Product adoption metrics are about more than just the numbers... it's about what the numbers are telling you.
Every time you make changes to your product, you need to consider how users will accept—or reject—the new features. To really have a handle on overall product adoption, you need to measure, measure, measure.
Googling “product adoption metrics” won’t give you a surefire way to improve overall product adoption (though it would be nice if this were the case). Choosing only one metric like “I want to improve new user adoption,” can leave other problems undetected. Focusing on everything spreads your efforts too thin, so you likely won’t achieve your desired results.
Instead, you need to examine your own business model, identify which product adoption metrics make the most sense, and set benchmarks based on that information.
Step 1. Understand the who, what, when, and how of product adoption
Product adoption happens in the stage of the customer journey where the customer reaches an “aha moment.” People won’t become recurring users until they understand your product’s value. But how do you show users that value? Improve product adoption by understanding the fine details of the process—who is adopting, what features they love, and so on—and you’ll be better able to encourage aha moments in the future.
Product adoption is so much more than the simple question: “Is the product being used?” Before you can dig into specific product adoption metrics, it’s important to understand the big picture.
Breadth of adoption (the “who”)
If people aren’t using the product regularly, or not using it as expected, they likely won’t benefit from it and will be more likely to churn. Bummer. Breadth of adoption refers to how widely your product has been adopted across your customer user base.
Determine the ideal usage frequency for your product e.g., how often do people need to use it within a time frame for the product to be valuable? Then look at your total user base and break down the number of users who are Daily Active Users (DAUs), Weekly Active Users (WAUs), or Monthly Active Users (MAUs). Note how many users meet your ideal frequency and how many don’t fall into any category. People in the latter group probably haven’t reached their “aha moment” yet.
Depth of adoption (the “what”)
Strong product adoption is often a result of helpful features users can’t live without. Gauge which features are (and aren’t) driving adoption by tracking which ones receive the most traction.
While a good percentage of your users may be DAUs, some users within that group might not be using a key feature. Also, if users only touch one feature (of many), that may indicate a weak depth of adoption.
Causes of weak product adoption depth include issues with a feature’s relevance, difficulty in use, or lack of overall user engagement.
Time to adopt (the “when”)
Timing is everything when it comes to product adoption. If users fail to see value quickly, they may switch to another product.
This can also hold true when you roll out a new feature and users take too long to adopt it, because they are missing an opportunity to see additional value from your product. It can also indicate frustration on the user’s part if they “can’t figure something out” (which could be due to UI/UX issues).
Duration of adoption (the “how long”)
You may discover that users adopt a product quickly (an amazing onboarding experience can help!) but then lose interest over time. Duration shows if users continue to see value beyond the initial novelty.
When the duration of product adoption is low, it may mean that your product needs a refresh or that users prefer emerging competitor products. Either way, if the duration of adoption is low and you’re unable to increase it, users will likely churn over time.
Step 2: Identify your product adoption metrics
To improve product adoption, you’ll need to measure it over time by identifying the metrics that make the most sense for your product. While many ways to measure product adoption exist, we’re going to look at metrics that specifically answer questions around the dimensions: who, what, when, and how long.
Your conversion rate measures how many people “look at your product” versus “begin using your product.” Your “total visitors” will vary based on how you define a conversion: it could be everyone who signs up for a free trial, clicks on an ad, or fills out a form, versus only those who become paying customers.
For example, if you have free trials, the conversion rate tells you about your breadth of adoption and time to value. You’re able to see who has adopted the product within a certain amount of time. If your conversion rate is low, that means users aren’t seeing value or it’s taking too long to see value.
Adoption rate is measured by the number of customers using a specific feature. Specifically, you’re looking at the total number of users for that feature as a percentage of the total number of users for your product as a whole.
This metric helps you identify features that suffer from some type of adoption friction. Maybe users weren’t aware of that feature. Maybe it took too long for them to adopt that feature and they gave up. Maybe users had previously used that feature, but then it became less useful for their needs. In any case, the adoption rate is going to show you the breadth of adoption for the feature, which you can also compare to other features.
Time to Value (time to adopt)
You know the time when a user signs up. But how long does it take before they reach their aha moment? Time to value measures the length of time between the first time the user interacts with your product and when they reach a tipping point and realize your product’s value.
How you define that tipping point will depend on your product, and it is critical for understanding Time to Value.
Usually, usage frequency is measured after your users complete their initial onboarding phase. It tracks how often users keep coming back to your product. The more they return, the more value they’ll see in your product—even if they’ve already reached their aha moment.
Look at your DAU, WAU, or MAU as a percentage of the total users to see your product’s usage frequency. By looking at usage frequency, you can identify users who may lack product knowledge and need additional support to stick around.
Step 3: Develop a plan to track product adoption metrics
Once you’ve identified the product adoption metrics that make the most sense for your business, put a plan in place to track these metrics over time. By tracking specific events, product tracking tools can give you insights into user behavior and which features are being used.
Your product adoption plan should include:
The data points you’ll need to capture for each metric, such as the total number of users or the frequency of usage.
The frequency with which you’ll report each metric, such as monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually.
When it comes to frequency, make sure you set a reporting cadence that makes sense for the metric. For example, it may take six months to see meaningful changes in time to value, so monthly reporting wouldn’t be helpful. Try to find a cadence where you can pivot your approach if needed, but also gives you enough time to reflect the changes in your metrics (i.e. reporting weekly probably doesn’t allow enough time to really show meaningful change).
Once you’ve collected data for each metric, report your findings. They need to be reviewed by relevant teams so you can determine next steps.
Step 4: Let product adoption metrics guide improvement
You’re tracking product adoption metrics and have results to analyze—great! Now what? Ask yourself, “How can I help users better understand or use this product?” Here are several tactics you can try to increase overall product adoption.
Make a great first impression with onboarding flows
Not all users will innately discover the value of your product. Customers who don’t end up converting or who take too long to see value may be getting stuck during onboarding.
Onboarding flows guide users through your product’s features so they can see its value more clearly. Common elements of a great user onboarding experience include:
A welcome that greets the user with a short, friendly message
Product tours that explain the product feature by feature
Progress bars that indicate how long the onboarding experience is
Checklists that provide a list of specific tasks for the user to complete
Keep users informed by using in-app feature announcements
Users may not even realize new features are available. Don’t rely on users to read your product release notes and learn about new features on their own. Instead, use in-app messaging and announcements to alert users know about new features.
Feature announcements can direct users to other resources, such as a video or blog post, that explains the feature in more detail. Teach users about the value of these new features and they'll be more likely to embrace them in the product.
What about those “infrequent” users—the ones who don’t open your app often enough to be aware of new features or other changes? Email is an easy way to stay connected with these users and improve their product adoption.
You can also use emails to remind users of the value your product provides, offer tips and tricks, and make users aware of new product features. These messages can help improve usage frequency by encouraging people to return to your product.
Your product launch strategy should feature not just one, but a series of emails to build momentum around new features.
When to improve... and when to let go
Usually, product adoption metrics will illuminate enough about friction points to help you make improvements and increase usage. But if you try the above tactics and find product adoption is still low, you may need to think about design changes. Or you may realize that a specific feature doesn’t align with user expectations and decide to remove it. Be realistic about what’s worth improving so you can concentrate your efforts on building the features that will keep users tied to your product.