The two sides of driving feature adoption

Written by Sara Estes  | 

5 min


Increasing adoption of your product’s features sounds simple enough. Yet many companies struggle to successfully encourage positive in-product behaviors—let alone sustain ongoing engagement over time. The solution? A product-led approach.

When organizations are product led, they leverage the product to fuel the entire customer journey, including product and feature adoption. Teams utilize product usage data to understand adoption levels, and then take action on that data with in-app communications and guidance. This fosters a continuous cycle of measurement, intervention, and iteration.

To take it a step further, we also recommend thinking about feature adoption in two ways:

    1. Improving adoption for users who have already engaged with a feature
    2. Increasing adoption for users who haven’t engaged with a feature

Throughout the rest of this post, we’ll walk through how to approach each side of driving adoption.

First, put in the pre-work to increase adoption

Before you start examining user journeys and taking action with in-app guides, there are two steps you should take to ensure you have the information you need to improve adoption.

1. Identify your target audience

The first step is to identify your target audience. Chances are, every feature won’t be deeply relevant to every user, and different types of users will find value in your product for different reasons. In order to effectively drive adoption, you’ll want to determine who you should target—whether its users with a certain job title, admin level, or in-app behaviors. This will help you focus your efforts and allow you to personalize in-app communications (and corresponding segmentation) accordingly.

2. Get a baseline understanding of adoption

In the most basic sense, you can’t improve adoption unless you measure it effectively. Start by getting a baseline measure of adoption for your product as a whole and its individual features. You can track product adoption over time by the number of monthly active users (MAU), weekly active users (WAU), or daily active users (DAU), or as a rate relative to new user signups for a certain time period. For feature adoption, you might first look at data for recently-released features, and then view data for all features to better understand which are lagging in adoption. 

Once you’ve narrowed in on where to focus adoption efforts, you’ll want to think about users in two distinct groups: users who are already engaging with the feature, and users who haven’t accessed the feature yet. Both are key to increasing adoption.

Here’s how to think about driving adoption for each type of user:

Group 1: Users who have already engaged with the feature

For users who have already started using a new feature, think about how you can ensure they continue engaging with and finding value in it. Just because customers have taken interest at the beginning doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll exhibit these behaviors over time.

Start by monitoring product usage for this cohort of users. How is adoption changing over time? If adoption levels remain relatively steady, consider how you can encourage even further engagement. For example, you can use in-app guides to make users aware of additional, complementary functionality or more ways to leverage the feature they’ve already started using. If you see adoption start to decrease, create in-app guides that speak to the feature’s value and remind users to come back to it.

It’s also particularly valuable to collect feedback from this group of users. They can provide input on what they like about the feature and/or what could be improved. Again, it’s best to deliver this communication in-app. Use an in-app survey or poll targeted to users who have already engaged with the functionality for which you’re looking to improve adoption. You can then use these insights to inform iteration to the product or feature itself, and how you communicate its value to the rest of your user base.

Group 2: Users who haven’t engaged with the feature

Your other area of focus should be driving adoption for users who haven’t yet accessed the feature. Similar to Group 1, start by examining product usage and how these users navigate your application. If you see users getting stuck in certain areas or using a workaround that could be mitigated with the feature at hand, this is the perfect opportunity to intervene. 

Create in-app guides that educate users about the feature and why (and how) it’s useful. If it makes sense with your product, you can also include a link that will take users directly to the feature to try it out immediately. Remember to deliver these guides at the right moments in a user’s workflow—the last thing you want is to add confusion or frustration to their experience.

After two to three weeks, revisit your product usage data to see if the in-app guides are making an impact on user behavior. This way, you’ll be able to iterate on the guides’ placement or copy if necessary.

Want to dig deeper? Learn more about taking a product-led approach to product and feature adoption here.