The 5 stage product adoption framework designed to guide your business to growth

The 5 stage product adoption framework designed to guide your business to growth

What are the best ways to drive product adoption in SaaS? As product-led growth is becoming the new standard, SaaS companies are looking for gamified tactics & growth hacks to boost user engagement and adoption. In other words, they need a product adoption framework to get different types of users from trial to power users.

In this article, we’ll cover the 5 stages of the Product Adoption Curve and discuss 7 famous examples guaranteed to boost product adoption for SaaS apps.

What is product adoption?

Product adoption is a metric that measures your user engagement. In short, it describes the lifecycle, depth & breadth of usage according to a set of desired actions. After user acquisition, a good product adoption framework turns new users into engaged users!

Why customer adoption should be a SaaS priority

To scale SaaS you need a product-led approach to growth. In other words, if your product already does the heavy work, things like sales and customer support will get easier. To complement your user acquisition process you also need a clear product adoption strategy.

By using a product adoption framework you should achieve a faster time to value and a smoother onboarding that reduces any possible friction and frustration. As a result, you’ll not only be able to drive more user engagement but also diminish churn!

What are the benefits of product adoption?

Usually following the trial period, product adoption happens when users perceive that the benefits of your product outweigh its costs. In fact, it’s fair to say that the choices users make at this stage will clearly define the success of your platform!

If users choose to adopt your product, the benefits for you are transformative:

  • Reduction of churn and increase in user engagement and retention
  • Boost customer lifetime value, lowering user acquisition costs
  • Increased success of upselling and cross-selling
  • Generation of predictable revenue streams (letting you plan with confidence)

The Product Adoption Curve: a framework for strong product positioning

Sociologist Everett Rogers first developed the Product Adoption Curve in 1962, and it remains an indispensable framework for growing businesses. In short, the curve illustrates when each user segment is best placed to adopt your product.

This powerful product adoption framework has 5 key stages:

The 5 stages of the Product Adoption Curve

product adoption framework saas

Phase 1: Innovators

Basically, a cutting-edge product attracts cutting-edge users! While innovators make up just 2.5% of the market, they’re highly active and offer tons of great insights. On the other hand, innovators are always looking for new great products, so they move on quickly and pay little.

Pro tip: Get your early product feedback here! Innovators are savvy risk-takers who also tend to forgive bugs or missing features. But most of all, they know what they want to see.

Phase 2: Early adopters

Forming around 13.5% of the total market, early adopters are a prime audience for new SaaS products. Compared to innovators, this group has issues they want to be solved, and they have the money to pay to solve them!

Pro tip: Early adopters see themselves as ahead of the curve. As such, they expect a wide range of customization and amazing customer support. Find out what drives user engagement and double down on it!

Phase 3: Early majority

Here, you must convince the next 34% of consumers, who prefer continuity to innovation. In other words, your product is becoming the new normal. Certainly, it’s a challenge – early majority customers are slow decision-makers and rely strongly on good references.

Pro tip: To persuade the early majority, you need credibility. Employing social proof in your campaigns can set users at ease. Additionally, you can use gamified growth tactics like incentivizing referrals and reviews to generate word-of-mouth.

Phase 4: Late majority

The late majority, 34% of all consumers, live at the peak of the Product Adoption Curve. At this point, your growth begins to slow. These customers are more conservative, have smaller budgets, and simply can’t afford to fail with a new product.

Pro tip: Late majority users adopt out of necessity, not curiosity. In short, they must feel they are at a competitive disadvantage by not using your product! Help your users get to value with stellar support, in-app education, or even product training!

Phase 5: Laggards

Laggards, older and more traditional, are the last segment and form 16% of the market. If this skeptic-heavy group does adopt your product, it means your software is likely in decline. However, they can still provide considerable revenue and market share!

Pro tip: Laggards are risk-averse and budget-conscious. Given this, offer trials, guarantees, and money-back assurances to entice product adoption.

What is a product adoption lifecycle?

Embedded in the curve’s product adoption framework are ‘Lifecycles’. For example, marketing and sales is an early lifecycle where users first become aware of your product. Then, they move through trial, onboarding,… Altogether, the lifecycles form a user journey that can inform your product adoption strategy.

Let the product adoption curve guide your product-led growth

Use the adoption curve as a product adoption framework! By identifying the stage your product is in, as well as what attracts different user segments, you can shorten the time between early adopters and the early majority and grow your business faster!

