We are living in an era of product-centric companies. The arrival and hyper-rise of SaaS have given a simple formula for success—better and perpetually improving products and services.
Today, customers switch companies faster than they change their toothbrushes. Given the immense competition and accessibility of many options, how do you ensure customer loyalty and generate recurring revenue for you?
The answer is simple. Improving product and feature adoption, and ensuring excellent customer service and support; both of these account for the overall customer experience (CX). Companies that get hold of these two aspects have developed a clear edge over their competitors. For example, the rapid growth of SaaS products like Salesforce, Slack, Airtable, Hubspot, Atlassian, etc. can be attributed to these factors.
Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, clean engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships.
– Ross Perot, American Business Magnate
But, let’s leave customer service for another day and dig deeper into how you can increase product and feature adoption.
What exactly is product adoption?
Product adoption is the process where a customer trials your product, realizes its value, and finally purchases it. Product adoption is firmly governed by how quickly and accurately you can showcase your product’s value to your customers. A strong product adoption scheme can boost your relationship with customers and customer loyalty opportunities.
You can loosely correlate the product adoption cycle to the customer lifecycle in these four steps:
Often, marketers use the ‘hockey stick’ growth methodology with goals like sign-ups or downloads as the critical metric for product adoption—this is where the problem arises. Though increasing sign-up numbers are a great metric to evaluate success, they are simply not enough to gauge the overall customer experience.
Product adoption is a long process that is not merely limited to acquisition. You need to educate, deliver more value and, ultimately, increase retention. This is where feature adoption kicks in.
Feature adoption – a powerful subset
Your product is a cluster of features. These features work toward a common goal – to deliver value to your users.
Ideally, we’d like to believe that customers are aware of the small yet powerful nuances of our product, but this is a grave misconception.
Feature adoption plays a particularly crucial role, especially in the later stages of your customer lifecycle, namely purchase, and retention. Once you have delivered your core value offering to the customer, you need to make sure the customer sticks with you. To accomplish this, you have to continually innovate and educate your customers through product-led growth and other initiatives.
Why product and feature adoption is essential?
As conveyed earlier, product and feature adoption are essential metrics in improving the customer experience. As a matter of fact, 75% of your users will stop using your product in less than a week. The reason they stop? They didn’t appreciate the value proposition, or they weren’t able to use your product effectively. Hence it is vital to onboard your users effectively.
Better product adoption results in an improved ‘evaluation to purchasing’ conversion rate (a more common term for this is ‘trial to paid’ conversion) in your customer lifecycle and directly accounts for growth.
On the other hand, continuous improvement and feature adoption also increase customer retention rate and reduce churn—a measurable impact of one of the most critical metrics for any business—revenue.
You cannot overlook product adoption, at least in today’s product-first environment. Now that you are aware of the importance of product adoption let’s learn how to increase it?
Steps to increase product and feature adoption
I believe any business problem is solved with the right data analysis. Then, learning from this data to improve performance. The same applies to product adoption. There’s a plethora of metrics that can help you analyze your product adoption rates such as:
- DAUs, MAUs (Daily and Monthly Active Users)
- MQL, SQL, PQL (Sales, Marketing and Product Qualified Leads)
- Conversion rates between different stages
- Number of customers using a new feature
- Number of customers using an existing feature
- Active customers/Total customer
Eventually, the actionable metrics you need to concentrate on depending on your business model and product. Now, let’s discuss the steps, tips, and hacks to improve product and feature adoption.
User onboarding and the Aha! moment
Learning something new can be fun. Let’s take the game of football, for example. A little guidance can quickly accelerate your journey. You already know the basic premise; to score a goal and defend your net, but you need to learn the nuances of the game to appreciate it truly. You will eventually learn on your own as well, but a coach can accelerate your learning curve.
Similarly, your user base is new to your product. They know the basics, but a little guidance will save their time and help to propel your value offering, popularly known as the ‘Aha! Moment’. So, user onboarding becomes one of the most important aspects of product adoption.
The Aha! moment is the critical stage where a user utilizes your core product value proposition to solve a problem they’re facing. Your primary focus should be to get the users to the Aha! moment as soon as possible.
