Drive product adoption

How to Drive Product Adoption: The All-in-One Guide

In this complete guide, we will learn how to drive product adoption efficiently and effectively.

This guide will also cover:


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  • Essential product adoption concepts
  • Why product adoption is so important
  • Which companies can benefit from adoption strategies
  • The difference between product adoption and digital adoption

And much more.

To start, let’s look at some fundamental concepts related to product adoption.

Product Adoption 101: Basic Concepts and Ideas

Here are some essential ideas that can describe the context around product adoption.

Understanding these concepts is fundamental for any business that wants to drive product adoption successfully.

Naturally, the first, most important term to explain is product adoption itself…

  • Product Adoption – Product adoption is the process by which new users, such as consumers or employees, integrate a new product into their daily workflows. This process includes several other sub-stages or components, such as onboarding, training, product tours, and more.
  • The Product Experience – The product experience is the overarching experience that users have with a product. It includes all interactions with the product, and is driven by a variety of business functions, from product support to marketing.
  • The User Experience – The user and the customer experience overlaps with the product experience, though the emphasis is on the end user, rather than the product. Other departments, such as marketing, tend to use the term “user experience,” which carries different connotations than the product experience.
  • User-Centered Design – User-centrism is a business and design principle that builds products and processes around user feedback, data, and needs. Rather than building a product that businesses think their users need, they learn from users throughout the design and implementation process.
  • Digital Workflows – Every user has their own digital environment, which is composed of digital tools and workflows. A single workflow may involve multiple tools, which is why digital adoption focuses on an integrated digital work environment … not just the implementation of a single tool.
  • Digital Adoption – Digital adoption is the process of using digital tools for their intended purpose and to their fullest extent. The emphasis is more on digital transformation, holistic digital strategies, and integrated digital workflows, rather than proficiency with a single tool.

Organizations that want to successfully drive product adoption should have at least a basic understanding of these concepts before progressing further.

Below, we will elaborate on some of these topics by answering some of the most commonly asked questions about product adoption.

A Product Adoption FAQ

Product adoption, as mentioned above, is when users integrate a new product – such as a software platform – into their digital work environments.

For business users, this work environment is typically the workplace.

For consumers, their digital environment can include work tools, entertainment products, and more.

In either case, though, the underlying process is the same.

Let’s learn more about this process with this FAQ about product adoption:

What are the stages in product adoption?

Product adoption, software adoption, and digital adoption focus on a set of component stages such as:

  • Marketing and support communications. Before someone begins using a software platform, they are in contact with marketing and sales professionals. And after they become a customer, they correspond with support staff. These business communications, in turn, affect the user experience and the results of product adoption programs.
  • User onboarding. User onboarding familiarizes users with a product and helps them become proficient with that tool. It is often synonymously used with terms such as product onboarding or software onboarding.
  • Product tours. Product tours are initial introductions to a software tool. A video tour, for instance, can demonstrate the key features of a product in order to illustrate its value. The best tours, though, are interactive tours that actually walk users through a product and provide hands-on experience with the product.
  • Product training. Training is another important stage of product adoption. After all, users who don’t know how to use a product will never realize the full potential and value of that software … which will ultimately diminish their experience and the software’s marketplace performance.

It is also worth noting that there are other components to product adoption.

The collection of user feedback and the use of that input to optimize adoption processes, for instance, occur throughout the product adoption process.

Why does product adoption matter?

Effective product adoption delivers several benefits to organizations, such as:

  • Improved user productivity
  • Accelerated product training 
  • Decreased technical support costs
  • Reduced user frustration 
  • Boosted engagement and retention rates

Product adoption is important for product development companies, because it directly affects the bottom line.

Driving product adoption effectively, after all, can positively impact user acquisition, retention, and lifetime value.

These outcomes, in turn, have a positive effect on an organization’s competitive position in the marketplace.

How are product adoption efforts measured?

Metrics are usually derived from the objectives of an adoption program.