Get inspired by these 7 amazing examples of how to increase product adoption in SaaS:

7 examples on increasing product adoption from companies like Airtable, Canva, Wistia,…

#1 Shorten your time to value like ProdPad

For users, the race to find your value starts from the very first interaction with your platform. To drive users to that AHA moment, you need a few things. First, you need to give clear directions on where to go, and what to do. Then, you’ll also want to incentivize user engagement to keep users moving forward.

Take ProdPad for instance. This product management software experienced high churn after a 30-day trial. So, the team measured their time to value. ProdPad assessed it to be just 9 days. As it turns out, all those extra days discouraged users from engaging! So, the trial was cut to 7 days and extensions were gamified. As a result, ProdPad tripled conversion rates!

gamified onboarding user engagement saas

#2 Prioritize user engagement over acquisition like Duolingo

Define your growth lever. Boosting acquisition can sometimes have an effect on user engagement and long-term growth. That’s why it’s important to measure the impact of experiments and mirror them to your goals. Language learning software Duolingo is famously good at this, and it has boosted their Day 1 retention from just 13% on launch to a truly impressive 55%.

For example, the Duolingo team tested download buttons to let users complete courses offline. The result? A rise in conversions, but a dip in daily active users. This was deemed too high of a long-term loss for the short-term gain, and the feature was shelved. In other words, without initial testing, this fall in users would have been a nasty surprise!

gamified user engagement tactics

#3 Give users a headstart as Airtable does

Sometimes setting up a new product can be hard just for the fact of getting started. Nobody likes to start from scratch, so why not give users a headstart? Templates can be part of your product adoption framework. You can even build out user flows to customize templates according to to use cases and user profiles.

Airtable for instance gives users a range of customized templates after onboarding. It gives users instant value and serves as motivation to further discover the product. Especially with a multi-faceted tool like Airtable, it’s important to inspire your users in what ways they can use it and give them the best practices to succeed!

user engagement onboarding

#4 Boost user engagement with gamified rewards like Todoist

To get users to adopt your product, make it fun! A gamified approach triggers intrinsic motivation, a powerful psychological phenomenon where users are motivated by enjoyment and personal satisfaction.

Productivity platform Todoist for instance used a range of gamified tactics to boost keep users active. Whenever you complete a to-do list you’ll get rewarded with karma points. Additionally, Todoist uses gamified features such as progress bars, leaderboards, and even daily streaks!

gamified user engagement onboarding

#5 Promote your features like Wistia

An excellent product adoption framework should maximize the breadth of user engagement. This entails users engaging with a wide range of features, and it’s a must for successful platforms. For customers, every unused feature lowers the value they could get out of your product!

As said before, you need to show your users what your product is capable of! So, when you launch a new feature be like the video hosting platform Wisitia. They promoted their new A/B testing feature by emailing existing users with a clear CTA and a video that looks extremely clickable.

product adoption framework examples

#6 Leverage gamified checklists like Loom

Whenever users need to complete grunt work they experience lots of friction and sometimes also frustration. With gamified checklists, you can take this away! The psychology behind it is simple: humans like progress and clear directions.

For example, video messaging SaaS Loom uses gamified checklists to remind users of their goals and drive them to the crucial AHA moment.

gamified product adoption features

#7 The proof is in the pudding or product

Every stage of the product adoption framework will be different. You’ll need to shift focus from acquisition to onboarding, to user engagement, and so on. But the best thing you can do to drive viral growth is to make your product better!

An inspiring example here is the simplest design tool out there: Canva! Their amazing growth story is full of product-led growth tactics from customized landing pages and onboarding to template libraries.

Did you know it only takes around 52 seconds to create a Christmas card in Canva? Compare that to the average graphic design process where it could take weeks or even years to finally get value.

gamified product adoption framework

And that’s what is required today in our world of product-led growth!

FAQ

Product adoption is a metric that measures your user engagement. In short, it describes the lifecycle, depth & breadth of usage according to a set of desired actions. After user acquisition, a good product adoption framework turns new users into engaged users!

To scale SaaS you need a product-led approach to growth. When your product already does the heavy work, sales and customer support become easier. By using a product adoption framework you achieve a faster time to value. As a result, you’ll be able to drive more user engagement and diminish churn!

Next to user engagement and retention, product adoption also influences a range of other factors. If users choose to adopt your product, the benefits for you are transformative:
  • Reduction of churn and increase in user engagement and retention
  • Boost customer lifetime value, lowering user acquisition costs
  • Increased success of upselling and cross-selling
  • Generation of predictable revenue streams (letting you plan with confidence)

Sociologist Everett Rogers first developed the Product Adoption Curve in 1962, and it remains an indispensable framework for growing businesses. In short, the curve defines 5 segments from innovators and early adaptors to the early and late majority, and finally laggards.

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