Software companies are naturally excited when they go to roll out a new product or feature. And in a perfect world, that product/feature is immediately, and enthusiastically adopted by every customer. In reality, however, that often isn’t the case. In the software industry, product adoption is often sporadic, and even more alarmingly, a lot of companies don’t really have visibility into how their product is used to truly understand if a feature is being adopted at all.
So, how can companies improve adoption? The simple answer is to build better, more usable products, but of course reality is more complicated than that. Obviously we all want to develop things that provide value to customers, but doing so requires consistent measurement and a strong customer feedback loop.
How Do You Measure Adoption?
At the surface this seems simple- are people using a product or not? While that is definitely a measure of usage, it may not be the best benchmark for adoption. Consider the following scenarios: Software company A releases an update, and publicizes the update broadly to the current user base. As a result, over 40% of users use it over the next week. However a week later almost none of them continue to use it. Or, software company B also releases and publicizes a new feature. Only a tiny percentage of their users pick up the feature, but they enthusiastically continue to use it.
Both scenarios are examples of adoption, but neither would be judged particularly successful. Neither provided significant ongoing value to customers. When measuring adoption, companies should consider the following dimensions:
- Breadth of adoption: How widely has a product or feature been adopted across the user base or targeted user segment. Has it been picked up by a majority of the targeted users, or only a small percentage? Looking at the breadth of adoption shows the initial appeal of the new offering
- Time to adopt: How long does it take for a users to begin using an update. When learning about a new feature, do users immediately try it out or do they wait several days or weeks before picking it up? Looking at adoption time provides input into motivation. The more quickly a feature is adopted, the more likely it addresses a significant customer pain or usability problem.
- Duration of adoption: How long do users continue to use a product or feature after learning about it. Do they try it out a few times, or continue to use it regularly? This is an important measurement as it helps to show whether it’s providing any real value beyond its initial novelty.
What constitutes successful adoption across these three dimensions is obviously going to vary from use case to use case, but it’s important to consider all three when assessing the outcome of any new release.
Don’t Forget About User Feedback
Effective measurement will help product teams understand the extent to which new updates are adopted, but it certainly won’t tell them why, or what users really think about a particular product or feature. The only way to collect this important information is to ask for it. Look for opportunities to collect feedback when users are interacting with a new product or feature for the first few times. Some companies prefer open-ended feedback while others use a number scale, or yes/no questions to gather a baseline on perceived user value.
WebPT, an electronic medical records platform for the physical therapy industry, has a survey program called ‘First Impressions’ that collects immediate qualitative feedback with every announcement. They append every new feature announcement with a yes/no question that asks the user if they think the new feature would be helpful to their practice or not. The responses are analyzed alongside adoption metrics to help understand if the feature provides value, and if it is messaged/described appropriately in the announcement.
Bringing together user feedback and adoption measurements for specific features can help product teams make a clear assessment of every feature. They can see how users perceive value, and how extensively they adopt it. MemberClicks, an association management platform, uses a feedback loop like this to iteratively improve features before rolling them out broadly to a user base. Each iteration is rolled out to a subset of users, tested, and then refined until the adoption and feedback within the sample groups reaches a critical mass.
Improving Product Adoption
Increasing adoption ultimately comes down to the user value that a product or feature delivers, but understanding that value requires clear insight. To get a clear handle on adoption, software companies should look to measure the breadth, time, and duration of feature adoption, and pair those metrics with direct user feedback about specific features.
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