Product Adoption Process: How It Works and How to Fix It

Dana Yatsenko

One of the most common requests we receive at the Eleken design agency is to redesign SaaS products that don’t make users say “wow,” but make them leave and never come back.

Take the example of the Handprinter. The company reached out because the previous version of their platform was unable to convert visitors into users. In about four months, through UI/UX, we managed to fix the breaches in Handprinter’s new product development and consumer adoption process. 

In this article, we want to help you better understand the way your customers adopt your product so that you stop losing them along the way. 

Product Adoption Meaning (and Why You Should Care)

How awesome it would be if your Ideal Customer fell in love with your Ideal Product, at first sight, and forever. However, love at first sight exists in fairy tales, love songs, and Disney animations, but not in the world of SaaS.

It takes time and effort for both you and your customer to move your relationship from meeting each other to building long-term relationships. The process by which users become aware of a product, realize its value, and start using is called product adoption.

The broken adoption process for new products reminds dragging water in a leaky bucket — no matter how many potential clients you acquire, most of them disappear before the adoption stage, leaving you with nothing.

How Product Adoption Process Works

The AIDA formula, coined over a century ago, breaks the adoption process marketing into 4 steps: attention, interest, desire, action. To give you the feeling of how the AIDA can be applied to decision making, here’s a recent story of one croissant.

  1. Imagine you are walking home when a new sign grabs your attention. It's saying that a bakery is opening in your house.
  2. You go up the stairs to your room and google the bakery's offering — you're interested and wish to know the details.
  3. The next morning, half-asleep, you drag yourself out and suddenly you catch a scent of fresh-baked croissants. For the next couple of minutes, a croissant becomes your only desire and you follow the scent.
  4. You break into the bakery and ask to take your money and give you a croissant.

Four steps for the croissant adoption process. 

All good, but I bet that your product is more complicated than a croissant. For selling complicated software products, we've got an AIDA modification that consists of six stages. 

What are the six stages of the product adoption process? Let’s unlock them one by one.

1. Awareness (Introduction Stage)

Before the first stage in the new product adoption process, potential users are definitely unaware of your brand. They may be also unaware of the solution it offers for a certain problem, and they may not even know about the existence or importance of such a problem.

At this stage, the consumer looks for a crisp and clear answer to the question "what is it, and how it can be useful for me?" 

Here's how Basecamp introduces its audience to the problem it solves. 

the first stage in the new product adoption process
Image source: basecamp.com

Before Basecamp, you’re sitting in a wind tunnel with projects, emails, and questions flying at you. After switching to Basecamp, you get more work done, quicker, and better.

Okay, Basecamp, sounds interesting. Tell me more.

2. Interest (Information-gathering Stage)

“Interesting”, I think, and next: “how does it work?”

I collect information from your landing page, customer reviews, media publications, ask your customer support or colleagues that already use your services. I try to find out everything about features, functions, alternatives, risks, prices, colors, and shapes.

If the answer is unsuitable, information is irrelevant or unavailable, or difficult to understand, high chances are that I’ll leave you at this stage. It’s not you, it’s always hard to explain innovative products in an intuitive way.

Moreover, those products are usually for multiple audiences. In the Handprinter’s product design process, for instance, we discovered three types of users: individuals, companies, and communities or organizations.

Handprinter’s product design process
Image source: eleken.co

It makes your job harder, since any product that is optimized for one group is missing out on a group of another, or overloads it with irrelevant information. 

Check out how Canva breaks the tie by asking their newcomers one simple question. That information helps them personalize the following experience.

canva and user experience personalization
Image source: canva.com

3. Evaluation (Consideration Stage) 

‘To be or not to be’, I ask myself. That is the question. Time to consider whether trying the new product makes sense.

The voice of reason says from one shoulder: It will help me to reach my goals and break down silos. I should try it, I don’t lose anything after all.

Inertia says from the other shoulder: The product looks interesting, and it probably solves the problem I have, but I don’t want any changes in my life. What if something goes wrong? The old way of doing things is still good enough. 

Look how Zuora forces its users to choose the changes and give its products a try.

how Zuora forces its users to choose the changes
Image source: zuora.com

“The subscription economy is here. The way we do business has fundamentally changed.”

It's the first line of the video. Next, Zuora shows that the change is inevitable, using reliable data. It shows how the change will rock the world, and what opportunities it provides for those who are ready. 

