Tobias Boerner, now Chief Marketing Officer & Co-founder of a Luxembourg-based app aggregation company, Appic, has been laying a series of remarkable stepping stones in his career. The most noticeable are his achievements at LOVOO, one of the biggest dating apps in Europe which he made an exit for about $70 million, and Fastic, a five-star intermittent fasting app used by over 26M users worldwide, 92% of whom are happy customers. The Fastic app is also looked upon by many subscription apps and marketers for its exemplary onboarding process and its approach to building users’ trust and satisfaction with consistent delivery of personalized experiences.
For the Subscription League Podcast episode 15, we sat down with Tobias to discuss the nitty-gritty of how the Fastic app differentiates itself from other fasting apps with its extraordinary onboarding strategy.
For noteworthy quotes and key takeaways from the episode, read the article -
Episode Topics at a Glance
- What is Fastic app About
- Fastic app’s onboarding explained
- What is the ideal onboarding experience
- Dos and Don’ts for onboarding
- Onboarding struggles
- Key numbers to benchmark
- Paywall or no paywall during the onboarding
More about Tobias Boerner
Tobias is a serial entrepreneur and Angel Investor. His passion is growth, product marketing and UX/UI. In his previous roles as a CMO and Co-Founder of LOVOO, Tobias was part of 2 exits worth 70M$ and 500M$.
After this almost 10-year journey in the dating environment, he started a new chapter as co-founder and growth officer for Fastic and helped them grow into one of the leading brands for well-being. Besides his passion for marketing, Tobi has made it his mission to be ahead of the times in market developments in the tech environment. With Admiral Studio he founded a collective in the NFT & Web3 space. Tobi is the CMO & Co-founder of App Aggregator Appic since 2022 where he is building a powerhouse for global mobile apps.
Tobias Boerner’s Links
- Tobias’ Linkedin
- Appic’s official website
- Fastic - world's leading fasting app
- World's first web3 marketing platform
00:21 Welcoming Tobias Börner
00:52 LOVOO: dating app
01:19 Fastic: fasting and health app
02:57 Epic.io: investment and benefits
03:40 Why is there a long onboarding process for Fastic?
05:39 Purpose of the onboarding categories
08:02 What is the ideal onboarding experience?
08:35 Response to very heavy onboarding flow
09:20 Other apps that inspired Tobias
09:54 Absolute don'ts for onboarding
11:28 Advice and tips for onboarding
12:45 Tobias' main struggles with designing onboarding
13:55 Onboarding without A/B testing
14:59 At what point do you not invest much effort anymore?
16:01 The expected effect of good onboarding
16:52 What % does good onboarding convert at?
17:25 The uplifting effect of good onboarding
19:30 Do you recommend a paywall in onboarding?
22:21 Did you run into bugs that helped?
24:01 Counterintuitive learning from Tobias
[00:00:00.910] - Olivier Destrebecq
Welcome to the Subscription League, a podcast by Purchasely. Listen to what's working in subscription apps. In each episode, we invite leaders of the app industry who are mastering the subscription model for mobile apps. To learn more about subscriptions, head to subscriptionleague.com. Let's get started.
[00:00:22.160] - Olivier Destrebecq
Hey, Nicholas. How are you doing today?
[00:00:24.000] - Nicolas Tissier
I'm fine. I'm doing awesome. What about you?
[00:00:26.680] - Olivier Destrebecq
I'm doing really great because today we have the pleasure to have Tobias Boerner with us. I'll just say that his experience has blown my mind. I'm just going to welcome him to the show. Welcome, Tobias.
[00:00:37.500] - Tobias Börner
Hi, guys. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:38.950] - Nicolas Tissier
How are you doing today?
[00:00:40.050] - Tobias Börner
Doing very well today.
[00:00:42.510] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. As I said, your experience blew my mind. I want to quickly walk through it. Usually, I read it myself and go through it, but I want to get your take on each step. You co-founded Lovoo and eventually made an exit for about $70 million. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience and what Lovoo is?
