How to promote feature adoption and discovery [2022]

How to promote feature adoption and discovery [2022]

You want the software business you’ve built to be successful, right?

To run a successful SaaS business, you’ll need features that are well-adopted.

That’s because if you promote feature adoption and discovery well, you’ll have a well-adopted product.

And a well-adopted product retainers customers, has low churn and builds monthly recurring revenue month-after-month, year-after-year.

You’re probably wondering how product features affect adoption?

Let’s dive into metrics, measurement and driving improvements when it comes to feature adoption.

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Table of contents


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What is product feature adoption?

First let’s define exactly what we’re talking about here.

Simply put, feature adoption is the rate at which users are exposed to, activate, use and repeatedly use features in your SaaS product.

Feature Adoption Funnel
The feature adoption conversion funnel. We’ll review it in-depth in this article.

There are some complexities and caveats here, but in general, improving this rate is a good way to think about better promoting feature discovery and adoption.

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How is feature adoption different from product adoption?

This is a common question and it has a fairly straightforward answer.

  • Product adoption refers to the journey new customers embark on as they’re introduced to, start engaging with and eventually become power users of your software as a whole.
  • Feature adoption refers to the journey new (or existing) customers embark on as they’re introduced to, start engaging with and eventually become users of individual features within your software.

The main difference to highlight is adoption of your software as a whole versus individual features within your software.

Read the article: How to drive SaaS product adoption in 2022

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Why is feature adoption important?

Before we talk about how to measure and improve feature adoption, let’s take a step back.

Why is product adoption important from a business perspective?

Product adoption may be common industry lingo in the SaaS and software community. But what does it really describe?

  • Does the software in question provide value?
  • Does it solve major pain points?
  • Does it make life easier and less stressful for its users?

Strong product adoption means your software will retain users. It means the majority of people who start using it never stop.

And because subscription revenue growth is so important for most SaaS businesses, yours probably included, retaining customers is something that you need to focus on.

@micahjay1

There’s a goldilocks of SAAS that I’ve observed. The feature set has to be rich enough to truly solve a pain and make life easier. But onboarding and ease of use has to be lightweight enough to make the friction of adoption lower than the benefit of using the product.

See the tweet

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What are the factors that enhance adoption of technology?

In a moment, we’ll dive into ways to actively measure and improve product adoption.

But these steps will be exponentially easier to get right if your product has a strong foundation that will make adoption even easier for users.

Here are the 5 product features that affect adoption of innovative products…

Relative advantage

Relative advantage describes the degree to which your product appears or is superior to other products on the market.

Example: Google Chrome adoption has been fast compared to Microsoft Edge because, in most people’s opinion, it’s simply a superior internet browser.

Being better than the competition will almost force users to adopt your product instead of moving to your competitors’ product.

Compatibility

Compatibility describes how easy (or difficult) adoption is made by contexts external to your software.

Example: Tesla adoption would be far lower if the company hadn’t invested in building thousands of charging stations around the world.

Building a product in the right (growing) market will mean demand is so high for your product, high adoption will naturally follow.

Complexity

Complexity describes how easy (or difficult) an innovative product is to understand and/or use.

Example: Apple TV has had great adoption because it’s simple to turn on and stream compared to having to use 3 different remotes to simply watch TV.

The less complex your product is to understand and use, the higher your product adoption will be. This one is pretty simple.

Divisibility

Divisibility describes how easy it is to try our a product on a limited basis before committing to it before paying.

Example: Driftly has strong adoption because we allow users to test out our product with a free trial. This allows us to prove how simple and effective our product tours are and make users feel confident committing financially.

Giving users access to the right activation model before committing to buying your product will give customers more confidence in fully adopting your product.

Communicability

Communicability describes how easy your product can be described to others.

Example: 4dayweek.io is an exciting idea, extremely easy and understand and something you can easily describe to somebody else: “the place to find a 4 day work week software job.”

The easier it is for your existing users to describe your software and the value it provides to their networks, the more often they’ll do so. This is just basic conversion!

