Proven User Adoption Strategies To Drive Product Adoption

User adoption, otherwise known as onboarding, is a process whereby new users adopt a product (or service) and commit to using it. They’ve left their previous product behind and actively decided to adopt a new system that is much more efficient and effective at helping them achieve their goal.

Companies with high user adoption rates tend to see more users adopting the product than leaving it. If a company has a relatively low user adoption rate, it indicates that many users are adopting the product short-term and then jumping ship.

So, how can you make sure more users are sticking with your product rather than abandoning it after signing-up?

Below, you’ll find the best user adoption strategies to drive product adoption and engagement from the moment a user signs up for your product (you’re welcome!).

To watch the video on this topic, hit play below, or read on for more...

#1 Make onboarding a continual process

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because somebody new signed up for your product, they’re going to stay forever. That’s just not the case. In all likelihood, they’re trialing several of your biggest competitors to see which one they like best.

Onboarding is vital to scaling your SaaS company and it shouldn’t end at the point of sign-up. You need to think of onboarding as a continual process.

What do I mean by continual?

Well, your onboarding process cannot remain stagnant. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach does not apply here in the slightest. As you continue to scale and acquire various types of new customers, your initial onboarding must adapt and evolve alongside your company.

There is no final stage to user onboarding because realistically, you’ll never stop working on it. This is because your company and everything that goes with it, is continuously evolving. So, your onboarding must be continual too. This goes for not just your onboarding for new customers, but also the onboarding period for existing customers too.

Take a look at the diagram below…

Continuous Onboarding Diagram

Do you see how user onboarding must be a continuous thing? It’s like a cycle and you must keep it moving!

#2 Go beyond UI design patterns

One of the best user adoption strategies to embrace is understanding that good product onboarding is about far more than UI design patterns.

There are three core competencies of any successful SaaS onboarding:

Core Competencies of Successful SaaS Onboarding

Contextual Content

You must think about how each of the three core competencies contributes to your user adoption process. Of course, you need to deliver the highest-quality content that you possibly can. It helps if you can offer some mixed variations of content too such as articles, webinars, demos, videos, and documentation – all of which, explains how users can get the most from your product.

Now… having all of this content is great. But what happens when a new user needs answers while in the middle of using your product? Can you really expect them to go searching through your help center? Probably not.

So, what’s the solution?

You must provide users with support in context. This means delivering contextual content at a specific time and in a specific place.

User Adoptions Strategies - content

Contextual Communication

When it comes to contextual communication, there is one rule and one rule only…

It’s got to be the right message, at the right time, in the right place.

Let’s say a new user has just signed up for your product. They’re itching to get started but there’s just one problem – they have no idea how to navigate your app.

The right message at this point of onboarding would be something like a short orientation video appearing in-app, on-screen, at the right time. The user can watch the video and quickly learn how to navigate the app. It’s the right message, at the right time, in the right place. This is an example of contextual communication done right.

UI Design Patterns

So, what does a good UI design pattern even look like?

Here’s an example:

UI Design Pattern example

This is an example of the initial onboarding journey of Anchor, the podcast app. The sign-up process is very easy and doesn’t take much time at all, which is exactly what you want. Remember that people are busy, they don’t want to spend forever filling out personal details just to sign-up for your product. They want quick and easy access, so give it to them.

Anchor also gives users a smooth onboarding experience with zero friction. This is so important on day one of user onboarding. If you want users to stick around, make sure you implement simple and efficient user adoption strategies like those used by Anchor.

#3 Identify your activation criteria

The next tip on our list of the best user adoption strategies is to find your activation criteria ASAP.

Your activation criteria are the things customers do that improve the likelihood of retaining those customers to the second month (and beyond).

Here are a few brief examples of activation criteria for some well-known companies…

· Anchor – publish your first podcast on your first visit

· Intercom – Install your messenger and send your first visitor auto message live in the first three days

· Twitter – follow 30 people and have a third of them follow you back

· Facebook – get seven friends in the first 10 days

What do all of these activation criteria (or ‘aha’ moments) have in common?

