Product adoption and meaning

Product Adoption and Meaning: An Evolving Definition for the Digital Age

In this article, we’ll explore product adoption and meaning – namely, how product adoption compares to digital adoption.

Though both of these terms have similar meanings, there are important differences between the two.


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Understanding this difference is important for any organization that wants to adopt new technology efficiently and effectively.

Digital Adoption, Product Adoption and Meaning: An Evolving Definition

Product adoption is only one among several terms that focus on software implementation, utilization, and adoption.

Other terms include:

  • Product adoption. Product adoption focuses on how users adopt a specific product. This term emphasizes the product itself, making it useful for businesses that develop products and product experiences.
  • User adoption. User adoption focuses on the process of adopting users. Since this term focuses on users, it is a useful perspective for businesses whose revenue model depends on users, such as apps.
  • Software adoption. Software adoption is another term that clearly puts its emphasis on “software,” rather than on users or the product. This term is often used in a business context, referring to organizations that adopt new software applications.
  • Digital adoption. Digital adoption focuses on the larger digital context, as well as on individual users and products. For this reason, digital adoption is a more useful strategy, regardless of the scenario.

Each term has its own use case and emphasis, though they are used interchangeably by some.

However, businesses that want to truly make efficient use of their software should understand these differences – and use a strategy that best fits with their organization’s strategic agenda.

Product Experiences vs. Digital Experiences

Experiences affect users in a great many ways. 

A product’s experience, for instance, can impact how users engage with a product, user retention levels, productivity, proficiency, and much more. 

For that reason, the user experience has become an important area of focus in modern businesses.

Yet, as with adoption, there are many different terms that revolve around that experience:

As mentioned above, an organization should choose a framework that aligns with its own strategy. 

An organization focused on streamlining a digital workplace, for instance, would do well to develop a digital adoption strategy, rather than a user adoption strategy.

Regardless of which term is used, however, the experience itself is a key element of any adoption strategy.

Let’s explore how these are related:

How Experience Affects Adoption

A user’s software experience – whether that user is an app user, an employee, a customer, or someone else – will have an immediate impact on how effectively that person adopts a software tool.

Experiences can affect:

  • Sentiments and engagement. Good experiences are, generally speaking, simple experiences. The less complex an experience is, the more users will engage with that product or service – and the more they will enjoy it.
  • Overall proficiency levels. Simpler user experiences also reduce cognitive load and increase learnability. As a result, users will learn more quickly and efficiently.
  • Time-to-competency. Good experiences that focus on learning can also decrease learning timelines. And faster time-to-competency also carries with it a number of other benefits, such as improved productivity and user retention.
  • Retention and abandonment rates. For product developers, user retention is of paramount importance – after all, it directly impacts the bottom line. But for businesses that adopt software for internal use, it is equally important, since employees who burn out will often be minimally productive. Or they may simply look for employment elsewhere.

To deliver better software experiences, businesses often adopt principles that focus on:

Irrespective of the adoption strategy, the fundamental principles of experience design remain the same.

Experiences should stay agile, adaptable, and personalized – the more they can meet these criteria, the better the outcomes will be for a given business program.

Which Adoption Model Should a Business Choose?

We have seen that there are quite a few ways to frame the adoption process.

Businesses can focus on employees, users, products, or the digital environment.

But which framework should an organization choose?

To answer this question, organizations should evaluate their own business model and its emphasis.

For instance:

  • Businesses that focus on users, such as app developers, would do well to focus on user adoption, user onboarding, and user training
  • Organizations whose business models revolve around the product itself, such as product creators, may prefer to focus on the product experience and product adoption
  • Enterprises that are undergoing digital transformation would do well to focus on digital adoption, the digital workplace, and the digital experience

The outcomes of an adoption effort will in part depend on how an organization frames its adoption efforts, since that framework will determine which processes and strategies it uses to accomplish its aims.

However, it will also depend on other factors such as which adoption software it uses.

For more information on digital adoption strategies and tools, be sure to visit our digital adoption blog, which explores digital adoption, digital transformation, and the modern digital workplace.

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