got you to buy in the first place suddenly vanishes.  An experience that felt more human now becomes automated and machine like.  It’s as if you’re watching an enjoyable show on stage when all of a sudden the fluorescent house lights snap on, actors break character and the rear curtain flies up revealing a wall of brick.

It doesn’t have to be this way. How we communicate immediately after the purchase and in the hours or days that may pass before the product actually arrives sets the stage for a satisfying and long-lasting customer experience. Done well, the onboarding process is a chance to help guide the customer along a yellow brick road of best practices and entertaining tips. Like every other aspect of our products, onboarding should be a carefully, consciously designed experience that embodies the brand essence and welcomes new users into the fold efficiently and with confidence.

Here’s a look at onboarding for a large consumer fitness product. A few simple enhancements could dramatically improve the overall experience while keeping the customer entertained until the product arrives. Note that none of these changes is particularly original, but together they create a more engaged, active experience.

The key is shifting away from a machine-driven tone concerned with literal information only (what you bought, how much it cost, where it is) and toward a rich human experience focused on story and delight.

The Setup

In the depths of my first Seattle winter, I realized that running in the dark and rain was going to be tough. I needed a dependable indoor fitness routine for dirty weather. I’d used an Indoor Rower from Vermont’s Concept2 before and liked it, and I knew they had adapted the mighty flywheel to a new product for nordic skiing. I decided to check out the SkiErg.

The research and purchase phases were straightforward. Concept2 has a great web site with vibrant imagery and compelling text. It didn’t take long before I knew I was sold. After a few clicks, a SkiErg was on the way.







After I paid, however, a change in tone occurred. Here’s what the confirm looks like:


The style of this message contrasts noticeably to other Concept2 communications that have been expressly produced – such as the great “Workout of the Day”:

If you look at the text in the PDF above, the seed of everything I’m going to suggest below is already there:

“We know you are excited to start skiing! While you await delivery of your Concept2 SkiErg, visit to find great tips on how to get started and proper skiing technique. Also read about our free motivational programs and worldwide online community at You’ll see there really is a Concept2 family!”

If we unpack what is explicitly said, effective onboarding for the SkiErg should…

* Give us something to do until the machine arrives
* Teach skiers how to use the machine
* Suggest training programs
* Connect customers with the existing online community of skiers

To these I would add:

* Teach skiers how to assemble the machine
* Guide skiers on how to set up an online profile and use the utility tool to upload workout data

So given what we know about the company and product, what could the onboarding experience look like for a SkiErg?

Onboarding ingredients

Some quick brainstorming should give us everything else we need to craft a compelling series of messages.

Let’s think about who buys a SkiErg. They’re probably a skier. Possibly a competitive skier. They are almost certainly interested in skiing as a sport and lifestyle.

What else are skiers interested in? The weather, snow amounts, races, photos of skiing.

When did I buy my erg? In winter (February). When there is skiing going on for real in the world. At places like Vermont’s renowned Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Which Concept2 now owns.

What could be – 7 Days of SkiErg Orientation

Using Sketch, I put together the following welcome campaign to introduce new users to Concept2 and the SkiErg. Again, none of this is revolutionary or complicated. But consider the feeling that messaging like this leaves you with vs. a receipt-only approach.

Day 1

Artboard 1

Day 2

Artboard 2

Day 3

Artboard 3

Day 4

Artboard 4

Day 5

Artboard 5

Day 6

Artboard 6

Day 7

Artboard 7

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