Early in my career, I used to get so excited from hearing client’s complaints that I would instantly start to conceptualize solutions and put them in the backlog, ready to be discussed and pushed in the roadmap. Only later, I started realizing that none of the solutions were getting used as much as I had thought. It would break my heart – How can something I believed in so strongly would not get used by customers?
I would also try for all sorts of marketing tactics to make it noticeable to users, only to find temporary blip in the adoption. And, when the adoption rate reverts to the mean or does not show significant improvement, I would be worried about its impact on my performance evaluation and promotion.
After going to multiple phases of this sad realization of low adoption rates, here is how I now think about it:
Building for adoption
- Customers tell the right problem, but never the right solution.
- Understanding the problem without the context won’t help in adoption. We should not build what the customers have asked or wanted to tell, but what helps them do their job.
- If building what customers did not even know they needed, make sure they have a great experience with the aha moment.
- Guestimate an adoption rate, and keep working towards it after the initial release. No feature/product is perfect in the first release.
- Make a conscious decision of working towards increasing adoption or building a new feature. Sometimes a feature can increase the adoption of a product, and sometimes that feature won’t even get used for the low adoption of the product. Know the minimum feature set required for adoption.
- Recognize that problem lies somewhere else if adoption isn’t increasing after multiple efforts.
Not all features are equal
- Adoption seems to have an inverse relationship with the type of clients your product has.
- It is ok to have some features build for limited enterprise clients having a disproportionate ratio of product revenue. However, only if the team agrees on the tradeoffs of increased complexity and tech debt.
- Feature adoption also seems to have an inverse relationship with the depth of the product. Features for advanced users can be good differentiators and add to the marketing arsenal, but they remain least used.
Adoption is breaking inertia
- Customers become habitual to their flows and often ignore new features. We need to break their inertia by making them realize the value and reducing the effort required.
- Consider adoption as an onboarding strategy:
- `Attract them with multi-channel launch announcements
- Interest them with contextual nudges and making it easy to find
- Increase desire with use cases and testimonials
- Reduce anxiety with upfront help
- Make it easy to perform an action or use the feature
- For features that increase the overall product value, keep educating customers until new habits are formed. For advanced and specific features, hide them slowly to make way for new features.
As years go by, I started realizing another truth – Adoption is necessary but not a sufficient condition for the product’s success.
Image by Jonas Jacobsson. * These pointers are applicable equally for feature and product adoption.