Let’s say you buy a cool new multitool from the hardware store for your next home improvement project. Reviews for the multitool are glowing, but you find the instructions hard to follow. At home, you grow frustrated as you try and fail to find a screwdriver. You spend an hour turning screws with the knife blade before stumbling upon a Phillips-Head tucked behind an assortment of pliers, scissors, and wire cutters.
Just because users have adopted your product doesn’t mean they’re using all of its features. Product teams often fall into the trap of adding countless features to increase the value of their product. However, each new feature adds another layer of complexity to the product. Teams bury truly valuable features beneath choice after choice after choice after...
Feature adoption metrics help product teams determine how early and often customers use a product’s features. Companies hoping to improve their feature adoption rates must first become familiar with several key metrics before turning those data points into a plan of action. These metrics will provide the foundation for feature adoption improvement strategies that reduce churn, improve UX, and increase revenue.
Why you should measure feature adoption
A high feature adoption rate indicates that your efforts to build a customer-centric product are paying off. It shows that newly onboarded users find your product’s features within its UI. Feature adoption also measures how well existing users receive newly released features. It means a number of users have discovered the value in those same features, which in turn leads to more consistent product usage over time.
In a perfect world, new customers would jump straight from user onboarding to using your product’s awe-inspiring features. The reality: some users engage with your product for the extent of their customer life cycle without ever realizing a feature exists. A customer may even churn because they believe your product lacks a certain feature that lies buried within your UI.
Even companies that continuously hit decent rates stand to benefit from increases in feature adoption. A high feature adoption rate helps businesses increase revenue through:
Increased engagement and decreased churn
A good feature adoption rate helps boost customer retention. Well-built features add value to a product. Companies who lead users to these value-heavy features increase the likelihood of continued usage. Highly engaged customers stick around longer, which improves a product’s retention rate.
Your product’s astronomical sign-up rate won’t matter against an abysmal retention rate. 16,000 SaaS companies currently operate in the United States alone. Not all of them compete directly with your product, but most products go to market amidst intense competition. Customers will quickly abandon a product that doesn’t promptly reveal its value to find a competing product that does.
Your product attracts customers interested in its potential to solve their problems. They don’t want to spend days trying to find a feature or understand how it works. Customers on a free trial or freemium subscriptions will take their business elsewhere if they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Your ability to communicate new feature releases to customers directly impacts their experience with your product. Higher feature adoption rates suggest a lower level of unnecessary friction in your UX, which in turn suggests happier customers. The best way to gauge how your feature releases affect customers is to ask them for their feedback through surveys, focus groups, usability testing, and direct interviews.
Companies that focus on the UX benefits of feature adoption take advantage of the fact that happy customers stay longer and spend more. Additionally, 15% of customers will pay more for a product or service just to experience good design.
Customers appreciate a well-designed product that leads them directly to important features. (Source)
The 5 best metrics for measuring feature adoption
True feature adoption measurement doesn’t boil down to a single metric. You might think a new customer who uses your app three times is on the right track. Their usage is significantly less impressive if those events occurred over an entire year.
Your product’s feature adoption rate is multi-faceted and involves dimensions of volume, time, and frequency. You need to determine a number of factors to fully understand your current rate, including:
1. Breadth of adoption
This metric shows how many of your customers regularly engage with features of your product. Calculate this metric by identifying your ideal usage frequency. You need to determine how many users engage with a feature over a specific period of time before you can say they’ve realized the value of the feature.
This metric is expressed as a percentage. Imagine 6,000 of your 10,000 customers use your app’s new template editor at least four times within a week. 60% of customers would be considered to have adopted the template editing feature.
2. Depth of adoption
The number of customers who engage with a feature only illustrates one dimension of feature adoption. Depth of adoption measures what types of users engage actively with a specific feature. 60% of customers may use your template editor regularly. However, it’s possible that most of them are newly onboarded customers, not existing customers. This suggests an issue with communicating the existence or value of your newest feature to your longtime users.