Typically, they will focus on the intended benefits of a program, such as:

  • User acquisition, retention, and churn
  • Training time, cost efficiency, and effectiveness
  • User productivity and proficiency
  • User sentiment
  • Software utilization and ROI

Data sources for these metrics can include:

  • Software analytics
  • User feedback
  • Manager feedback

Among others.

Later, we will discuss a step-by-step approach for creating and using product adoption metrics.

What is the ROI of product adoption?

The returns of any adoption effort will depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • The business in question
  • The design, execution, and management of product adoption programs
  • How much the organization has invested in its adoption efforts
  • The stated goals of the adoption program

ROI measurements will be based on the program’s aims, its invested resources, and the outcomes of the program.

Program effectiveness and ROI, in other words, are based on how well and how efficiently an adoption program achieves its intended goals.

An adoption program that stays within budget meets or exceeds its objectives would be considered effective.

The more that costs rise and the more that its outcomes shrink, however, the less effective the program would be.

How do organizations drive product adoption?

There are a number of factors that contribute to successful product adoption:

  • Good product design
  • Well-structured adoption programs
  • Effective management, execution, and optimization of those programs
  • A willingness and ability to stay agile and adaptable
  • A solid digital adoption strategy
  • The right use of the right tools

Next, we will explore these ideas in more depth, by examining a step-by-step process for designing, driving, and managing product adoption efforts.

How to Drive Product Adoption Effectively

Driving product adoption requires planning and effort.

Fortunately, with the right strategy, it is possible to create an adoption plan that gets measurable, positive results for the organization.

Here is one step-by-step approach that organizations can use to develop and drive an adoption program, starting from scratch.

1. Learn about the value of product adoption.

The very first step is understanding what product adoption is and why it matters.

We have already covered many of those reasons above, but let’s recap a few of those reasons here:

  • Driving product adoption can positively impact the customer experience, through improved onboarding, training, and product interactions
  • For users, these improvements translate into a faster realization of the product’s value
  • For organizations, this means better bottom-line returns and marketplace performance

Ultimately, driving product adoption helps fuel profits and growth.

This understanding is a necessary foundation for implementing any adoption programs in the real world.

2. Assess the potential benefits of product adoption in your business.

The next step to realizing the benefits of product adoption is seeing how those benefits apply to one’s own organization.

An enterprise that wants to improve in-house software implementation, for instance, could improve areas such as:

  • Employee productivity and proficiency
  • Time-to-competency and time-to-productivity
  • The employee experience
  • The efficiency of the digital workplace

A software development firm, however, would be more interested in improving, for instance:

  • User acquisition and retention
  • The product experience
  • Users’ impression of the brand and the software

Product adoption is clearly a concern in each scenario – and doubly so for product development companies.

After all, they must worry about both their clients and, in some cases, those clients’ customers.

In both cases, these ROI calculations can help make a case for the business value of product adoption … a requirement for the next step we’ll discuss.

3. Obtain buy-in and make a commitment.

To actually get results from product adoption efforts, organizations must make a commitment to structured adoption efforts.

Obtaining that commitment, however, is not always easy.

In some cases, it is necessary to make a strong business case before stakeholders can align together to support product adoption initiatives.

Support must come from a number of parties, including:

  • Business leaders
  • Managers
  • Ground-level employees
  • Other relevant stakeholders

To build a case and earn support from these groups:

  • Educate stakeholders about the basics of product adoption
  • Explain the general benefits for organizations
  • Highlight the potential returns for one’s own organization, as well as the downsides of not implementing adoption programs
  • Outline a potential strategy and plan of action

In other words, it is necessary to “sell” the proposal to stakeholders before they will support it.

Once buy-in is secured, product adoption efforts will be more likely to generate positive results.

4. Perform organizational assessments.

Organizational assessments offer deeper insight into the state of the organization.

This information helps project coordinators better understand several important things:

  • The potential value of product adoption programs
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the existing adoption process
  • How product adoption initiatives should be structured

Among other things. 

There are several areas to consider assessing when designing a product adoption program.

