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User Adoption 101: What It Is, How to Get It Right

User Adoption

What is user adoption? 

Is it the same as user acquisition? 

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Or is it related to digital adoption?

Below, we’ll cover the answers to these questions and more.


  • What user adoption is
  • How it compares to user acquisition, digital adoption, technology adoption, and related terms
  • How to develop a good user adoption strategy

And more.

To start, let’s start at the beginning…

What Is User Adoption?

The explosion of digital technology has also fueled an explosion in new terminology.

For instance, we have:

  • Digital Adoption – Embracing and deploying new technology, while implementing strategies and tactics to maximize user productivity, engagement, and software ROI
  • Technology Adoption – Technology adoption is like digital adoption, minus the strategies and tactics. With technology adoption, a business may adopt and implement – but this term doesn’t imply efforts to maximize productivity.
  • User Acquisition – User acquisition refers to the process of acquiring new users for a product, such as a SaaS solution. It involves marketing, sales, user onboarding, and any process that helps transform prospects into loyal users.
  • User Adoption – User adoption is the process that ensures software users can achieve their goals by using a product, SaaS solution, or application.

With so many new terms and concepts, it can certainly be hard to keep track of them all.

However, keeping track of these terms can help organizations keep up with new software, trends, and products.

So let’s dive a bit deeper into user adoption…

A Deeper Dive into User Adoption

Below are a few definitions of user adoption that can be found floating around the internet.

User adoption is…

  • “the process of ensuring each of your users is successful in using your product to achieve their business goals”
  • “a situation in which users adopt a system that works to fill a specific need”
  • “the transfer (conversion) between an old system and a target system in an organization (or more broadly, by anyone)”

Though the exact words vary, the bottom line is the same.

Adoption is a process by which users embrace and become productive with new software.

Why User Adoption?

Poorly managed software implementation can have negative results, such as:

  • Poor user productivity
  • Information overload
  • User churn or employee turnover, depending on the context
  • Bloated training budgets and adoption budgets

It would be bad enough if we were discussing only a single digital adoption project.

However, in today’s workplace, digital transformation has become standard.

It is all too common for a company to engage in multiple digital adoption projects simultaneously.

In today’s complex, fast-paced business world, it becomes more important than ever to engage in strategic user adoption.

There are a few broad reasons why:

  • To mitigate the aforementioned risks and problems
  • To streamline adoption, change, and digital transformation
  • To minimize negative impacts of adoption processes
  • To help integrate user adoption with other business functions

Drilling deeper, there are many specific metrics that can demonstrate the business value of effective adoption.

A few of these include:

  • Increased user engagement
  • Increased user productivity
  • Lower error rates
  • Faster time-to-competency 
  • Faster time-to-ROI

Clearly, there are plenty of reasons to implement a user adoption strategy.

Designing and Implementing a User Adoption Strategy

Let’s look at a few tips for executing an effective user adoption program:

Define user adoption goals.

Every new tool is designed to fulfill a purpose.

A new marketing tool may aim at increasing returns on marketing spend.

Automation technology may aim to increase efficiency.

However, successful digital adoption – or user adoption – is necessary to achieve full productivity with any software tool.

User adoption goals can include:

  • Achieving a certain productivity level within a certain time period
  • Improving KPIs specific to a department or business area
  • Reducing user error rates by a certain amount
  • Transitioning away from previous software by a specific deadline
  • Implementing a new employee training system

And so forth.

The specific goals, of course, will depend on your project, business aims, and the software itself.

Choose the adoption approach.

There are different approaches to adoption, such as:

  • The Big Bang Approach – Going “cold turkey” and transitioning to a new software all at once.
  • The Parallel Approach – Operating both applications simultaneously, gradually increasing reliance of the new system over time.
  • The Phased Approach – Adopting a software one department at a time.

There are different benefits and risks to each approach.

Incremental approaches – such as the phased approach – are less risky. Each stage of the rollout can be tested and improved upon before the next stage.

However, these approaches take more time.

Final Thoughts: Make Adoption a Permanent Business Function

Today, digital disruption is driving continual digital transformation.

This state of permanent change has driven many businesses to incorporate new functions into their business models.

These can include change management, digital adoption management, experience management, and user adoption management.

And effective management directly impacts project ROI. 

Any business that adopts new software, therefore, should start thinking in terms of user adoption and digital adoption … not just software implementation.

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Digital Adoption Team
Digital Adoption Team

A wonderful team of Digital Adoption, Digital Transformation & Change Management Experts.