Low depth of adoption across cohorts also indicates potential issues with feature relevance. Your attempts to market a certain feature to improve universally low usage won’t matter much if your customers simply don’t see the value in a certain feature. Teams who commit to product and feature discovery well ahead of development minimize the chance of creating “unnecessary” features.
A full grasp of your feature adoption rate requires calculating how long it takes new users to adopt specific features. You don’t have much time to impress newly-acquired users. Mobile apps lose 90% of their daily users within 30 days. New users must establish good usage habits early to increase their likelihood of sticking around.
You should also know how long it takes existing customers to adopt new features. You don’t want customers to churn before ever engaging with a new feature that may have changed their decision to leave. Additionally, a long time-to-adopt could indicate points of friction with the greater user journey that affect your general user experience.
Imagine customers love your new template editor. However, it takes them weeks or even months to find it. The existence of such a delay suggests an issue in your feature release messaging. An evaluation of your current feature release process could shorten the gap and increase your user retention rate.
4. Duration of adoption
Duration of adoption measures how long users stay engaged with a specific feature. 90% of new customers may use your template editor daily for their first month, and that’s terrific! However, the number of those customers who use the feature six months later better indicates the odds of long-term customer engagement and renewal.
This metric reveals how well your feature retains value over a period of time. Customers may take to a flashy feature before realizing it has no practical impact on how they use the product. Low duration rates signal a higher likelihood to churn, especially when a customer exhibits low duration across multiple key features of your product.
5. Feature exposure
This metric calculates the success of your ongoing efforts to bring awareness to your product’s features. It helps determine the optimal number of touches required to get a customer to adopt a feature. Sending a single email announcement to a user may not be enough to drive them to action. Alternatively, sending 500 emails to a user may drive them to madness.
Feature exposure is tricky to track. Feature release announcements go out to prospects and customers through a number of channels, including:
)You may find it difficult to determine how many times a customer has been exposed to marketing collateral across every channel without a robust data management platform. However, Appcues’ feature adoption software makes creating and tracking in-app messages easy. Use the software to narrow down the perfect range of in-app messages it takes to get customers using your new feature.
5 steps for improving feature adoption using metric-based insights
A tool like Appcues will help you gain insight into which points of friction hinder feature adoption. You should use these insights to build data-informed strategies directed at improving your feature adoption rate. Build your feature adoption strategy framework with the following steps:
1. Pinpoint your essential features
You need to identify and prioritize your product’s most valuable features before you begin to brainstorm improvements to your current feature adoption rate. You want users to adopt and regularly use as many features as possible, but very few customers will find equal value in every single tool. Some features simply attract and retain users more than others. For instance, certain users downloading the Cash app might find value in its stock trading feature. However, the app draws the attention of its primary audience with its central peer-to-peer payment function.
Your most essential features tie back to your aha moment—the step in the user’s journey where your customer realizes how your product will make their lives easier. Aha moments reveal the value of your offering to the user and justify their investment in your product. The features involved in the customer’s journey to this moment should become your first targets for adoption improvement efforts before tackling other features.
2. Identify your improvement areas
You then need to determine which of your product’s features have low feature adoption rates. Your primary features should receive the first priority before you dive into boosting the adoption rate of your product’s secondary features. Analyzing your product data and parsing through customer feedback will reveal what customers aren’t using. It will also help you and your product team discover patterns in behavior that will inform your feature adoption rate improvement strategies.
Customers may not engage with features for several reasons, including:
- Unawareness of their existence. Customers can’t use features if they don’t know they exist!
- Lack of relevance. Cool “extra” features may attract customers initially. However, many users will only engage with the parts of your product that addresses their specific pain points.
- Complexity. Customers who can’t figure out how to use a feature properly aren’t likely to keep using it.
- Bad UI. Companies sometimes add feature after feature to products with long life cycles to add value to their product over time. However, the addition of these features often makes the product’s UI unwieldy and complicates the customer’s journey to find the most essential features.
