Evaluating any software can be a big project. One that’s only made more complex by all of the options available. Not to mention sifting through endless marketing to get to the bottom of who offers what and how that will actually help you accomplish your goals.
But let’s start at the beginning. At Appcues, we see a lot of variations on termonology in our space (digital adoption platform, product adoption software, onboarding platform, etc.) and that can be confusing to buyers. The best way to avoid going down a messaging rabbit hole or evaluating providers who don’t meet your needs is to start with two questions:
- Who am I looking to build experiences for?
Are you looking to train internal staff on a third-party system like Salesforce? Or are you looking to build in-product experiences focused on your end user? Or maybe both? Some tools solve for both, and some are focused primarily on one of those audiences, so knowing who you are trying to reach is a good first step to narrowing down your options.
- What am I trying to accomplish?
Having a good sense of your goals and desired outcomes will help ensure a more proactive evaluation. Are you trying to drive user onboarding? Increase product adoption? Reduce customer churn? All of the above? Take the time to think about which of those goals are most important now and, equally importantly, in the future (don’t limit the options for the future based on who’s a good fit today). You’ll want to share these objectives with the sales rep of each tool you are evaluating—and those worth moving forward with will be able to speak to how their tool can help you accomplish these.
Now let’s get into the top factors to consider when evaluating software to help you choose which solution best meets your needs.
Leading criteria to consider during the evaluation
Company reputation & stability
It's important to choose a software vendor with a good reputation in the industry. Look for vendors with a proven track record of customer satisfaction and successful deployments (check those reviews). Remember: reputation is a long-term game— and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention stability. Organizations with minimal funding might not have the longevity to make it through current market conditions, and you don’t want to be looking to switch platforms again in three months.
As you trial different providers, evaluate the experience–a tool that’s focused on improving product experiences, yet doesn’t offer a particularly intuitive one itself… red flag much? A software solution that is easy to use and intuitive will be more likely to be adopted by your team. Remember that there’s likely a learning curve with any of the tools you evaluate, and sometimes more robust tools require a little bit more education up front, but all-in-all, a tool shouldn’t be so confusing that you are left feeling lost.
Your organization, its brand, visual identity, and product interface are unique. It's important to choose a tool that offers an easy way to make sure experiences match your look and feel and feel seamless to your end user (hint: those experiences get more engagement than ones that look like add-ons). Additionally, it might not seem like a big deal to have to update text with CSS or code, but that will get old quickly. Lastly, some organizations might include their branding on your in-product experiences–which isn’t ideal.
When evaluating software, it’s always best to think long-term. You’ll always encounter a group of functionality requirements that you don’t need now (consider those “advanced features”), but are important capabilities to consider as you grow. As it relates to this space, some of those features could include experimentation, scheduling, event triggering, event tracking, mobile, segmentation, etc. The point here is to consider what tool can grow alongside your business rather than which tool is good to “get started with.”
In today’s world, your tech stack just has to talk to each other. Especially for better in-app experiences. Passing data from your CRM to a tool like Appcues can make experiences more relevant and useful to your users. Can the platform you’re evaluating integrate with other tools and systems you already use? Or those that you wish to integrate with in the future? What does that integration look like? Is it one-way or two? Is it real-time or delayed? Answers to these questions help choose a tool that fits more easily into your existing technology stack.
As always, make sure to consider the security measures in place to protect your data. Look for software that offers robust security features and adheres to industry standards. Do they meet all five pillars of the SOC Type II Report? Do they abide by General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)?
We refer to support in two ways: on-demand and self-service. Choose a solution with both a helpful staff and a helpful documentation center. This is another area where reviews are handy because a lot of companies will mention great support, but if reviewers mention a 3-day wait time, workarounds, or minimal documentation, that tells a different story.
Will the software require extensive training or onboarding to get up and running? Make sure to factor in the time and cost of training when evaluating different software options.
Courses, blogs, guides, and other resources can seem like something that belongs on the nice-to-have list. However, these resources ultimately point to proof that the organization both understands the challenges you are trying to solve and has also successfully helped solve those for others (and they’ve got the receipts). The journey to product-led can be tricky to navigate alone, so benefit from the education of an experienced partner.
We’d be pretty sloppy if we didn’t include pricing on the list, right? It’s typically one of the most important factors for organizations. Let’s break down some things to keep in mind as it relates to pricing:
- Cost: Ensure your provider is sharing transparent pricing that includes everything. That might look like: cost + add-ons + + implementation fee + MAUs (or another usage-based metric)
- Time: Is the tool so complex that it will require a big portion of someone’s time to manage?
- Discounts: If you purchase a tool because the vendor offers a significant discount, remember that you’re only delaying the true cost of the tool.
- Cost of switching: Maybe that’s a problem for future you, but the cost and hassle of switching software is real so remember to think through the best option long-term.
If you’re ready to see how Appcues stacks up against all these factors, book time with our product experts.