How user onboarding can help product adoption

product adoption

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

Product adoption is the multi-step thought process that prospective buyers go through as they decide to use and buy your product. Great user onboarding can be a huge advantage in helping people adopt your product. Here we break down the 4 step product adoption process.

1. Product adoption process


Before anything, people need to be aware of the product’s existence. Your product’s brand awareness needs to be promoted in the appropriate channels for your product. Aggressively promoting a health app will have more traction on Instagram than a cold calling service for the health insurance industry on Linkedin. 

A good, solid, SaaS brand will help bring more people to the onboarding experience. A strong SaaS brand will do this and help users with the onboarding experience. Why?  Because it helps set the right expectations.  Duolingo’s characters, color scheme, and typography help seamlessly guide the user from the awareness phase to the next product adoption phase, Interest. 


The user is now aware of the product. At this point, there should be an accurate sense of what problem the product solves. Your landing page is usually their first point of contact for the interest phase, followed by supporting content, such as case studies and use cases. Another environment your product might live in is the apple or google store. The only supporting content that is helping here are reviews and the few lines of copy that can fit on the screen. 

This is also where AHA moments start to appear in the thought process of the users.


A comprehensive user onboarding trial that is supportive and swift can be the deciding factor in the product adoption phase. This is also where users finally get to be hands-on with the product. 

To help this phase be as successful as possible, make sure the proceeding steps set the user up for success. These steps can be many things: marketing that appropriately manages expectations, the landing page’s copy, a great welcome email, and more. Make sure all of these work together to make the trial phase easier to access and complete.

Note: the trial phase in the product adoption framework refers to the free trials in user onboarding. For products with a freemium model, the product itself is on trial until the user decides to upgrade. 


Ah, the final step. This is where the user has integrated the product into their life. Having an intuitive onboarding process that prioritizes setting up users for success helps the chances of adoption. 

Bear in mind this framework does not represent an unbroken chain of events. People will get distracted, busy, or maybe just not ready for a change in their current lifestyle. Product adoption is a marathon, not a race. It’s something that requires the collaboration of multiple departments. From the application’s UI to a CTA in an email, the entire product’s ecosystem is holistically working towards converting and retaining the user.

2. Different types of adopters

types of adopters

To fully understand the product adoption process, we need to outline the different types of product adopters. 

The innovators (2.5%)

The innovators are the first group of people who try out your product, intensely interested in new technology and ideas. 

The early adopters (13.5%)

A slightly larger group of tech enthusiasts are the early adopters. Early adopters are a bit more discerning than the innovators but still eager to try the product. 

The early majority (34%)

The early majority make up one of the largest percentages of the product adopters. They wait for the adopters and innovators to test the waters of a new product before taking the plunge themselves.

The late majority (34%)

This population of users is stubborn but will eventually adopt with overwhelming evidence of the product’s usefulness.

Laggards (16%)

This section of the product adoption population has a high resistance to change. Be it reluctance, intense stubbornness, or a lack of exposure to the media, they are hard to convince and hard to reach.

3. Product adoption metrics and numbers

Photo by Luke Chesser

Gauging your product adoption comes down to some key metrics. These are the numbers you need to be watching and measuring to examine the health of your product adoption.

Customer churn

Let’s start with one of the big ones, customer churn. This is a measurement of those that you have lost. Of the metrics related to product adoption, user onboarding, and any phase of your user experience, this is the one that you want to decrease

A healthy customer churn rate is somewhere between 3-8%

Customer retention

The opposite of customer churn, customer retention is a measure of those that continued to show their interest by continuing to pay. 

Remember the statistics above? This is where the remaining 92-97% exists. Customer retention will vary depending on the industry, the market, and the very nature of your product.

Net promoter score (NPS)

The majority of these metrics are a sign of your product’s health, from a user experience and a customer experience perspective. This is the metric that shows the health of your brand. This is not a direct measure of your product experience but the attitude towards your product experience. 

Free-to-paid plan conversions

Of all the metrics, this is one of the more important. This is not only a measure of product adoption but also a threshold of when people have entered into the CX phase of your product experience. 

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

All of these metrics are on a specific timescale. After all, what is a formula without a measure of time? Most of them measure within a 14-30 day timetable. CLV analyzes the value of a customer’s attention and loyalty over the course of however long they are a recurring customer. So this metric can vary anywhere from 14 days to years. 

4. Ways to improve product adoption

Remove internal friction

Pop quiz!

Guess who is on the product adoption team?

  • User Experience Design
  • User Interaction
  • UX Writing
  • Sales 
  • Marketing 
  • Customer service
  • Leadership
  • All the above

Hint: it’s number 8

Regardless of your company’s structure or team members, everyone working with the product needs to be communicating with each other about the user. More specifically, people need to be speaking the same language around the product and the user goals. Start removing user friction by removing inner department friction. One great way to achieve this is to have an easy definition and/or metric of users adopting the product. 

This is Slack’s definition: 

Regardless of any other factor, after 2,000 messages, 93% of those customers are still using Slack today.
Steward Butterfield
Great user onboarding

Good user onboarding gets a first-time user from point A to B quickly. Great user onboarding sets up users for success, doesn’t hide the value of a product in frustrating steps, and makes the experience as effortless as possible. The foundations for a good user onboarding experience will help your product adoption goals.  

Talk to users

Understanding your customers via user research drastically helps with your product’s usability. It gives you the foresight to reduce user pain points as much as possible, provide supporting content that assists struggling first-time users, and more. 

Just to be clear, user research doesn’t mean just sending out a survey but actually talking to your users. This will provide much richer qualitative data compared to a 250-character limit form. Given the opportunity, most people like to talk. Leverage that.

Great customer support

The first step to great customer support within a product experience is to make it easy to find and access. Step two is to make sure your content for users, especially first-time users,  is easy to understand and act upon. Step three is to have a great customer support team.  Great user onboarding and product adoption principles will help reduced the need for customer support materials.

Have an engaging email campaign

An onboarding email campaign is a product adoption email campaign. They follow the same steps and have the same outcomes: have the product become part of the user’s lifestyle.

5. Conclusion

The goal of product adoption isn’t to have users simply be recurring customers but to make a product that truly solves a problem.  This approach will aid your product goals and business goals. The best tactic that you can use to improve your product adoption is to optimize your user onboarding experience as much as possible. Showing first-time users the benefits and value of your product quickly shepherd them through the product adoption process faster.

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