Opportunities =  79 trillion dollars waiting. 

Ready = adapted Zuora’s solutions for subscription-based business.

Okay Zuora, I’m with you.

4. Trial (Sampling Stage)

From what I hear from you, the product is worth trying. But I want a test-drive

I get a free trial, or even freemium — a free experience with no time limit. Such a SaaS pricing strategy is called to remove any friction from getting end-users to sign up and try the product before they buy. Paywalls should come only after I’ve seen the value in the product.

the best way to understand canva is to try it
Image source: canva.com

How do you say, Canva? 23 seconds to learn, no payment needed? Oh, Canva, what are you doing with me. You win, I’ve signed up.

And here comes the million-dollar question: how do you convert free users into paying customers?

5. Adoption / Rejection (Buy or not Buy Stage)

If everything goes as planned, I feel your app’s value, come to you and say: “take my money and give me your new adorable feature!”

But it happens that something goes wrong — companies acquire massive amounts of freemium users, but never able to convert those users into paying customers. How can something you give away for free bring you revenue?

It all comes to upsell. Take YouTube. People can watch unlimited videos for free, but there’s one irritating thing that makes watching uncomfortable. The thing is advertising. It’s not irritating enough to abandon YouTube at all but makes me pay a couple of dollars every month to forget the advertising exists. 

 

youtube upsell strategy
Image source: youtube.com/premium

6. Post-adoption (Surprise!)

If only you’d sell refrigerators, you’d call it a day after the adoption stage and make a cocktail party in this honor. But having a SaaS business, you have to sell the same product to the same user all the time. It sounds like Groundhog Day, doesn’t it?

For SaaS, adoption never ends at the moment of purchase — I can easily top up your churn list next month given that your competitor offers a better product at a better price. 

The first few things you teach me to do with your app is something simple — to help me get the most out of our product as soon as possible. But most likely those features are not unique and don’t make me stick with you. Any competitor, a better price, and I’m leaving.

The next logical step for your post-adoption strategy then is to think about your stickiest features — something deeper, more sophisticated, and, therefore, harder for adoption. Those features are where your true value lies, they make your app difficult to reject and replace.

Here’s how Slack manages to introduce its in-depth features. 

how Slack manages to introduce its in-depth features
Image source: universalclass.com

Onboarding tips are conveyed through interactions with the Slackbot, which teaches you how to use the platform as you go. For instance, when you share a Google Docs link in Slack, you get a tip on adding integration with Docs to make sharing more convenient. 

Wrapping Up

Okay, now how that generic product adoption curve can help you succeed? 

If you want to change adoption curve, you first have to track it. You may sit with a Customer Success team and try to apply those 6 steps to your specific consumer adoption process. 

Next, why don't you collect customer usage data? Data about churned customers may give some insights on the red flags that prevent product rejection. Data about renewals will provide some common patterns correlated with successful upsell. 

There’re a few ways to track usage data: 

  • Instrumentation of your product from within — to track and analyze user experience.
  • Real-time data collection — to see specific activities, like pushing the “submit” button.
  • Asking your clients about their experience directly, giving them a call, or making a survey – to get feedback.

As you collect the data needed to see where users convert and dropoff, you’ll be able to fix points of friction to understand users better, make them move faster to immediate action, and improve customer experience.

If you guess there’s a design problem, let’s talk about it. Maybe we can help you with that.

Where do you start?

Okay, now how that generic product adoption curve can help you succeed? 

If you want to change adoption curve, you first have to track it. You may sit with a Customer Success team and try to apply those 6 steps to your specific consumer adoption process. 

Next, why don't you collect customer usage data? Data about churned customers may give some insights on the red flags that prevent product rejection. Data about renewals will provide some common patterns correlated with successful upsell. 

There’re a few ways to track usage data: 

  • Instrumentation of your product from within — to track and analyze user experience.
  • Real-time data collection — to see specific activities, like pushing the “submit” button.
  • Asking your clients about their experience directly, giving them a call, or making a survey – to get feedback.

As you collect the data needed to see where users convert and dropoff, you’ll be able to fix points of friction to understand users better, make them move faster to immediate action, and improve customer experience.

Once you've got user data up and running, you can understand your adoption process better, reduce churn and grow your business.

Read more about SaaS design