@Cory_Warfield

If your one-line pitch for your startup doesn’t make a problem truly bleed and make everyone excited immediately for your novel solution to it — you’ll have an exponentially hard time reaching product market fit or adoption, let alone scale.

See the tweet

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How do you measure product feature adoption?

Of course you’re excited to improve the adoption of features in your SaaS.

But before we can improve our metrics, we need to know which metrics are the most important to measure when it comes to feature adoption.

How do you measure feature success, adoption and discovery? Let’s dive into the best way to do all 3.

I read a lot about feature discovery and adoption to write this blog post. A lot of other articles told readers to measure arbitrary metrics that told part of the story of feature adoption but not all of it. But this article by Justin Butlion had the most effective feature adoption measurement advice, which I’ll summarize below and show you screenshots from. I would highly recommend reading his entire article in parallel with this one.

The feature adoption funnel: How to track and measure feature adoption
The best feature adoption conversion funnel I’ve seen anywhere online!

Using the image above, let’s go through the feature adoption funnel for a specific feature. Let’s call it Feature X.

September cohort

This simply describes how many users start their feature adoption journey with Driftly’s targeting and segmenting users feature. The number is 1,000 to keep the math simple.

Exposed

This measures the number of the 1,000 who actually discovered this feature.

The most common way to measure exposure is the percentage of users who viewed the page where the feature is available.

Sometimes the reason why a feature isn’t well adopted isn’t because the feature itself isn’t valuable.

A reason might be that users simply haven’t been given enough of an opportunity or nudge towards that feature.

In this case, 450/1000 users were exposed to Feature X, meaning 45% achieved exposure adoption.

Activated

This measures the number of users who activate the feature after being exposed to it.

The most common way to measure activation is the percentage of users who clicked on the feature after being exposed to it.

In order for a feature to be adopted, it first has to be activated. It can never be used if it’s not prepared for use in the first place!

In this case, 300/450 users activated Feature X, meaning 67% achieved activation adoption.

Used

This one is pretty straight-forward. It measures the number of users who actually use Feature X at least once.

The most common way to measure usage is the percentage of users who use it.

Full feature adoption means repeated usage. And you can’t have a feature used more than once if it isn’t used for the first time at some point along the journey.

In this case, 50/300 users activated Feature X, meaning 16% achieved usage adoption.

Used again

The ultimate goal of feature adoption! This measures the number of users who used a feature multiple times.

The most common way to measure repeat usage is the percentage of users who use it 2+ times.

The more the better, but any user who uses a feature at least 2 times qualifies.

In this case, 45/50 users activated Feature X, meaning 90% achieved repeated usage adoption.

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Other metrics related to feature adoption

The feature adoption funnel above is the most effective way to measure adoption for a specific feature.

But there are other metrics and ideas that are important to understand to get a truly full picture of feature adoption.

Breadth of adoption

Breadth of adoption measures how widely a feature has been adopted across your user base (or a specific user segment).

Example: After 30 days, 50 out of 1,000 users use a given feature repeatedly. Breadth of adoption is 5%.

Breadth of adoption is a good birds-eye view to see if a feature has, in general, been successfully adopted or not.

Depth of adoption

Depth of adoption measures how often specific users access a given feature.

Example: power users repeatedly use a single given feature far more than the others.

  • Do power users use a given feature every day or once a month?
  • Do they navigate right to that feature after they login, making it sticky?
  • Are they getting good ROI from the features they visit most often?

Depth of adoption generally signals how valuable (or not) a given feature is to your user base.

Time to adopt

One thing we haven’t talked about at all in the feature adoption process is timing.

In general, the more users that flow through your feature adoption pipeline, the better.

But it’s usually also true that the faster this happens, the better as well. Generally speaking, you’d rather have have users go from feature exposure to repeat users in a week than a month.

Example: 30% of users become a repeat users of a given feature during their first session.

In general, the lower the time to adopt of a given feature (very related to Time To Value) the more likely that feature solves a major pain point.

Duration of adoption

A user could technically use a feature twice and meet the threshold for a repeat user.

But if they only use the feature twice, have they really adopted a feature? Not really.