An enterprise that is designing or redesigning a product adoption program may assess:

  • The organization’s digital maturity
  • Change readiness
  • Existing product adoption programs
  • The current state of the product experience
  • Product onboarding and training programs

As well as any other factors that may impact the organization’s product adoption efforts.

These assessments should be used to bolster support for the program and help align teams around program objectives.

5. Use that information to strategize and plan.

With the assessments in hand, it will be possible to develop strategies grounded in real-world data.

More specifically, that plan should be built around:

  • Specific, measurable goals
  • Metrics and KPIs that are tied to those goals
  • A roadmap divided into stages, and touchpoints
  • An adoption strategy that aligns with the overarching product experience strategy

Once the strategy and plan have been designed, organizations can move forward and begin preparing the actual plan.

6. Prepare tools and teams.

Before implementation begins, it is imperative to have the proper preparations in place.

These include:

  • Assigning teams and personnel
  • Providing those teams with the right tools
  • Ensuring that teams have the necessary skills and knowledge

When these are taken care of, then it is time to take the first steps.

7. Perform pilot tests.

New business processes can be rolled out in phases or all at once, to the entire organization.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each scenario.

When rolling out a new process all at once, timelines can be shorter. However, there is greater complexity, less time for planning, and higher risk.

If that risk is deemed too high, then businesses may want to follow a phased rollout.

In this case, pilot tests are the first step.

They allow project coordinators to:

  • Run program tests with small groups of users
  • Collect feedback and analyze user data
  • Use that data to inform and adjust future plans
  • Make more accurate predictions about future rollouts

Pilot testing is much like A/B testing in marketing..

Project managers can test a new process with only a small segment of users, make changes, then follow the process that gets the best results.

8. Roll out the adoption program to the full user base.

After the pilot test is completed, then it is time to roll the project out to all users.

The adoption program should address all of the key components of the adoption process, including:

  • Marketing and sales communications. Some experts include marketing and sales within the overall product experience. From the user’s perspective, after all, their experience consists of a single journey that includes every interaction with the brand – beginning with marketing.
  • User onboarding. The onboarding process embraces a number of touchpoints, such as the initial sign-up and early communications. 
  • Product tours. A product tour is an automated introduction to a software application. There are different types of product tours, such as video tours or blog articles – but the best are interactive tours. Interactive product tours give users hands-on experience with the software, improving engagement and satisfaction levels.
  • Customer care and technical support. Customer support and technical support are important to successful product adoption. When users receive the support they need to achieve their aims, they will be more successful and have better experiences. 
  • Product training. Product training has a large, lasting impact on the user experience, affecting skill levels, engagement levels, and much more. Along with the other factors covered here, good training will positively affect user sentiment and retention.

Early on during the implementation, it is important to pay close attention to user feedback, as well as feedback from project team members.

9. Measure, analyze, and learn.

By now, metrics and KPIs should already be in place.

There should also be methods for collecting that data and analyzing it.

These can include:

  • In-app analytics that track user behavior
  • User feedback mechanisms, such as surveys
  • Mechanisms for collecting feedback from project teams
  • Data from other sources within the organization

This data should be analyzed consistently and, early on, constantly.

It should also be examined and learned from over the long term, in order to continually enhance results and optimize performance.

10. Optimize.

Optimization involves:

  • Continually collecting data
  • Learning from the insights gathered
  • Implementing changes based on that information

However, in order to optimize effectively, program managers must design their adoption programs accordingly.

That is, they must:

  • Follow business practices that are built around user-centrism, such as agile and lean
  • Be willing to change their program structure and learn from real-world data, rather than following preconceptions
  • Build optimization mechanisms into the very business process itself

Optimization should become a standard part of every business process. 

Unless a business continually improves its programs, after all, those processes will remain static while environments continue to change. 

The result: processes that gradually become less relevant and profitable over time.

To avoid this, it is advisable to follow user-centered design practices … among other best practices and principles.

