SaaS products are different from many other types of goods and services because users don’t instantly connect to them.
Buying software isn’t as simple as picking out a shirt and wearing it as you leave the store.
Customers have to go through multiple stages from the moment they first hear about a SaaS product until they integrate it into their lives.
Those stages are collectively called the product adoption process, and in this article, we’ll tell you exactly what they entail, why they’re important, and what you can do to speed up the time needed for users to fall in love with your product.
What Is Product Adoption
Product adoption is one of the most deceptively simple concepts of SaaS business.
By definition, it’s the journey a customer makes from when they first hear about your product to the point when they become a regular user.
The successful completion of this process is the ultimate goal for every SaaS product provider.
It means that they managed to attract the right person's attention and convince them to subscribe to their service.
Sounds easy enough, right?
In reality, this is a complex, multi-phase process that companies spend years perfecting so they could maximize their chances of arriving at the point when they gain the interested party’s full loyalty.
Let’s break it down into six steps.
- Awareness: This is the point at which a user first hears about your product. It depends on good marketing that has the ability to reach the right people who may find use in your software.
- Interest: The point when the subject starts to see your product as a potential solution to the problem they’re experiencing after doing some research.
- Evaluation: At this stage, the interested party is weighing their options. They’re comparing your product to others in the space and possibly contacting you to figure out the pricing.
- Trial: The user is now interacting with your product (maybe on a trial of freemium basis) and testing it to see if it’s the right fit for them.
- Activation: A crucial moment in the process. The user realizes the value your product can bring to their work/life, which convinces them to invest in a subscription.
- Adoption: In this final phase, the user regularly interacts with your product and makes it an integral part of their routine. You’ve successfully converted them into a paying customer you’ll likely retain in the long term.
As you may suspect, these six steps constitute the road to success for SaaS companies, which explains why they invest so much time and resources into creating the perfect product adoption process.
What Is the Product Adoption Curve
In this section, we’ll take a look at product adoption from a different perspective: according to the types of users you’ll encounter when you release your SaaS product in the market.
These users represent the product adoption curve.
On one side of the curve, we have the innovators. These are tech-savvy enthusiasts who love trying out new products and don’t require much proof to get on board.
An instantly recognizable example of innovators are Apple fans who wait in queues to buy the latest iPhone so that they can be the first ones to try it out.
Early adopters are a similar audience segment.
They probably won’t go through as much trouble to get their hands on new technology as innovators, but they will be subscribing to your service early on, even if there are still some kinks you need to work out before your product is fully functional.
After the innovators and early adopters, there’s usually a pause (often called The Chasm) in which you’ll have to do a marketing push and perfect your product so that the broader public can be convinced to make the buy-in.
Once you start seeing an increase in uptake again, you know the early majority has found your product.
These users have less technological expertise and aren’t big risk-takers. They’ll want to read reviews about your product and sign up for a trial before they’re ready to commit.
And so will the late majority. You’ll need ample proof that your product can solve their problems before they agree to become paying customers.
For example, you’ll have to be able to show hundreds of positive reviews on Trustpilot—like Slack can, for example.
Finally, laggards will make up a small portion of your user base, and they’re going to be the latest ones to adopt your product.
These are users who don't like new technology and agree to adopt it only when they have to.
Think of the older generation of employees around your office.
Now imagine having to convince them to migrate their work to the Google Cloud after they’ve been using MS Office for a great number of years.
That’s what you’re up against when trying to convince laggards to adopt your product.
The user adoption curve allows you to monitor your product's performance on the market.
Once you start seeing users from the early majority, you can rest assured that your product has been successful in penetrating the mainstream.
How Can SaaS Companies Improve Product Adoption
The road toward product adoption is long and winding. There are many instances where potential customers can drop off or change their minds about the product.
Fortunately, there are also many chances for you to intervene and enhance your potential for success.
Let’s go over some tips for improving product adoption.
Understand What Your Users Need
As we said, users adopt your products when they find value in them.
If your product doesn’t do a good enough job solving the user’s problem or improving their work/life, then you can’t count on that user to decide to become a paying customer, i.e., to adopt the product.
Therefore, understanding what users need and providing it to them is your best bet for improving product adoption.
But how can you collect data on user wants and needs?
Easy. Just give them the means to leave feedback on your product and express what they would like to see from it in the future.
For example, here at Archbee, we offer our users a “Product Roadmap” feature.
Anyone can use the feature to suggest improvements for our documentation software, and others have the option to upvote the suggestions to give them more weight.
Thanks to this communication channel, we were able to conclude that our users want features to easily build product and developer documentation.
So we focused on those features and saw improved adoption rates shortly after.
By understanding the users’ needs, you’re able to give them what they want, giving your target audience a better reason to commit.