[00:01:01.620] - Tobias Börner
Yes, sure. Lovoo is one of the largest dating apps in Europe. I co-founded that together with few other amazing guys back in 2011, and over a crazy right, we sold it 2017 to an American company called The Meet Group.
[00:01:18.960] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. Then you've done, I guess, that two-step exit, and then you went on and co-founded Fastic, which is one of the leader in the wellbeing app industry. So same here, tell us a little bit about it.
[00:01:30.250] - Tobias Börner
Fastic, it's in the health niche, health fitness niche. It's an app for intermittent fasting. We're focusing here on people's wellbeing. It's already very strong, very good position, especially in the US. It's one of the leading brands when it comes to intermittent fasting.
[00:01:50.700] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. I'm curious, the idea for Fastic, how did that come to you? Are you into wellbeing and that was something that you were going to use, or was that a need that you found for people around you?
[00:02:02.710] - Tobias Börner
Actually, one of the co-founders was a very big fasting lover, and he went a couple of times to a hotel in the Black Forest. This is how he met the whole group, the whole other people. They're already working in this fasting environment. They're asking themselves, "Fasting is so great; it has a lot of health benefits. How could it be possible to spread this much faster in the world?" Of course, and very good way to do that is to came up with an app. Since this date, I'm also into that intermittent fasting thing. I do it since we started running the company in 2019.
[00:02:46.570] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. Are you still working at Fastic, or did you move on from there?
[00:02:52.290] - Tobias Börner
I'm advising the management team, especially for growth of marketing and stuff.
[00:02:57.790] - Olivier Destrebecq
Now you also founded Epic.iO. Can you tell us what that is?
[00:03:02.940] - Tobias Börner
Of course, I could. Epic, we so-called an app aggregator. The idea here is basically that we buying and investing in promising apps which has good KPIs or smaller or independent developers or small teams. They want to move on with their career. We found it quite interesting now to reach out to all of these potential great apps and use our experiences, our knowledge in growing and extending apps, put it on table and invest much more, and do something big on that side.
[00:03:40.000] - Olivier Destrebecq
Nice. I guess I'm going to take you back a little bit to Fastic because the first time I heard about Fastic—and you at the same time, actually—was when we're doing a podcast interview with Andy Carvell here on the Subscription League. He mentioned how at Fastic, you guys got away with a very long onboarding, which can be somewhat counterintuitive because one of the advice that you can hear is have your onboarding a good onboarding, but don't make it too long. Can you explain what led you to the onboarding in Fastic and how you got away with such a long onboarding?
[00:04:11.080] - Tobias Börner
I hear this question quite often. Why is this onboarding so long and how can that be in terms of performance? The question is quite simple. If you try to come up with a very personal approach for customers, you need a lot of input from them. So you have to ask them a lot of questions about their health journey, health data, and so on. In the same time, we need to also do a little bit education around our topic. Why is it important, what is in for them, what is the value proposition, why do we need to input so much health data?
[00:04:46.930] - Tobias Börner
Gaining trust is also one of the arguments, what we also cover in the onboarding to come up with the perfect plan for every single customer. We figure out the best thing to do that, it's with a very long onboarding and with good explanation and the right time with the right questions. Customers really like that approach.
[00:05:09.560] - Nicolas Tissier
Actually, the onboarding at Fastic was taken as the best example by Andy Carvell of a very successful onboarding. I find it really interesting because you reproduce the few questions that you would have in real life if you were to go and visit a dietician. Of course, before proposing some kind of remedy for you, he would first start by asking a few questions, and this is exactly what you're doing.
[00:05:38.260] - Tobias Börner
[00:05:39.750] - Nicolas Tissier
If we come back to the onboarding, not all screens in onboarding have the same goal. Can you tell us, what are the different categories between all the purposes you mentioned before?