Well, they each offer value to the user straight away, and therefore, these companies are more likely to retain new users.

#4 Organise your efforts around areas of business value

There are four areas of business value that fit into, what we like to call, the C.A.R.E Model:

User Adoption Strategies - C.A.R.E

Each of the four areas are very simple but very important.

To make sure you provide the best possible onboarding process, you can use the C.A.R.E Model as a guide, while employing the three core competencies we discussed above (if you need a reminder, they were Contextual Content, Contextual Communication, and UI Design Patterns).

Below, you’ll see a straightforward sample of what an end-to-end onboarding experience may look like.

The end-to-end onboarding experience

You can use this as a loose guide to help you plot the steps and tactics a customer can take. This may help you to visualize your onboarding process and it’s one of my favorite user adoption strategies when planning the onboarding process.

However, the C.A.R.E model can also be used to help you plan other areas of your company’s structure and processes.

Here are a few ideas you might want to try using the C.A.R.E Model…

Using the C.A.R.E. Model - User Adoption Strategies

#5 Use retention as an exercise in proactivity

A vital user adoption strategy to keep in mind is the idea of the ‘danger zone’. This is when a user gradually (or quickly) begins to lose interest in your product. You can tell that a user has lost some interest because they stop logging in as much as they used to. Their average time spent engaging with your product declines, hence calling it the ‘danger zone.’

The graph below shows churn rates. Take a look at how the new sign-up users and regular customers engage with the product versus the lost customer.

Chrun Rate Graph - Example

As you can see, the lost customer began strong but then, over time, they stopped logging in as much until they eventually canceled their membership.

The yellow area on the graph is the danger zone. This is the time in the user journey when you need to up your game. You’ve got to react and re-engage with users so you can bring them back from falling deeper and deeper into the danger zone.

Better yet, reach those users BEFORE they hit the danger zone. This is the best possible time to invest in retention so that the user keeps coming back for more because your product keeps giving them value and essentially, a reason to stay.

User Adoption Strategies - Reaction vs Re-engagement

#6 Make the onboarding period ring-fenced

When you lock down a new user, it’s tempting to let them know everything about your product and company. Don’t do it!

You need to choose what you talk about to your customers very carefully, especially during the onboarding period. There’s no need to share every little detail with new users. Bombarding new users with lots of messages and information such as everything you ship, new landing pages, features, and so on, can actually be the reason you lose customers.

You need to drive the behaviors that matter but only when they matter.

Activation and Engagement Campaigns

Focus on the specific actions that trigger conversion and activation. The rest can wait.

#7 Avoid working in onboarding silos as you grow

As your company and product scales, your ‘to-do’ list when it comes onboarding will grow alongside it.

Here’s an example of all the things your customers may experience when they begin using and engaging with your product.

User Adoption Strategies - Customer Experience

All of the components you see above contribute to the user’s onboarding experience.

In most cases, different components or ‘tasks’ will be assigned to different departments as your company scales (see a sample structure of this below).

User Adoption Strategies - Customer Experiences

As everything continues to grow and expand, communication, and collaboration between different departments and teams within the company becomes increasingly difficult. If you don’t get things under control quickly, this lack of communication can cause quite a mess.

How can you resolve this problem, then? Or, better yet, avoid it completely?

Create an onboarding team!

This team should consist of people from all of the necessary departments needed to help make sure the onboarding experience is as smooth as possible.

I hope you found these user adoption strategies helpful and they help you to create a fluent and successful user adoption process whereby more customers are retained with each passing month!

Need help with your user onboarding process?

Onboard and activate customers with targeted outbound engagement for growth with Intercom.

You can also check out our guide, ‘The Definitive Guide to User Onboarding’, which reveals how you can launch and optimize million-dollar user onboarding funnels.

Ruairi Galavan
Ruairi Galavan
Senior Manager, Customer Engagement at Intercom