David Pereira Product Leader with 15+ years of experience. Partner at Value Rebels and interim CPO at omoqo. Almost every product team is trapped somehow; untrapping them is what drives me.

What is product adoption and how do you measure it?

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What Is Product Adoption And How Do You Measure It?

Ideas are worthless without execution. I had to sit back and think about the first time I heard this sentence because it was true and powerful. Ideas won’t bring anything without action.

It doesn’t matter how we imagine something; it matters how we transform something for the better.

How many products turn out to be a failure? Poor execution won’t get the job done. Look at the Amazon Fire Phone, Apple PDA, and Microsoft Tablet — they all failed because they didn’t manage to get enough adoption. Why did that happen? Because products cannot survive without customers.

As obvious as this statement can be, companies often fail to address product adoption adequately. Let’s talk about it during this post.

Jump ahead:

What’s product adoption?

Product adoption is when users discover your product, test and try it out, and ultimately adopt it (aka integrate it) into their lives. The goal of some product adoption strategies is for users to adopt it into their lives daily, whereas other products may hope for a different cadence, like every other day or weekly. The way adoption looks for a user depends on the product itself and its purpose.

I like looking at product adoption as milestones:

  • Conversion: first, users land on your product. They then explore it and try to find what’s in it for them. As they understand it, they decide to advance in your conversion funnel, moving from a lead to an actual customer
  • Activation: one thing is getting a customer to sign to your newsletter or sign up for your service, and another is getting them to do business with you. When you have your first business with a customer, that’s the moment you activate them
  • Adoption: businesses become scalable with recurrent customers. The adoption milestone means customers return to you to get the job done. Otherwise, you need to invest continuously into acquisition, which tends to be costly

What does adoption mean for product growth?

When people associate getting their jobs done with a product, you have high adoption. Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • You’re on a business trip and need to visit a client. How do you get there? Maybe you’d think about getting an Uber
  • You’re planning to travel to another continent with your family for two weeks. How would you find accommodation? Airbnb or Booking.com might be the first options coming to your mind
  • After an exhausting day, you want to relax and watch a movie or TV series. You’d probably use Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO Max

The products I mentioned above have high adoption because we associate jobs with them. And we trust that these products will help us reach our goals smoothly.

The more customers associate your products with jobs, the faster you can grow.

Which areas improve product adoption the most?

Nailing jobs that customers do frequently will improve your product adoption. Customers need to understand what your product does for them. In other words, the jobs your product gets done.

The biggest challenge is discovering the relevant jobs to focus on. We’re tempted to deliver more and increase the offering of our product, and that’s generally the mistake. Try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one.

Keep your product as simple as possible. Ensure that your user experience relates to your value proposition and customers understand it.

Don’t be afraid of removing low-used features from your product. Be fearful of leaving distractions on your product that confuses customers.

Tip: talk to customers and understand what they understand from your product. Strive to uncover the job they try getting done, and from there, you can improve it.

Which areas hurt product adoption the most

A few things will hurt your product adoption more than a bad experience. Customers with a bad experience become detractors and diminish your product’s image.

For every bad experience a customer has, you must provide 10 great experiences to regain trust. The problem is that you may not have the chance to do that. Given the saturated market we’re in, customers have the option to knock at your competitors the moment you make them unhappy.

Here are key aspects to pay particular attention to:

  • User experience — is using your product natural or rational for your customer? The first part requires low effort for them to benefit from the product, while the second forces them to think and adapt, which can lead to giving up
  • Value proposition — how long does it take for a lead to understand what your product can do for them? The longer it takes, the less adoption you’ll get
  • Frequency — how often do customers use your product? It’s essential to understand the type of job you address and evaluate the frequency of customers to you to get it solved

Optimizing adoption

You cannot expect high adoption of your product from day one. Adoption requires hard work and continuous improvement.

I cannot give you a process that ensures increasing adoption, but I can tell you what works for me:

  • Interviews. Talk to a customer at least once a week. Ideally, you talk to a few customers every week and understand how your product improves their lives. Open interviews can help you uncover hidden opportunities and unlock adoption
  • Competitor analysis. Look at your competitive landscape and understand what they’re doing differently than you. Don’t limit yourself to direct competitors, also look at alternatives that get the same job done
  • Customer service. I love talking to customer service because it gives me hints on what customers struggle with. In my mind, a great product wouldn’t require customers to call customer service to solve problems, and making that possible increases adoption

Keep an open mind and find opportunities to improve your product for your customers.

How to measure product adoption

How do you know your product is improving its adoption? First, you need to understand your scenario and identify its metrics.

For example, recurrence is critical to adoption, but you must understand what’s realistic for your business model. For social media, daily recurrence is vital, but for the actual state, that would be different.

As you understand your scenario, I suggest looking at the following metrics:

  • Churn rate: how long does it take for customers to stop doing business with you? This needs to be relatable to your business model. You can measure this monthly, quarterly, or yearly
  • Recurrent rate: how many customers continuously use your service? The lower the number, the bigger the problem. If customers come to you once and never return, you must stop everything and understand why that happens
  • Customer effort score: convenience is what we’re searching for nowadays. We want services that make our lives better. Define steps on your product and measure the CES (customer effort score). This will show you opportunities to make the experience smoother and improve your product experience and adoption

Best practices and tips for a sound product adoption strategy

Product adoption is a continuous effort, and you will never be finished. The moment you settle, your competition will have you for breakfast.

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To continuously improve your adoption, work on the following:

  • Loyalty. Transform leads into customers, and do your best to make them loyal to your product. When customers feel connected to your purpose and get the job done well, you will build significant loyalty. Look at Airbnb for example
  • Nail a job. Start small — focus on a micro job for a small audience but get it done 10x better than available options.
  • Extend the offer. As you’ve nailed one job well, you can extend your product offering in the same direction. This will lead to cross-sales and more engagement with customers. Apple does that very well; you’ll probably expand once you’re in their world
  • Pivot. Don’t be afraid of dropping initiatives or changing directions. Not everything you touch will become gold. Some things won’t work; drop them and move on

Featured image source: IconScout

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David Pereira Product Leader with 15+ years of experience. Partner at Value Rebels and interim CPO at omoqo. Almost every product team is trapped somehow; untrapping them is what drives me.

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