Promote Feature Adoption Using In-App Messages
Your product is made up of multiple features and functionalities that have a huge influence on the user experience.
If you want users to adopt the product as a whole, you need to motivate them to use as many features of the product as possible.
You can do that by displaying in-app messages that will draw attention to the features and motivate users to try them out and integrate them into product use.
Kommunicate, the customer service automatization company, does this quite well. Have a look at how it uses an in-app message to alert users to a new feature—WhatsApp integration.
The message contains concise, well-written copy that briefly explains the feature and includes a call to action to motivate the user to try it out.
It can really be that simple to get a user to interact with a feature and thereby come one step closer to full product adoption.
Send Targeted Emails to Your Users
As we all know, forming habits can be challenging. People get distracted, become overburdened with other responsibilities, or simply forget to regularly use the software they’ve signed up for.
And that can seriously endanger your product adoption rates.
To prevent users from losing sight of your product, it’s a good idea to run targeted email campaigns that will remind them to log in and encourage them to keep using the product so they can get the value that the product promises.
No company does this better than Duolingo, the language learning app.
The value Duolingo offers (learning a new language) can only be achieved if the user accesses the app every day and practices their chosen language until it becomes a natural, daily habit.
To ensure frequent engagement, Duolingo bombards users with daily email reminders that it’s time for a language lesson.
If the user starts missing lessons, this will trigger a targeted campaign to get the user to come back.
The email will try to motivate the user to return to the app by telling them that a few missed lessons don’t have to be the end of their journey.
Finally, even if the user doesn’t return after that, Duolingo will keep trying to get them back by eliciting an emotional response and offering some motivational statistics before it finally gives up.
Duolingo’s high-touch email campaign is a relentless motivation machine that supports users on their way to completely accepting what the app offers.
The email campaign is one of the reasons why the app has as many as 37 million monthly active users and should paint a clear picture of how a targeted email campaign can drastically improve product adoption.
Ensure Your Customer Support Is Top-Notch
There are many reasons why a user might drop off from the adoption cycle and decide your product is not worth their money. The biggest one by far is poor customer service.
This makes perfect sense.
New users can’t become proficient in using your product on their own.
They need explanations, instructions, guidance, and answers to understand the value of the product and learn how they can achieve their goals with it.
If you can’t provide these things, users will never get to that activation moment when they finally realize how the product can improve their work/life and will have no reason to adopt the product and keep using it.
The purpose of customer support is to prevent that from happening.
A well-trained customer support team can help users overcome every obstacle to activation by guiding them through product use over the phone, email, or chat.
It’s also a good idea to have self-service support methods—such as a product knowledge base—in place, to enable users to learn about the product independently and solve many problems on their own.
To build your knowledge base, you can use documentation software designed with product knowledge needs in mind, such as Archbee.
With a capable support team and powerful knowledge base to help them learn the ropes and become expert users of your product, there’s nothing standing in the way between your users and complete product adoption.
Start Tracking Product Adoption Metrics
Tracking product adoption metrics can tell you which parts of your adoption process need more work so you can make improvements to the process.
Here are two metrics that can provide you with a clear indication of how your product is performing when it comes to adoption: time to value and churn rate.
Time to value measures the time that passes between the user’s first interaction with your product and the point when they finally realize the value it can bring them (the so-called Aha! moment).
The shorter the time to value, the less likely it is that the user will change their mind and abandon the product.
Therefore, if you discover that your product’s time to value is rather long, finding a way to shorten it should give a big boost to your adoption rates.
The trick here is to find what the Aha! moment for your product actually is.
You can look at the Aha! moments from a couple of famous SaaS products, and see if you could apply any of them to your software.
Another really important adoption metric is your churn rate.
This metric tells you what percentage of your customers you’ve lost during a certain period (a quarter or a year, for example).
You can calculate it simply by dividing the number of customers you’ve lost by your total number of customers.
Here are two examples:
So, if you notice that your churn rates are rising, that could be an indicator that your product is becoming too complex for users to navigate or that it has stopped responding to the real needs of the market.
Armed with that information, you can make informed decisions about product development and take effective action to better satisfy your customers and therefore improve adoption rates.
These are just two out of more than a dozen metrics you can use to closely monitor and influence the adoption process. If you’re not already tracking them, this is your sign to start.
A key takeaway from our discussion about the product adoption process is that it’s a crucial concept for achieving success in the SaaS industry.
The more you’re aware of it, the closer you are to understanding how your customers are interacting with your product and how long it takes for them to turn it into an integral part of their lives.
Once you realize the importance of product adoption, you’ll be eager to start improving it to better serve your customers and grow your business.
We hope the tips we outlined in this article will help you do that.