It’s time we accept a hard truth: it doesn’t matter how good of a product you built. If people don’t know it exists or see its inherent value, they aren’t going to use it. You could’ve built the best software to ever exist (I know we’ve all thought that at one point or another), but people don’t just magically discover it overnight. It takes a lot of cross-collaboration and organized efforts to educate the masses about your product and how it works. 

Product adoption is this process of educating people about your product and converting them into users. You can’t just create something and then let it dangle in the ether. You need to spend dedicated time, money, and energy creating a plan to inform people about your product and show them its value. Let’s quickly review the steps in the product adoption process.

Product Adoption Process

A user will typically go through five distinct stages of product adoption: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.

1. Awareness

The first stage of the product adoption process is awareness, which is simply a person’s understanding or knowledge of the product. A person may not be aware that your product exists, or may not even realize the problem that your product resolves. Educating the general public about your product or the problem that your product solves is crucial to spreading the word and making your product more recognizable. Investing in smart advertising, particularly digital or social media advertising, and putting together a strong marketing team are both keys to raising awareness around your product.

2. Interest

After a potential user is aware that your product exists, you have to get them interested in your product. This step takes them from just general knowledge of your product to seeing value and viewing your product as a potential solution to whatever problem they’re trying to solve. This is the stage where the potential user may do research on your product or a competitor’s product to gather more information.

This is where having a strong online presence can be super helpful. Having in-depth blog posts, informative videos, an active social media, and a strong knowledge base for your product can all help the potential user learn more about your product as they research potential solutions.

3. Evaluation

Once your potential user has gathered enough information, they’re naturally going to start evaluating your product compared to your competitors. This is where they’re going to decide if you are a suitable solution for them and whether or not they’re going to purchase your product.

Having easy-to-access marketing materials can be really useful at this stage. If you can send along a one-pager outlining features in your product vs. your competitor or customer testimonials, you can help the prospect evaluate your product and they will start to see the value that your product provides.

4. Trial

So the potential user has done their research and evaluated all their options. Hopefully, they’ve now decided that your product is the most suitable solution and will purchase it (or at least select a free trial if that’s an option) to test it out. 

Allowing users to test out your product before they fully purchase it can be a really great tool to really let the potential user see the full value of what you offer. A money-back guarantee, temporary reduced cost, or free short-term trial can all help the user get a feel for your product and fully understand how it could help them out. Strong customer success teams that can nail a successful onboarding process, even for trial users, are crucial for this step to lead to adoption.

5. Adoption/purchase

If the trial stage is successful and the user is happy with the results, then they will move into the final stage of the product adoption process and fully adopt, or purchase, your product.

This process is absolutely critical to taking a potential user and converting them to paying customers, however it is really only applicable to non-product teams. Think about it; the majority of this process occurs outside of the product itself and before the user has ever even fully seen your product, and so it relies heavily on marketing, sales, and customer success teams to do most of the work. Plus, most SaaS teams won’t even want users going through this process unless they’re confident that they can keep them engaged after adoption, because the threat of churn is too real.

 So while non-product teams are responsible for increasing the total number of users at the very top of the funnel and guiding them through the product adoption process, it is important to note here that the responsibility of the product teams to then keep these users engaged and happy once they’ve actually started using the product.  There is another equally important flow that begins at that moment that you’ll need to guide your users through in order to keep them engaged as users. We won’t go into that now, but you can check out our blog post on this engagement funnel for more information.

Important Measurements

There are a bunch of different ways that you can track product adoption and user engagement. To check out some key metrics for user engagement, you can check out our blog post here, but below are a couple great ways to measure product adoption. 

1. Adoption rate

The first metric is a basic adoption rate. This is a simple comparison between your total number of users and your total number of new users, and you will get a percentage of how many of your users are new.

  • Formula: Number of New Users / Total Number of Users 
  • Example: 
    • New users = 50 
    • Total users = 300 
    • Adoption rate = 50/300 = 0.1667, or 16.67% 

You can calculate the adoption rate on any temporal window that makes the most sense for your product (daily, weekly, monthly, etc).

2. Time-to-first key action:

This metric shows how long it takes a user to complete an important action within your feature. You can measure the average time of two different scenarios: either how long it takes a new customer to use an existing feature, or how long it takes an existing customer to use a new feature. 

  • Example:
    • The average time it takes a user to first-click a navigation item from the homepage is 5.3 seconds.
    • The average time it takes a customer to complete their first transaction on an eCommerce website from when the account is first opened is 12 days.

3. Percentage of users who complete a core action

Similar to the previous metric, this percentage gives you insight into how many users are completing key actions within your product. By taking the number of users who completed a core action and dividing it by the total number of users, you can get a simple and straightforward idea of how easy it is to navigate your product and how many users understand the inherent value that your product provides.

  • Example:
    • 56% of users submitted a feedback request, but only 20% completed a survey
    • 78% of trial-based users completed a purchase while 86% of subscription-based users completed a purchase

3 Ways to Improve Product Adoption

It’s easy to sit here and talk about how important it is to dedicate time, money, and effort to product adoption, but actually going about it in an effective way can be really difficult. Here are a couple ways you can boost your product adoption rates.

 

1. Improve Onboarding Experience

 

One of the easiest ways for a potential user to get frustrated with your product and leave before finishing the product adoption process is to have an inefficient onboarding experience. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had a less than ideal onboarding experience with a product at some point or another. It left a sour taste in your mouth of the entire product, didn’t it? Even if a user pushes through and uses your product, they likely are not going to have a positive experience going forward and their opinion of your product will be tainted by their negative onboarding experience.

Make sure you have helpful materials, an in-depth knowledge base, and detailed step-by-step guides readily available to your users as they go through onboarding.  If you’re still small enough, it’s even better to have a customer or product person standing by, reading to help answer any questions someone may have during onboarding. There will always be snags, of course, but the faster you address any problems a user has, the better experience they will have.

 

2. Remove Fear of Change

 

One of the easiest cop-out answers a potential user can give is, “Well, we already have a solution.” Even if they acknowledge that their current process or solution isn’t perfect, people will often settle for what they’re used to because they feel it’s safer than trying something entirely new and unknown. It’s your job to ease their worries and show them that you can solve their problems better and make their lives easier. Persuading them to try out a risk-free trial, or providing informational material that they can share amongst their teams will help alleviate these fears and help them see that your product is a better solution than whatever they’re currently doing.

 

3. Incorporate Support Tools Directly into Your Product

 

Another easy way to cause users to immediately abandon your product is if they feel confused or unsupported. It’s all too easy to just give up if you aren’t enjoying your experience, or feel lost in a product. That’s why it’s super important to include support tools and materials directly inside your product so that your users are never guessing where to go if they need help. Including an FAQ, a place for users to submit questions or feedback, or integrating a live chat tool are all ways that you can ensure that your user will never feel lost or confused when entering your product for the first time.

At the end of the day, we all just want people successfully using our products and to be satisfied with their experience. But there’s a lot more that goes into that than you may initially believe. You can’t just expect people to magically know about your product and understand fully how it works; it takes a lot of hard work and collaboration between the product and non-product teams to ensure success throughout the product adoption process.