Usually, for a comprehensive digital tool, there are several Aha! moments. The universal 80/20 rule applies here as well. Twenty percent of your features will produce 80% of your revenue. So, it is crucial to identify these features. What’s even more important? How easily and quickly your customers can get to them.
You can use onboarding screens, guided in-product walkthroughs, in-app messaging, instant communication, checklists, videos, etc. All of these approaches are useful in the right circumstance.
I have found in-product walkthroughs, onboarding chatbots, and in-app messaging work wonders, and there are plenty of comprehensive SaaS tools to help with user onboarding.
Let’s take the example of Slack. Slack is a wildly popular team communication app. The first Aha! moment for Slack users tends to be the use of teammate messaging functionality. Here’s how onboarding is accomplished in this example.
Slack asks a few questions to customize the Workspace for you. See the GIF below. Notice that with every subsequent step, they update the information you have given in the previous step? This makes it super contextual and helps to familiarize you with the initial setup very quickly.
Once you’ve completed the basic setup and moved to your workspace, they educate users in two ways; subtle cues and an onboarding chatbot.
These are the in-app messages Slack keeps sending you to get familiar with the product. So, rather than figuring it out on your own, Slack speeds up the learning process with the use of its own messaging functionality.
In the next step, Slack asks you to review your username, password, and team details in three simple steps. The last step, inviting your team members, is a crucial step to reach the Aha! moment—team communication.
And if you choose to skip the step, Slack will keep reminding you of it, relentlessly.
Notice that the product-adoption channel is showing unread messages? Once the user clicks on this, the Slackbot comes into play.
Slackbot enhances the user onboarding experience with guides and cues to use Slack effectively. Sprinkling the software with hotspots and tooltips, Slack has created a smooth and straightforward onboarding experience.
Here’s a list of a few more real-life examples of good onboarding flows.
Behavioral triggers, as the name suggests, are driven by customer behavior. You can configure behavioral trigger workflows to educate your customers and help them get the most out of your product.
You can nudge users to perform specific tasks that are necessary to realize the value of your product. You can also indicate the next steps after completing a particular task—so that your users are never left in the dark and always have guided direction.
Let’s go back to our example of Slack for a moment. Suppose a user has registered an account but has not invited their teammates yet. You can nudge them until they finally add their teammates. Once they have given in, the cue would now be to guide them to start a conversation, share files, and create different channels for teams.
The best part about behavioral triggers is their contextualize.
Communication of information, driven through context, always has the upper hand over randomly shared information.
Additionally, behavioral triggers can be delivered through various mediums, such as in-app messaging and marketing automation emails.
Pro tip: use in-app messaging and marketing automation emails together. In-app messaging for instant communication and well-written emails to passively hammer home the call to action.
Webinar, live demo and training
Live conferencing has helped both the sales and marketing teams immensely, especially with the rise of remote working and virtual collaboration.
A lot of companies have incorporated live conferencing for product and feature adoption as well. You may have even had some experience with weekly training and onboarding webinars.
SaaS giants such as Zendesk and Helpscout allow their users to join product onboarding webinars and walk them through the product.
You can engage in personal live demos and training to educate customers as well. Although, you might want to allocate this resource-intense approach to a few key accounts or perform it, upon request, for a fee. Since SaaS companies get a lot of junk sign-ups as well, it is not recommended to offer ‘one-on-ones’ with unvetted sign-ups.
The benefit of webinars and live demos is the personal interaction they provide. Psychologically, webinars prompt a sense of emotional attachment in users—when they experience a real person guiding them through a product, rather than cookie-cutter emails/in-app messages, the effect is much more impactful. You can also share a recording of these webinars with all sign-ups, regardless of status in the funnel.
A hidden tool in any marketer’s arsenal, retargeting ads can absolutely be used for product and feature adoption. Contrary to popular belief, retargeting ads offer much more than just boosting product awareness. Retargeting your sign-ups and pointing out the value of your product and its features creates better brand recognition and increases product and feature adoption.