Driving Product Adoption: Best Practices, Strategies, and Tips

Below we have included several best practices, principles, and tips that can help organizations improve their product adoption endeavors. 

The first one is important and it echoes one of the steps mentioned above:

Commit to creating a sophisticated, well-structured product adoption program.

To get real, tangible results, it is imperative that organizations fully commit to their adoption initiatives.

This means:

  • Fully understanding the value of product adoption
  • Obtaining support from all stakeholders
  • Designing well-structured, sophisticated product adoption programs
  • Dedicating resources to the management and execution of those programs

As with any other business process, half-hearted efforts will produce lackluster results.

In order to truly benefit from product adoption programs, therefore, organizations must start with a commitment. 

If they don’t, all of their subsequent efforts will suffer.

Stay user-centered.

User-centric design is, as mentioned at the outset of this article, a design approach that builds business processes and products from user input.

Here is a simple example of how this process can play out:

  • A cross-departmental product adoption team creates a prototype of an adoption program – a marketing funnel that leads to a product tour, onboarding, and training
  • They pilot test this process with a small group of users
  • Users input is provided through user testing, surveys, software analytics, and other data collection mechanisms
  • The product teams then learn from that information and make adjustments to the adoption process
  • The process is rolled out to a larger subset of users and the process is repeated

The same type of approach works with a variety of business processes, including product design, product adoption, user experience design, and much more.

A user-centric approach such as this is also closely linked to another modern business approach: agile.

Stay agile.

Agile software development is very common these days.

As most software developers know, this approach is built around principles such as:

  • Collaboration among team members
  • Working products 
  • User-driven design
  • Responsive business processes

Though agile began with software development, it has spread to a wide variety of other business areas, such as agile change management.

Applying this same approach to product adoption can benefit organizations by helping them create processes that are more user-driven, adaptable, and relevant.

Provide product adoption teams with modern, effective tools.

Modern business approaches, such as agile, are useful methods for enhancing the results of any business process.

However, another factor that affects business processes is technology.

Without the right tools, it will be impossible to implement some of the techniques covered here.

A number of tools can be used to enhance businesses’ adoption efforts, such as:

  • Digital adoption platforms (DAPs). DAPs are automated training platforms that improve onboarding, training, and other aspects of the adoption process.
  • HR platforms. HR platforms are toolboxes that assist with a number of HR functions, from employee onboarding to employee surveys. They can be very useful for enterprises that are adopting tools for in-house use. 
  • Survey tools. While HR platforms include survey tools, there are also specific applications that can be used to obtain user feedback. 
  • User testing software. User testing tools are, as the name suggest, designed to help product creators test their new products and minimum viable products (MVPs). Features vary, and can include everything from video recording to detailed software analytics.
  • Analytics tools. Many other tools can offer data and analytics, such as DAPs and app analytics. Tools such as these are invaluable assets when designing any product adoption process.

Each tool has its own purpose and application.

DAPs, for instance, are ideal for user onboarding and product training.

Survey tools can be used to collect feedback from customers or employees.

Don’t “set and forget” your product adoption program.

A product adoption program is an ongoing effort that should be improved over time.

However, it is all too easy to “set and forget” certain business processes, such as product adoption programs.

Doing this, though, can be very detrimental to adoption efforts.

Instead, it is important to proactively manage and maintain adoption efforts. 

Organizations must be ready and able to change the program as necessary.

Methods and mechanisms covered earlier – such as user-centered design and agile – can help ensure people keep adoption programs up-to-date.

Extend your focus beyond product adoption – to digital adoption.

Product adoption is, as one might expect, focused on products, users, and the product experience.

In many cases, this strategic focus is perfectly suited to improving user metrics and product performance.

Product creators, for instance, mostly concern themselves with:

  • User acquisition and retention
  • Engagement and satisfaction
  • Products’ marketplace performance

However, enterprises that adopt new software platforms for their employees have other concerns.

In many cases, they are interested in:

  • Digital transformation
  • Maximizing the ROI of their software investment
  • Improving employee performance, proficiency, and productivity
  • Enhancing the employee experience

Among other things.