[00:05:53.440] - Tobias Börner
The Fastic onboarding, what is approximately, I would say, if you do it right, you need at least 2-3 minutes to going through. If customer's taking the time to answer all the questions, they will have finally a very nice plan developed. Categories, basically, we start with introductions, and of course, we need to explain what's in for the customer. That's the most important thing in the first slide, the reason why he should start with Fastic.
[00:06:19.330] - Tobias Börner
Then heading over to some terms which is legally needed. This is not our performance optimisation, but this is more, "We have to get some opt-ins from the customer." Then categories are personalisation, to goal setting, to individualisation, which is for example, your birthday, your gender, your height, your weight, your goal weight.
[00:06:43.000] - Tobias Börner
Step number four is, for example, education and trust. As I mentioned before, very, very important to meet our medical board to see studies, what it's all about, because if you're working with health, it's very important that you take this very seriously.
[00:06:58.200] - Tobias Börner
Then again, step number five, it's individualisation part number two. Now it's all about the nutrition and how active the customers are, when is eating time, when is not eating time. Very, very personal questions. If needed, we give them also a hint. If you have any problems, for example, with eating disorders, you need to consult a doctor before. This is the most important thing, again, for Fastic that we taking care of the health of every customer.
[00:07:27.350] - Tobias Börner
[inaudible 00:07:26] slide is about the push permission, and we figure out that it's very good to get this already in the onboarding. Again, very big advice here: explain people why you're asking for that permission. This will definitely help to increase conversion rates.
[00:07:43.690] - Nicolas Tissier
This is very striking in Fastic onboarding in particular. You are actually building trust. To do that, every time you need to collect information, what is really important is that you explain why you need this information so that the user is reassured when they provide it. I'm curious, according to you, what would be an ideal onboarding experience in a few words?
[00:08:12.360] - Tobias Börner
The ideal onboarding experience, to me, as much as possible, customers going through. The onboarding rate, it's all about numbers. We look very carefully about numbers. Ideally, onboarding is if at least 70, 80% running through it, then you did a great job.
[00:08:35.650] - Nicolas Tissier
This is for the data. But on a more qualitative aspect, if you see an onboarding into an app that, for instance, you want to buy at Epic, what would you make, say, "Wow! This is a hell of an onboarding flow" if you don't have the numbers?
[00:08:51.730] - Tobias Börner
It depends which niche we're talking about. For health and fitness, it's quite obvious: asking questions, getting enough input to make the journey as personalised as possible. But on the other hand, you have apps, they're talking about soccer results. In that case, it's way different. So you need to be much faster on the point, and you don't need that many input. It's very hard to say only this onboarding is right for everything. It really depends on the niche.
[00:09:21.090] - Olivier Destrebecq
I'm curious, actually, because we're both here, Nicolas and I are saying about the onboarding on Fastic is long, but it's so great. Has there been other app that you've used that have either inspired you, or if you use since, you're like, "Oh, that was really a great onboarding"?
[00:09:34.910] - Tobias Börner
I bring this example quite often, but to me, it's great onboarding. It's basically the onboarding of Duolingo which has a lot of gamification in it. I'm a very big fan of that and the like. You should have a look at them.
[00:09:51.010] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. We'll point our listeners to go check Duolingo and Fastic.
[00:09:55.480] - Nicolas Tissier
On the other hand, Tobias, is there any absolute don't that when you are designing the onboarding that our listeners should be aware of?
[00:10:08.470] - Tobias Börner
Absolutely, don't for me would be if you not iterate that funnel enough. Make a first MVP for onboarding, and then you can definitely achieving much better goals if you have on a consistently basis, A/B testings in the onboarding flow.
[00:10:29.820] - Nicolas Tissier
This is very interesting. If I rephrase what you just said, don't try to do hell of an onboarding from the very first step with the 60 questions. You will eventually end up there. But start simple, measure, and then iterate and improve. Is this correct?
[00:10:51.110] - Tobias Börner
That's correct. And don't forget to ask your customers what they're telling you about. It's not all about asking them in person. You could also using, let's say a tool called Smartlook. It's a good example that you can have a look on the back of the customers how they navigate through your onboarding, where they click, what is the drop off there, and so on. Have a very close look on the behaviour of the customers on your onboarding.