Additionally, the role of retargeting ads is not limited to just improving the conversion. You can use retargeting ads to cross-sell your sub-products and inform users about new and existing features.
You can use Facebook Ads, Google Ads, or any other paid platform, which has shown results in your niche. In my opinion, Facebook retargeting works quite well and offers a beautiful B2B and B2C balance. But again, it depends on where your audience is most active.
Deep-pocketed brands such as LinkedIn, Marketo, Hubspot, etc. use retargeting extensively for product and features adoption.
Launching new features and product updates
Given the ever-growing competition and the power of the ‘quick switch,’ almost every brand continuously improves its offering. The companies who aren’t doing it, however big they are, are playing with fire.
Improving your product and rolling out new features is one of the most critical aspects of customer retention. But we tend to forget that rolling out new features will not improve its adoption. Roll-out is just a job half done; brands must inform, market, and educate the customer as well.
A simple formula for this is to treat every significant feature roll-out as a new product launch. Let’s go back to our example of Slack, yet again. Slack has a marketplace of apps that one can integrate and make their team more productive. We use 15+ apps in our Slack account to improve productivity and cannot operate without them. When Slack rolled out its marketplace, it created a grand launch.
These mini product launches help to garner attention from potential and existing customers alike. It helps to boost the adoption of the feature. Here are some excellent tactical examples you can utilize to improve your feature adoption with mini product launches:
- Create dedicated landing pages for major features/sub-products
- Launch on popular listing platforms such as Product Hunt, Betalist, etc.
- Send email newsletters pre, during and post-launch to sign-ups, customers and subscribers
- Send in-app messages to your users about the new feature
- Open a beta portal and choose a select few loyal customers to give you early feedback (it will also make them feel important)
- Create behavior triggers and onboarding for the new features
- Personally reach out to all the customers who previously requested this feature
This is a non-exhaustive list, and you can do so much more, but this is the bare minimum to get a sizable chunk of your users to try the new features.
Additionally, keep a changelog handy and periodically inform your users about product improvements and small features updates. Here’s how Kommunicate tells their users about development and new features:
Many companies also retain a public product roadmap to keep their customers informed about upcoming features. Some even allow users to suggest and vote on their choice of new features; this is a great way to keep customers engaged, increase feature adoption, and eventually, customer retention. For example, check out Buffer’s public roadmap.
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
The U.S. Marines have a slogan that can be applied to life and business alike. I absolutely love it. Improvise, adapt, and overcome. How does this apply to business? Keep analyzing your data, learn from it, and act upon it.
There are a ton of excellent analytical tools on the market (the ones where you can define custom events, measure funnel, flows, and dropouts) to learn about your customer journey. They will provide insight into how your customers perceive your offering.
Tip: often, your perception and how your customer views your product differs immensely. So do not neglect this activity.
Measuring the funnels, flows, conversion rates, and drop-offs will ensure that you identify the friction your customers are facing. Subsequently, you can alter your design, flows, or copy to reduce that resistance. Afterward, re-measure metrics to see if there has been any improvement or not. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Customer support and feedback
Did you know that companies with excellent customer service programs enjoy a 92% retention rate?
Talking to your customers frequently is of prime importance for customer-first organizations. When you speak and listen to your customer, you understand the underlying problems and identify the lines between your perception and the customer’s reality. You gather insights and feedback directly from the end-users without making any assumptions. This is solid, customer experience, gold.
Customer support becomes immensely crucial in improving product adoption. After resolving a customer query, you can take the opportunity to communicate best practices and tips around the same issue. Moreover, you can take a proactive approach to customer support – eventually solving customer problems, even before they crop up.
Wrapping it up
Improving product and feature adoption is not just a ‘good-to-have’ for your business. It is a fundamental and critical aspect that will give you a measurable edge over your competition. Especially in today’s fast-paced, digital world, where customer loyalty is declining.
Remember, do try to implement and test out some of our highlighted strategies and look to accomplished companies for a template. Make sure you have a good analytics engine in place to measure and analyze your metrics and, if you are not data-driven, be data-informed so that you can make better decisions.
I will close it with a quote by the legendary Steve Jobs:
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.