11 min read

When you’ve defined your product value and built a product that truly gets results for users, the next step is to scale your user base and your profits. But you can’t do that without a successful user adoption strategy.

User adoption is when users reach a milestone your product team has set. That might be creating and sending a proposal, booking a flight, or adding a widget to their website.

In this ultimate guide, we’re covering all the best user adoption resources in one place:

What is user adoption?

User adoption refers to when a user has been activated—or satisfies your company’s criteria for an engaged user. You can have different levels of user adoption, for example an engaged free user versus an engaged paid user.

Why user adoption matters

User adoption is essential for a successful B2B SaaS company, consumer tech, or other digital experience company. With healthy user adoption rates, you’ll experience higher initial revenue and long-term revenue as well as less churn.

How to define user adoption for your product

Your user adoption criteria will change as you iterate on your product and validate it with the most ideal user segments. For example, let’s say your product is an accounting program. There are many different features. Initially, you might define product adoption as when a user integrates their bank account with your platform.

After doing experiments to raise the adoption rate of your bank account integration feature, you might find that revenue isn’t positively impacted. This would then lead to realize that while integrating a bank account is an important step, it doesn’t denote an activated user. Perhaps you then add an additional criterion of generating a report. You then improve your onboarding to guide users to integrate their bank account and to generate a report 7 days later (after data has been pulled in). If this experiment positively impacts revenue, then you know that you have a better definition of user adoption.

Types of user adoption

As we mentioned above, each company has their own criteria for product adoption.

In addition to that existing complexity, there are also different types, levels, and phases of user adoption.

Levels of company involvement

Rollout phases

Expected usage

User types

You might also have different adoption criteria for different subsets of users, such as a CFO versus a bookkeeper, for example.

Top user adoption metrics

These are the best metrics for keeping track of engaged users and spotting opportunities to improve your product and its onboarding.

User adoption strategies that work

To get users to adopt your product, you need to take a proactive approach. All of these strategies will help you reduce the amount of hand-holding that your customer success and customer support teams have to do.

DevSquad Blog Guide to User Adoption Metrics Strategies Examples Tools

1. Email onboarding sequences and behavior-based emails

Whether it’s a welcome email, a long drip onboarding sequence, or a behavior-based email triggered by specific user interaction with the product, it’s clear that email plays a major part in adoption and onboarding.

Any SaaS go-to-market strategy should include at least a simple product activation sequence.

Here’s an example email from SEO tool WriterZen with links to various onboarding resources:

writerzen email

2. Tooltips and text explainers

Google Docs recent released some new functionality. Users can now create pageless docs so there are no breaks between pages. This is great for website copy and other pageless projects.

When you go to Page Setup, you see a gif and a text explanation of the feature with the option to click through to a help desk article and learn more.

google docs

For simple features, explanations or tooltips (where you hover over a question mark or other icon to see short UX copy) work great. There’s no need to create complicated explanations for every feature.

3. In-app training videos

For more complex platforms, video tutorials are super helpful. Whenever users have to choose many different selections or follow many different steps, a video is a great idea.

You can embed videos directly into your app.

Real estate intelligence platform PropertyRadar has a pop-up with various tutorials.

property radar

4. Onboarding progress trackers

Onboarding progress trackers are another smart strategy to guide users towards adoption. In this example from Proposify, we see that the suggested steps are to watch a “Getting Started” video, update the account’s branding, check profile information for accuracy, and add teammates.

proposify

You can easily build a progress tracker in your app by using an onboarding tool like Pendo, Chameleon, or Userpilot. We discuss these and other popular user adoption software at the end of this article.

5. Self-selection for different use cases or user types

Have you ever noticed that many apps require to select an option as soon as you sign up for the first time?

Some apps ask you to select what type of user you are (accountant, small business owner, or CFO for example), or they ask you to select what you plan on using the app for (designing posters versus design social media ads, for example).

Social media scheduler Buffer takes a different approach. As part of their user adoption strategy, they ask what the user would like to start with first (Publishing, Analytics, Engagement, or Start Page), and then they direct each user to the area of the product that coincides with that goal.

buffer

6. Guided walkthroughs

Guided product walkthroughs, also called product tours, are a very common method for improving user adoption. These tours usually have 1-8 steps in them, and they guide users through various actions or features.

This example from Canva prompts new users to begin with a design template:

canva 4

Some walkthroughs actually require that a user complete a step before moving on, while others simply ask a user to hit the “Next” button.

If your product is more challenging to learn, you should require users to complete steps in the tour so that they remember how to do it. This is also something that you can test (completing steps versus hitting the “Next” button) in order to discover the best approach for your specific product.

7. In-app live chat and chatbots

In-app chat is an important user adoption channel because that little chat icon on the bottom right screen is often where users first turn when they are confused and unsure of how to proceed.