[00:11:15.150] - Olivier Destrebecq
Is that something that you guys have done when you were doing Fastic? Extensively looking at the data to really understand where people dropped off?
[00:11:21.460] - Tobias Börner
In the early days, 100%. So this was one of the examples why we came up with this onboarding as it is today.
[00:11:28.030] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. Do you have any other advice or tips on people trying to do their onboarding?
[00:11:32.810] - Tobias Börner
Onboarding itself, it's the first touch point with the product. It's the key for getting the customers activated somehow. As I told you, spend time for. Iteration, it's key. A/B test, it's key. Not only for the paywall. Paywall, of course, you should spend time on that. I think Purchasely has great options for A/B testing paywalls.
[00:11:56.490] - Tobias Börner
But not only the paywall. Ask for the permission only if it's needed, and then, again, give a good reason why you need that. Anything else is case by case different. It depends on the niche and the product and not all apps. I'm not telling you that all apps should have a long onboarding. It's not always the best choice. Basically, I'm very convinced of a personal approach to the onboarding but designed for every app case.
[00:12:21.240] - Olivier Destrebecq
Really, what I'm taking away from what you're saying is a long onboarding is reasonable when you need the data that you're asking the user in the onboarding for the app to work well, and that the user has that understanding himself or herself that this data is useful, and so they'll be willing to take the time to go through it. Then you can personalise the app more and all that good stuff. Don't forget your point.
[00:12:46.930] - Nicolas Tissier
You do have a lot of experience in this field in designing nice onboarding flows. What are the main struggles you've been facing when designing them or working on them?
[00:12:59.370] - Tobias Börner
As far as I remember, one struggle is, for example, to bring them flexible, alive, so that you have a no-code solution to just changing slides, changing the text, changing maybe animation. If the onboarding is so long, it's not that easy for a team to change things so often as I like to see it.
[00:13:24.960] - Nicolas Tissier
It requires a lot of development, a lot of time. Of course, the longer the onboarding, the more difficult, the more effort you have to produce to create a nice one and iterate on it. Makes sense.
[00:13:39.070] - Tobias Börner
You also need a lot of customers for A/B test. If you have just 100 signups a day, then it's quite difficult to have a lot of A/B tests. You need a sizable amount on customers that you definitely have a good number, like a number that you can rely on.
[00:13:56.020] - Olivier Destrebecq
Do you have any advice for those companies that are 300 users a day that might not be able to do a lot of A/B testing but still want to move forward? What would be good advice for them to work on their onboarding without A/B testing, essentially?
[00:14:09.600] - Tobias Börner
Generally, I would say, I think it's at least 1,000 signups a day, then you can split it into A/B test free, A/B test maybe. And also depends what is the optimisation goal. But below that number, I think one more sale can lead to a very different view and maybe one conclusion. So it's not that easy if not enough customers.
[00:14:31.990] - Nicolas Tissier
I'm curious, you were A/B testing every chance you were doing on the onboarding itself?
[00:14:38.440] - Tobias Börner
Not every step, but at least have a very carefully measure. Sometimes if you have a lot of experience, then you don't need that much A/B test for every single step and for every single button colour. But if you have not that experience, you should invest the time.
[00:15:00.110] - Nicolas Tissier
I guess you are conducting experiments, but this could go for 1,000 years. At which point do you say, "Okay, this is enough. We are holding something great, and it's not worth investing that much effort now"?
[00:15:15.900] - Tobias Börner
I'm a big fan of the 80/20 rule. If you're achieving already 80% of your goals, what you had in mind, which is great. The other 20%, it's something for later. It's really depends on the optimisation goal. If it's retention, then you cannot have that big influence, especially in the onboarding. But if it's a conversion to pay, it's more likely that you have an opportunity to increase that KPI within the onboarding.
[00:15:49.320] - Tobias Börner
It's, to me, sometimes never enough, but you need to keep going. You also should focusing on the whole customer journey after the onboarding. There's also a lot of room to improve over there.
