In a perfect world, all users would dive right into your product and start using it with gusto. Of course, that’s rarely the case. And when introducing a new product, you’re asking people to try something new.
User adoption is achieved when people become acclimated to a product and make the decision to keep using it. The second part only happens if they reach an “aha moment” and realize the product’s benefits.
By applying techniques that make your product feel familiar (who doesn’t like warm fuzzies?) and beneficial, you can improve overall user adoption. Better yet, you can prime users for the future adoption of new features.
Why is user adoption so important?
B2B companies face different challenges than B2C when it comes to user adoption. B2C products often have lots of competition, and switching between brands is easy for consumers.
B2B customers tend to have longer relationships with their vendors and often are using more complex products. Rather than learning a product that “does one thing,” B2B products often involve multiple use cases across an organization. Since customer retention is critical, you need to ensure high levels of user adoption. Otherwise, come renewal time, you may find that your customers wonder why they’re continuing to pay for your product.
While you can’t force people to accept your product, you can remove some of the common barriers to adoption by addressing concerns that users have.
Identify product friction among different users
Your strategies to improve user adoption cannot be a “one-size-fits-all” approach because users have different motivations and approaches to your product.
Yes, it would be wonderful if all customers interacted with your product in the same way. But alas, B2B products often have wide variations in overall usage. They run the gamut from “touch every area of the product consistently” to “use this one tiny piece of functionality and ignore everything else.” Those in the second category are of particular concern because they’re not going to see as much ROI.
Users often have little patience when it comes to learning a new product, from those who use it daily to get their jobs done to those who use it only occasionally. Whether they’re confused about workflow or struggle with your product’s learning curve, any product friction they encounter will lower user adoption.
On the flip side, adoption will increase when users see the value of your product. But “value” means different things to different users, and you need to help them get past any adoption friction.
Generally, most of your users will fit into three categories: day-to-day users (or whatever frequency makes sense for your product), your product cheerleaders, and your decision-makers. While you may have some overlap or outliers, these three distinct user groups all have different needs when it comes to user adoption.
Day-to-day users are people who rely on your product to get their jobs done. They stand to gain the most from the features you provide. At the same time, day-to-day users are most likely to resist.
They were used to the “old way” of getting their jobs done. Your product may be a replacement for another solution or a substitute for internal processes. Either way, your product is removing customers from what is “comfortable” and asking them to do their jobs differently. And, more than likely, they were not consulted about the decision.
Whether the B2B organization has 10 users or hundreds, ensure that these end-users understand the product features and embrace them as part of their everyday process.
Product cheerleaders are your favorite users. They are champions for your product within the organization and likely played key roles in selecting the product and implementing it.
Don’t assume that product cheerleaders will always be fans of your product. Maintaining the support of these people will be essential throughout the relationship. After all, day-to-day users often look to product cheerleaders for internal guidance and support. They will continue to help day-to-day users internally when you roll out new features or make other product changes.
Decision-makers are perhaps the trickiest users of your product (if they use your product at all). Their usage is likely to be infrequent, so they aren’t going to learn about your product as fast as other users. They may only care about reports, dashboards, or other metrics, so your data-tracking features, in particular, need to have very little product friction. At the same time, they may be aware of frustration or pushback from daily users without understanding the underlying reasons for the friction.
You need to make sure decision-makers understand your product’s ongoing value, such as time saved and efficiencies gained. If not, come renewal time, they may pull the plug on your product.
3 tactics to improve user adoption
Product adoption friction often occurs when users get “stuck” as they try to learn something new. For day-to-day users, this friction can occur right out of the gate. Your product cheerleaders may be sailing along just fine—until you roll out a new feature that doesn’t make sense or changes the product in a way they weren’t expecting. Decision-makers need to see a smooth experience among all users and have a smooth experience themselves every time they touch the product.
When developing strategies to improve user adoption, you need to think about your different user types and how to remove their possible friction points—not only today but every time you make changes to your product.
1. Understand product implementation
B2B user adoption involves more than just telling people, “Download an app and start using it.” Implementation—your approach to integrating your product within the customer’s organization—requires many moving parts across various departments within an organization. It’s important to understand what the implementation process looks like for customers, because a lot of friction can occur during the initial period of change.
Let’s say your product does sales pipeline tracking. Introducing it to a company would require changing the sales team’s habits, providing new sales reports to executives, and creating new touchpoints for sales and support roles. If you’re aware of these pain points, you can help companies work through them as they adopt your product.
It also helps to know how quickly your customer wants implementation to happen. Some customers will choose to:
- Rip the band-aid off, leave the old system and immediately start using the new product
- Run both systems in parallel for a transitionary period
- Plan a phased implementation, where the new product is adopted in small chunks
Learn about your customers’ implementation plans and pain points during kickoff calls or surveys. Afterward, document the customers’ expectations.
2. Streamline the onboarding process
Time for baby steps. While some users will dive right in, others will need a lot of hand-holding. The more information you can provide, the better.
And remember, not everyone learns in the same way. Some people are visual, others like to read information, and others will just “click around and see what happens.”
A great onboarding experience not only helps your customers understand your product, but also ensures they complete all steps in the workflow. Some examples to consider for onboarding include:
- Creating in-app onboarding flows with product tours or checklists to complete
- Providing videos or tutorials that demonstrate how the product should be used
- Linking to resources such as user guides or examples that customers can use for inspiration
If your product is complex, you may also want to consider having a dedicated onboarding specialist for each account. These specialists can guide your cheerleaders and also keep a pulse on customer sentiment during onboarding.
3. Follow up regularly
Your interaction with your customers—much like your product—evolves over time. You’ll need to ensure ongoing user adoption through education and by maintaining low friction.
For day-to-day users, regular surveys can give you insights into customer engagement and how they use the product. You’ll also want to keep an eye on new users within an organization and ensure that they have the same (or better!) onboarding experience as their colleagues.
Feature announcements can help build excitement among your product cheerleaders. Prepare them for upcoming changes so that they can warm up to an idea and rally support among the day-to-day users. You can also use feature announcements to guide and educate users with the same type of tactics that you use for onboarding—videos, tutorials, and so on. Decision-makers may not see in-app feature announcements, so be sure to send launch emails also!
Decide how frequently you will meet with your primary point of contact (hopefully one of your cheerleaders). If you have annual contracts, talking to your contact every six months is a good approach. For shorter contracts, you’ll want to reach out more regularly.
These conversations can give you additional insights that surveys and other metrics can’t. You may see that five users are actively using your product but learn through a check-in with your contact that there are 15 others who should be using the product and aren’t. From there, you can make suggestions about how to improve user adoption.
Measure the success of user adoption strategies
You don’t want customer churn to be the indicator of overall user adoption (yikes). By that point, you have more than missed the opportunities to move past friction.
Instead, identify which factors reflect the success of your user adoption strategies at various stages of the customer journey. This could include looking at customer funnels, onboarding steps completed, or KPIs. Make changes to your strategies based on your results. Measure again. Repeat until you reach the point of smooth sailing.