Loom’s chat feature offers a few options to get started, and the chatbot answers questions and directs users to various videos and help articles.

loom

A chatbot can help answer user’s questions faster than human support while also reducing the number of live chat representatives that you need to staff at any given time.

8. Help documentation

This help desk example from Hotjar is great because it’s so user-friendly. Users can see a selection of helpful articles in the Getting Started section:

hotjar

Users can then keep scrolling to find additional articles on other topics or submit a request if needed.

Make sure that you continually update your help desk documentation as your product changes so that it is still accurate. Many users prefer to setup their account on their own and expect to be able to find accurate tutorials so that they don’t have to contact support for help.

9. Onboarding experiments

Testing is a crucial part of increasing adoption.

Lucid Group Product Manager Allen Liao describes this strategy perfectly:

“I had to do a lot of qualitative and quantitative research to figure out what good engagement looks like for our product, and start to reverse engineer the long term engagement to the onboarding journey, and how to bring users to understand the core value proposition of our product and then expand on that.”

“We find the opportunities, prioritize them, start with qualitative research, do quick experiment iterations, then blend those iterations into longer A/B tests with bigger volumes that we can expand to more critical segments of our user base.”

Allen Liao, Group Product Manager at Lucid

Make sure that you’re testing not only different activation strategies but also adoption segments and criteria as well.

10. Collecting user feedback and sharing your roadmap publicly

Lastly, make sure that you’re collecting feedback on your product. User feedback tool Frill uses their own idea board to collect ideas from users and publicly display their product roadmap:

frill

This offers a variety of benefits:

3 excellent examples of combined user adoption strategies in action

Most successful companies combine different user adoption strategies in order to onboard, engage, and retain users.

Here are 3 examples of a more holistic view of user activation.

1. DesignFiles

DesignFiles uses a progress tracker for onboarding new interior designers to its design and business management platform:

designfiles

They also utilize a unique strategy. Next to the user’s first project in the dashboard homepage, they include a call-to-action to join their Facebook community, which offers networking, helpful content, and feature tutorials.

designfiles 2

2. Canva

Design tool Canva uses the self-select strategy for all new users. This is brilliant because Canva is used by so many different types of people.

canva

Canva then presents different screens based on the use case they’ve selected.

For example, a Small Business user is directed to “Create a team” and invite their team members, while a student is directed to simply start designing.

canva 2

Canva has a really great welcome screen for all new users.

In the “What will you design?” section, users can search for various templates and types of designs, or they can click on the icons to find templates and file sizes.

There’s also the “Play with Canva” option which opens up a blank square, instead of beginning with a template, in order to show new users what it’s like to design something with Canva from scratch.

canva 3

3. Grammarly

Popular grammar- and spell-checking tool Grammarly takes a simple approach to helping Premium users adopt all of the paid features they have access to.

Upon upgrading to Premium, users get an email detailing the advanced features:

This is a smart move because it reminds users why they signed up for Premium so they’ll be less likely to churn.

And to improve adoption of all of the different ways to use Grammarly, the email also tells Premium users about their desktop app, browser extensions, and Microsoft Office integration.

grammarly 3

As for the dashboard, Grammarly shows an existing document called “Welcome to Grammarly Premium!”

grammarly 2

When users click on this, they are taken to an empty document.

It says:

“Nothing to check yet. Start writing or upload a document to see Grammarly’s feedback.”

This way, users know exactly what to do to start using Grammarly’s advanced features.

grammarly

5 popular user adoption tools

In order to create great user adoption experiences, you need the right software.

Check out these popular platforms.

1. Chameleon

chameleon

Chameleon is a software for adding product tours, tooltips, widgets, and surveys to your app. Some of their top customers include Directly, Flexport, The Motley Fool, Airship, Segment, and Moz. It’s an easy-to-use platform that is designed for self-service user onboarding.

2. Userpilot

userpilot

Userpilot is also a user onboarding tool. You can create customized user onboarding experiences, manage product marketing campaigns, unlock insights into which accounts are ready to upgrade, run UX experiments, and measure product adoption.

3. Mixpanel

mixpanel

One of the most popular product analytics platforms, Mixpanel is the top choice amongst SaaS companies, but is also used by ecommerce sites and consumer apps as well. Try Mixpanel for analyzing user flow drop-offs, experimenting on user conversion funnels, and discovering what drives retention.

4. FullStory

fullstory

FullStory is similar to Mixpanel, except that it is more popular with B2C companies. Digital experience managers use it for product analytics, drop-off discovery, and retention and revenue experiments.

5. Pendo

pendo

With Pendo, you can manage user onboarding, product engagement, in-app support, feedback collection, and revenue growth experiments. For employee-facing software, you can also manage employee productivity and software personalization.

Keep experimenting with user adoption, and you’ll activate and retain more and more users.

For elite SaaS development, work with DevSquad.

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