[00:16:00.570] - Nicolas Tissier
Great. What is the expected effect of a good onboarding through on the business?
[00:16:06.970] - Tobias Börner
You mean by numbers? By just pure numbers?
[00:16:09.310] - Nicolas Tissier
Yeah, by numbers, or in general, why would developers do that?
[00:16:15.410] - Tobias Börner
From my point of view, the onboarding helps to bring the customers very smoothly in the product flow and to make them stick, to activate them and to follow your goal to the North Star somehow. If your goal, I can talking about Fastic, if your goal is to start, you feel fast, so we do everything towards that. We're bringing the customer already in the mood to taking the first action, which is then after the onboarding, the activation.
[00:16:49.270] - Nicolas Tissier
Activation is a great answer. Great. Do you have any insightful KPIs to share with our listeners regarding the overall conversion of the entire flow they should target? I guess it depends on the vertical or the product itself, but a good onboarding would convert at which percent?
[00:17:10.090] - Tobias Börner
I can give you a roughly ballpark. But I saw in the market, when I have so many different apps, they're doing a very good job. If you have 70-80% completion rate of the onboarding, then you're doing a great job.
[00:17:24.420] - Nicolas Tissier
Perfect. For subscription apps in particular, I guess having a good onboarding will create an uplift in conversion to trial or to paid or on retention. What would be this uplift according to you?
[00:18:18.070] - Tobias Börner
For subscription apps in particular, I think the uplift for subscription rate itself, it's quite high. If you bring the customers in the right mood, answer them why he should pay for your product, and if you guide them in the correct mood and you give them a personal approach for your subscription, you can expect also an very high or like an higher subscription rate in the onboarding as well.
[00:18:46.450] - Tobias Börner
Compared without an onboarding, imagine you're going to install offline, and someone just showing you the paywall without the product, I think this will not converting that well. If you're giving some storytelling and the reason why you should do it beforehand, I think this is absolutely key for every app product and for every niche.
[00:19:05.370] - Nicolas Tissier
According to my experience, you can even double the conversion to pay. Would you agree with that? With a good onboarding, I mean. Do you agree with that?
[00:19:14.320] - Tobias Börner
I 100% agree with that. I saw also some cases during my career from zero onboarding to onboarding introduction, and then the rates going up from 2-3% to 6-7%. I mean 100% agree.
[00:19:31.750] - Olivier Destrebecq
In the onboarding, there's a debate as to whether you should have a paywall in there during the onboarding or not. I'm curious, what's your take on that? Do you recommend having a paywall, or does it depend on the vertical too?
[00:19:43.920] - Tobias Börner
Of course, it's depends on the product and the niche. For the B to C subscription apps, normally, having a paywall in the onboarding. And they also at least selling something, could be also a trial, like Spotify or Netflix, and so on. They're selling you the trial. Of course, it is free months or it's one month. It's much longer.
[00:20:06.000] - Tobias Börner
For other ones, in the dating environment, there's no trial. They have more a hot conversion. But it's not recommended to skip that. You miss so many things from uplift without having a paywall in the onboarding. There are a few use cases which make no sense, but in the majority, I think 80%, they should really consider to have an onboarding flow within a paywall.
[00:20:30.400] - Nicolas Tissier
With a paywall, yeah. Awesome. From my experience, it's very important because first of all, some of your users, they might just be willing to try your product right away. If you have a free trial, then it doesn't cost anything. They can try with the actual regular experience, the good one, not some kind of subpar experience where they try to benefit from the free product, but which is not actually the reflect of what they would get if they were subscribing.
[00:20:59.310] - Nicolas Tissier
Also, it's very important to set the expectations because when you are a premium product, you must sell it to your users, and they must be convinced that this product is worth paying for it. The most common mistake we see on the market is that some apps, they don't show the onboarding soon enough, and thus, they don't really convert. But mainly because the users, they don't really know that there is something to sell.