Organizations with these concerns may want to focus on digital adoption, rather than product adoption.

To understand why, let’s look at how digital adoption differs from product adoption:

  • Product adoption focuses on maximizing individual user metrics, while digital adoption extends its scope to include digital transformation, the digital workplace, and more
  • Its focus is on maximizing software utilization, ROI, and value – as well as users’ proficiency, productivity, and performance
  • Digital adoption is a stage in the process of digital transformation, according to research firms such as Deloitte

The difference, in short, lies in the scope and strategic focus of the adoption program.

In either case – whether a business’s adoption efforts are aimed at customers or employees – there are certain tools and approaches that can be very beneficial.

Driving Product Adoption with Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs)

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are tools specifically designed to enhance digital adoption and transformation efforts.

https://twitter.com/WalkMeInc/status/1211668577838927872

They are useful in any adoption scenario, including:

  • Software adoption
  • User adoption
  • Digital adoption
  • Product adoption

As mentioned earlier, these different types of adoption are all based on the same fundamental process.

And DAPs have been built specifically to streamline this process.

The Benefits of Using DAPs 

Using DAPs during product adoption offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Simplified user experiences. New software can be daunting, especially complex software such as enterprise-grade SaaS platforms. Simplifying the user experience decreases cognitive load, user frustration, and burnout.
  • Accelerated training timelines. DAP features, such as in-app training, help users become more proficient in less time. Along with the other benefits covered here, this helps to improve the overall value of the software platform.
  • Lower technical support costs. When users can obtain assistance any time they need it, they are less likely to call for support. The natural result is a decrease in technical support costs and an improved customer experience.
  • Improved user proficiency and productivity. Even brand-new users can learn complex tasks automatically, at any time. With other DAP features (see below), DAPs can keep skill levels from stagnating, improving overall proficiency.

For organizations that implement new tools in-house, this translates into better software ROI, improved workforce performance, and a better digital workplace, among other things.

For product creators, these benefits improve customer satisfaction, retention, and growth.

Key Features and Functions

DAPs were built specifically to drive product adoption, through a set of features that include:

  • In-app guidance. Contextualized assistance is provided directly inside the application. Users can immediately apply what they have learned, which improves knowledge retention, as well as user engagement. 
  • Step-by-step walkthroughs. Tutorials take users one step at a time through workflows, without human intervention. This significantly accelerates learning time, while also improving the user experience.
  • Software analytics. Analytics provide insight into user behavior. That information helps managers pinpoint users’ errors, identify training needs, and enhance adoption programs over time.
  • Task automation. Automation, a feature offered by platforms such as WalkMe, frees up user time for more valuable activities. Just as importantly, it increases the efficiency of those tasks, resulting in massive productivity gains.

Effective use of these platforms can dramatically improve product adoption programs.

And, in fact, many businesses build their entire adoption programs atop platforms such as these.

How to Drive Product Adoption with DAPs

There are several ways that DAPs can assist with digital adoption efforts.

DAPs can, for instance:

  • Familiarize users with a platform through product tours
  • Promote targeted application features
  • Teach tasks and workflows with guided walkthroughs
  • Offer technical support with contextualized guidance

Ultimately, DAPs streamline the entire product adoption process, helping users achieve their goals with less effort in less time.

And this, in turn, helps organizations achieve their own aims more effectively.

Final Thoughts

In this guide, we have explored product adoption inside and out.

Among other things, we have explored:

  • The basics of product adoption
  • How to design product adoption programs from scratch
  • The difference between product adoption and digital adoption
  • How DAPs can help drive product adoption

This guide has covered a number of topics in detail, but it is certainly not the final word on product adoption.

For more information, consider researching related topics, such as:

  • Digital adoption
  • DAPs
  • Digital transformation
  • The product experience
  • Product training
  • Change management

Naturally, a good starting point would be our own digital adoption blog, which covers many of these topics in great detail.

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