software adoption

How to Map the Software Adoption Cycle in 4 Easy Steps

To improve software adoption rates, it is important to map out the adoption cycle.

The adoption process refers to the journey that users take when they begin learning and using a new product. 


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As those users proceed further toward the point of purchase – and as they become long-term customers – some will inevitably drop off.

A positive adoption experience, however, can reduce abandonment rates, increase user engagement, and ultimately improve a product’s marketplace performance.

Below, we’ll look at a 4-step adoption map that can help product creators improve these types of metrics. 

Before we do, though, it’s important to understand exactly what “software adoption” means.

Software Adoption: Definitions and Key Concepts

Product developers use several terms when referring to the adoption of software, including:

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

Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but in many instances they take on different nuances or even completely different meanings.

Software adoption, for instance, can refer to the implementation of new software within a business, or it can refer to the adoption of software within a business.

Digital adoption, however, focuses on user adoption, while emphasizing the importance of using software to its fullest extent

The reasoning behind this point is simple: software performance and value depend directly on users’ skills. 

If those users lack the requisite skills, then software ROI will fall short.

When mapping out the software adoption process and setting goals, it is important to keep this concept in mind.

Mapping the Software Adoption Process in 4 Steps

Product-based businesses are built entirely around the development and delivery of quality products. In this respect, we can claim that every function of a business should be designed to support the adoption cycle, from back-office functions to the more obvious functions, such as product design.

However, when mapping out the user’s path toward full adoption, it can be useful to create a journey map composed of four stages:

1. Marketing and Sales

Users first come into contact with a brand when they are researching their problem and potential solutions.

Marketing experiences, such as blog articles, word-of-mouth, or advertisements, are often the first point of contact with a brand.

As users progress down the pathway to purchase, the frequency of those communications increase. 

At some point, users will inevitably come to a sign-up form or web page – this, according to some adoption specialists, represents the start of the adoption process.

However, it is important to understand that marketing and sales communications have an impact on potential customers and help prepare them for onboarding.

For that reason:

  • Users’ expectations should be set clearly, well before they arrive
  • Marketing and sales communications should be consistent with the rest of the adoption pipeline
  • Adoption specialists should share data and collaborate closely with marketers to understand and improve the adoption program

Information sharing and collaboration can help the onboarding process proceed smoothly, and ensure that users are not jarred by unexpected or inconsistent experiences.

2. Onboarding

During onboarding, new users share information with the brand, sign up, and begin using a product for the first time.

The onboarding process can include elements such as:

  • The sign-up form on a website
  • Email correspondence 
  • Automated product tours
  • Software tutorials

Onboarding is particularly important, since first impressions often make or break a product – at least, as far as an individual user is concerned.

Abandonment is common during this stage, but it can be improved upon with the right strategy.

By experimenting with and measuring the components within an adoption funnel, for instance, adoption managers can gradually improve adoption rates, user engagement, and more.

3. Training

Maximizing user proficiency is aimed at maximizing product value, as suggested above. In turn, they will be much more likely to stick around for the long term.

Therefore, training is in the best interests of both the user and the product creator.

Training should begin during onboarding, and continue as long as necessary.

For some types of products, such as complex B2B platforms, this means providing ongoing, on-demand training for the entire customer relationship.

Of course, the more training that people need to become proficient with a product, the more important it is to economize.

In the enterprise, digital training should be:

  • Focused on day-to-day tasks and workflows
  • Automated, if possible
  • Data-driven and goal-oriented
  • Aimed at achieving specific digital adoption goals

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs), as we discuss elsewhere on this blog, are ideally suited for enterprise training, since they offer contextualized training directly inside applications.

4. Support

Support, such as customer support and technical support, are two other factors that impact adoption rates.

Poor support can negatively impact the customer experience, as research studies have shown. In fact, even a single bad experience can drive customers away.

As with marketing and sales, it is important for adoption managers to collaborate closely with support managers to share information, gain insight into customer needs, and improve their respective departments.

Also, since the digital age is transforming the way companies interface with customers, businesses can leverage new technology to improve customer care efforts.

Digital adoption solutions, mentioned above, can be used not only to train users, but to provide self-support functionality. That functionality, in turn, lowers burdens on support staff, while improving the end user’s experience.

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