[00:21:26.880] - Nicolas Tissier
You should not fall in this trap. Right after the onboarding is, I would say, the best place for showing the paywall because you've built the trust, and then you are able to say, "Okay, now we have something to sell. Try it."
[00:21:39.900] - Tobias Börner
Yeah. People get used to it. This is quite normal now. Everything, it's paid. A few years back was a different view on that. But I'm still wondering if the freemium model has had its days. It's getting more and more behind the paywall. I don't know what exactly will be the future, but I think it's time to something new.
[00:22:02.100] - Olivier Destrebecq
Agree. The more we talk to people, what we hear is instead of doing a freemium where there are some features that are locked behind a paywall and you can get the best experiences, it's great to show the full experience to people so they can really decide whether it's worse for them to pay the extra to use the app.
[00:22:21.660] - Olivier Destrebecq
On a different topic, one of my favourite questions, and I think I forgot to ask at the last few episode, is did you run into any happy bugs that ended up being great designs, great features when you were working on Fastic or on Lovoo?
[00:22:35.470] - Tobias Börner
Over the years with more personalisation, there are not that much bugs anymore. But I remember a few years back, it was like we send a push to all customers from the Lovoo user base. Normally, it was a idea to make a test to send a push to all the developers, and they just put a banana emoji in the push and writing about just banana. They sent by accident this to every customer.
[00:23:05.140] - Olivier Destrebecq
[00:23:05.470] - Tobias Börner
This has a very high click rate, like very high open rate, a funny bug. We took this idea and did a few times more. Like increasing daily active users. And what else?
[00:23:19.870] - Olivier Destrebecq
It's like the mysterious push notification that you don't really know what it is so you go check it out.
[00:23:24.210] - Tobias Börner
Yeah. And what else? Also funny thing, this was like more for the marketing part at Fastic. We designed a very nice video, very cool motion design feature which was super nice. I call it the body status. We put it live, and so many people reaching out to our customer service and asked, "Where? I can't find this in the app. I can't find this in the app." There was a new feature born. From an ad idea to a main feature basically, that's pretty cool.
[00:23:53.590] - Olivier Destrebecq
At least I guess you knew you had to really build that feature afterwards.
[00:23:56.910] - Tobias Börner
Yeah. Maybe a little bit pressure for the developers.
[00:24:02.290] - Olivier Destrebecq
Yes. In the same line of thought, is there any counterintuitive learning that you gain over all your experience that you could share with us around marketing and subscription and all that good stuff?
[00:24:15.520] - Tobias Börner
Challenging times right now. I think the learning definitely is keep fighting and stay hungry and try out all the new channels coming through. For subscription products, think about price strategy. I think you can move the needle also with optimising debt and thinking about... This is something I already mentioned, is the freemium model still the right model? Maybe not the learning, but it's a big question mark, what I have since a couple of months in mind, and still thinking what we should do with that idea.
[00:24:53.610] - Olivier Destrebecq
That's all the time that we had to chat with you today. I really want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us and answering all our questions and sharing all the great experience that you've amassed, essentially, over the last 10 years or so. Again, thank you very much.
[00:25:07.290] - Nicolas Tissier
Thank you very much, Tobias. We really appreciate it and was very interesting.
[00:25:11.160] - Tobias Börner
Thanks, Nicolas. Thanks, all of you, for having me. And talk soon?
[00:25:15.060] - Olivier Destrebecq
Talk to you soon.
[00:25:15.720] - Nicolas Tissier
[00:25:16.300] - Tobias Börner
[00:25:18.410] - Olivier Destrebecq
On behalf of the Purchasely team, thank you for listening to the Subscription League podcast. If you've enjoyed what you heard, leave us a five star review on iTunes or other audio platforms. To find out more about Purchasely and how we can improve your subscription business, visit purchasely.com.
[00:25:35.530] - Olivier Destrebecq
Please hit Subscribe in your podcast player and don't miss any future episodes. You can also listen to previous episodes at subscriptionleague.com. See you soon.