Duration of adoption measures how long a user remains a repeat user.

Example: 47% of users continue to use a given feature multiple times a month for as long as they are customers.

This metric generally shows if a feature provides long-term value beyond its initial usage.

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Key mistakes in measuring feature adoption

As you’re measuring adoption, it’s easy to make some pretty basic mistakes.

Let’s talk about them now so you don’t make them in the future.

Only measuring overall adoption

Let’s use the same feature adoption funnel we discussed before for real SaaS examples of potential feature adoption mistakes.

Again, the feature adoption conversion funnel.

If you simply look at the overall adoption here (cohort > used again), you’d come to the conclusion that 45 out of 1,000 users (4.5%) fully adopted this feature.

And you’d be correct!

But…why?

With only this 4.5% adoption number, you might try to improve this metrics using a host of different ideas.

Without any other data, you might try improving Activation.

You use a Driftly checklist to nudge users to activate the.feature at a higher rate. But it doesn’t move the needle…

That’s because activation is already at 67%, a pretty good conversion rate from Exposure > Activation!

You would have been much better off trying to improve Usage (16%) or even Exposure (45%).

To improve Usage, you implement a Driftly product tour to walk users through using your feature for the first time.

Usage activation jumps and so overall activation does too. Boom!

Overall adoption is a great number to tell you, in general, how well adopted a specific feature is. But to truly understand how to improve adoption for that feature, you’ll need the full picture of the entire feature adoption funnel.

Not differentiating between new & existing users/features

This one is a bit complicated but stay with me…

There are 4 somewhat different feature adoption journeys:

  • New feature adoption for new users
  • New feature adoption for existing users
  • Existing feature adoption for new users
  • Existing feature adoption for existing users

Both new and existing feature adoption for new users can be categorized under onboarding. Giving new users a great experience with your software should include introducing them to your most powerful features.

New feature adoption for existing users involves more announcements, user communication and guided tours to drive them through the feature adoption funnel.

Existing feature adoption for existing users may involve more research and talking directly with customers to see why they didn’t adopt a feature so you can make changes and make adoption easier.

If you think about feature adoption as the same journey for every unique user, you’ll fail to give any segment of users an excellent feature adoption journey.

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How do you encourage feature adoption?

Finally!

We’ve fully contextualized feature adoption and given you the foundation to measure it correctly.

Now, let’s go over some specific ways you can encourage adoption rates of a new feature.

To do this, let’s bring back the feature adoption funnel one more time and discuss tactics to improve every step of the feature adoption funnel.

Keep reading for suggestions to improve conversion for every step of the feature adoption funnel
  • Note: Some of these suggestions can have effects at multiple points of the conversion funnel. For example, some users may need to receive good support in order to even activate a feature. That being said, each tactic is where I think it will have the most impact on feature adoption.
  • Note: Something else to keep in mind is internal vs external adoption. Feature adoption for new users may look different than for existing users.

Cohort > Exposed

  • Announce new features to existing customers: If you already have customers using your software, showing them in-app feature announcements when they login. Pair this with an email announcement to all current free trial users and paying customers is a great way to expose everybody already using your software to the new feature.
  • Use product tour checklists to promote specific features: One way to expose a new features is an in-app checklist or product tour. Try Driftly’s in-app checklists and you can even target new or existing customers with unique product tours.
  • Write a website announcement or blog post: Write a blog post announcing a new feature and publish it! This can be paired with a modal pop up window or hello bar on your marketing site to promote recently launched features.
  • Give a heads up to your audience or followers: Whether you’ve been gathering email addresses on your website or amassing Twitter followers, now is the time to tell them about a new feature. Expose features through an email campaign, a Twitter thread or simply DMing close acquaintances.