View these poorly performing features through the lenses of the five feature adoption metrics listed above. Each one will tell a different part of the story and help you discover the potential causes of your adoption issues. For instance, you may notice that the duration of adoption plummets across cohorts after almost exactly six months of usage. This signals an issue with long-term engagement you should address in your upcoming strategy.
3. Analyze your successes
You’ll also find features with feature adoption rates worth celebrating. Customers use these features early, often, and for the duration of their life cycles. You should study how customers reach and use these features within your app to identify possible paths for improving your lower-performing features. Analysis of your best-performing features reveals commonalities between adopters, including:
- The user journey, from onboarding to feature usage
- The complementary features with which users regularly engage
- Acquisition channels
The identification of common behaviors in adopters of successful features not only informs the improvement of existing futures. You should also use the insights gathered from these features to create future features. These should be brainstormed, built, and released with these commonalities in mind to increase the likelihood of adoption from the get-go.
4. Build and execute your strategy
Now it’s time to plan your fix. If users struggle to adopt just one of your many features, your solution could be as simple as fixing a bad workflow or blasting out a few existence-affirming emails. Alternatively, you could point out the existence of a tool through the use of in-app messages like a modal window or slideout.
If the features most closely related to your aha moment need a boost, your strategy likely requires a more elegant response. You should build a product tour using a tool like Appcues to guide new users directly to value-laden features. Product teams construct tours to highlight important features and explain to customers how to use them to improve the odds of sufficient feature adoption. Modals, slideouts, and other UI patterns also help announce new features to existing customers that might otherwise remain buried beneath your product’s other bells and whistles.
A strategy for improving your general feature adoption rate likely requires the inclusion of different tactics to address one or more specific adoption metrics. For instance, one of your product’s features may have both a slow time-to-adopt and a consistent duration drop-off point. Your strategy would require a multi-pronged solution. First, you could build a product tour to minimize the amount of time between user onboarding and feature usage. Next, you could find a way to update your new feature to increase its shelf life or even create a new feature that better speaks to the needs of your more tenured customers.
5. Routinely evaluate your results
You shouldn’t measure your feature adoption metrics just once. Every small change you make to your product affects your UX. A barrage of modals highlighting an unsung feature can boost your feature adoption rate amongst one cohort but frustrate another. Routine metric calculations enable you to keep your finger on the pulse of your product and attuned to the behaviors of the customers you aim to please.
How to measure feature adoption effectively
You can’t measure feature adoption metrics without the proper tools. You need an in-depth sense of how customers behave within your app to gain insight into why customers avoid certain features and how to remedy them.
This is where Appcues comes in. Appcues’ no-code event tracking and analytics software attunes you and your product team to the goings-on of customers within your app. It helps you capture data on your users to better understand how they behave and why they might do so. Appcues grants you the power to:
- View where in the user journey customers fill out a form field or hover over UI elements
- Build user segments to better understand the behaviors of specific cohorts
- Use the Appcues Builder to construct UI patterns that trigger when customers perform a certain action
- Use the Events Explorer to view, validate, and visualize events
Hundreds of Appcues customers have used these tools to achieve real results. For example, email marketing platform Litmus wanted to expand on its existing efforts to increase the adoption of its features. They turned to Appcues to enhance their efforts through analysis, user segmentation, UI pattern-building, and tooltips. After using Appcues for just three months, Litmus saw an incredible 22x increase in the adoption rate for one of its features.
Use feature adoption metrics to fuel future success
People who use a product’s features stay happy and stay longer. Companies that track their feature adoption metrics have an easier time optimizing their product for maximum adoption. Consider the case of enterprise project management platform CMAP. They used Appcues’ in-app messaging to build a campaign that boosted their feature adoption rates by a whopping 300%.
Imagine achieving that level of success with your own feature adoption efforts. Now envision the potential impact on your retention rate—and especially your revenue. The tools and framework to achieve such lofty results are within reach. However, before you can hope to achieve measurable success, you need to become successful at measuring. (Your feature adoption metrics, that is.)
Learn more about Appcues as a feature adoption software solution