Exposed > Activated

  • Set up activation reminders: Whether it’s in-app notifications or an automated email welcome sequence, a friendly reminder to activate new features might be just the reminder users need to give them a try.
  • Simplify your UI/UX: Often when a user is exposed to a feature but doesn’t activate it, an underlying issue is they may not know how. Double check that the design of the feature is a easy to activate as possible.
  • Make sure your copy reflects how your customers talk: If the activation copy confuses customers, they’ll be much less likely to activate it. Instead of terminology like “digital product adoption,” we at Driftly use language like “no-code product tours” because it’s easier for our users to understand exactly what those are!
  • Experiment with your CTAs: Calls To Action can sometimes be the difference between activating a feature and never using it. If “Try Feature X” isn’t converting, why not experiment with “Give Feature X A Whirl” and see if that catches attention better and gets more clicks. Always focus on making the feature’s value and the users’ desired action as clear as possible.
  • Target your communication: Not every feature will be useful to every user! That’s why you need to segment your user base and target each segment and nudge users towards the features that will be the most helpful for them. This is one of the big reasons we’ve built out segmentation and targeting for Driftly product tours!

Activated > Used

  • Make sure the feature is that good: If a specific feature is a home run for users, they’ll use it at least once. Sometimes if a feature isn’t being tried out, you simply need to put a bit more time and energy into that feature to make sure it’s solving a real pain point for users.
  • Provide easy-to-follow documentation: Keeping your docs up-to-date becomes essential at this stage. Sometimes users need their hand held to try a new feature, and what’s better than concise and detailed documentation to walk them through how to be successful with that feature.
  • Record video walkthroughs for additional support: Some users may be perfect reading your documentation, but some will want a video walkthrough for even more exact guidance on using a new feature.

Used > Used again

  • Make sure users are seeing positive ROI: users will use a feature over and over again if they make $2 for every $1 they spend on it. Even more if they make $5 or $100 for every $1 they spend. Make sure your feature is having a positive impact when it comes to the financials of your users.
  • Show positive results regularly: If you don’t put results right in front of your users, they may not appreciate them (or even see them). Use dynamic email and in-app messaging to send targeted messaging to users when they get hit milestones with your software (gathered 100 email addresses, got good analytics results, etc).
  • Provide fast, friendly, effective support: At some point, most users will get stuck and need support to continue in their product adoption journey. Whether it’s via email or chat widget, giving users the support they need to unblock themselves from continuing to use your features will only make those features more valuable for them.

Overall adoption

  • Do customer interviews and screen-share meetings: There’s no better way to know exactly how users are adopting a new features (and where they’re getting stuck) than watching them try the new features yourself. Use a combination of SavvyCal and Google Meet to schedule and host calls with your best customers.
@dohertyjf

The ability to overlay my calendar (without a SaavyCal account of my own, tho I guess I have one now?) over someone else’s to see mutual availability is pretty incredible.

See the tweet

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What is a good feature adoption rate?

Like most people, you probably want a feature adoption rate baseline to compare yours with.

But the reality is comparing adoption rates for different SaaS tools is always going to be like comparing apples to oranges.

Every piece of software has different:

  • UI/UX
  • In-app copy
  • Bugs
  • Target customers
  • Market they serve

The list goes on and on!

So if you’re asking, “what is a good feature adoption rate?” I think you’re actually asking the wrong question.

The best way to improve your adoption rate (and improve conversion along the conversion rate funnel) is not to do better than an arbitrary baseline adoption rate.

It’s to…

  1. Learn everything you can about adoption rate (and product adoption)
  2. Measure the feature adoption funnel for each of your main features
  3. Pinpoint weak conversion points along your adoption funnels
  4. Experiment with the suggestions above to improve conversion along the funnel, starting with your lowest conversion points.

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What’s next?

There you have it.

You started this blog post wondering, “how can I better drive feature adoption?”

Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two. Not just about actions you can take to improve your feature adoption pipeline, but ways to measure it correctly as well as make improvement a continual process.

If you can get feature adoption right for a few key areas of your software tool, you can run one hell of a SaaS business.

You got this!

If you have any questions or want to chat about feature adoption, don’t hesitate to ask Driftly’s co-founders on Twitter!


Implement product tours in just 5 minutes

Driftly Homepage With Tour

Use no-code product tours to nudge users towards that WOW moment. Guide your customers towards the most impactful areas of your software as they breeze through onboarding, adopt core features and become life-long power users.