How to boost SaaS product adoption? The science you need to know.
Some of the leading product-led companies are using behavioral psychology to make their product experiences better and stickier. In other words, they are looking to drive user engagement to increase SaaS product adoption. Right now, around 91% of SaaS businesses are developing strategies like gamified onboarding to leverage product-led growth. If PLG* isn’t your priority, the simple fact is that you’re at a competitive disadvantage.
In this article, we’ve gathered 12 SaaS product adoption tactics to boost product-led growth backed by our expertise in motivational theory & behavioral science!
SaaS product adoption happens when customers show repeating patterns of user engagement. Basically, they’ve started to adopt your product into their workflow, routine, and habits. You can measure product adoption based on breadth, depth, and frequency of usage.
Why is user adoption so important?
It’s simple – a better adoption process ensures users experience the full value of your product. As a result, you drive sustainable user engagement and retention. And this is crucial – 70% of SaaS companies report that revenue from existing customers increases by up to 40% in the first year! Clearly, that beats losing customers to churn and even the cost of acquiring new users!
In general, a user is considered ‘onboarded’ after they demonstrate a certain level of commitment to your platform. In terms of SaaS product adoption, this can be seen as increased user engagement on your platform.
To track the transition, consider these 4 factors:
Have they completed the full onboarding process?
Does the user engage often, and with a wide range of features?
Can they see and understand your value clearly?
Does the user upgrade to paid or become a loyal user?
The more the answer is yes, the closer your user is to product adoption!
How do you track SaaS product adoption?
While the line between onboarding and SaaS product adoption is blurry, there are various metrics you can use to make sense of it. For example, a user’s time to value is important, as well as the product activation rate, stickiness rate, and user engagement.
However, every SaaS has different ways of measuring product success. Basically, you need to ask yourself which behaviors lead to both product growth and customer success?
If you’re a to-do app, for instance, you’ll want your users to:
Create a to-do list
Add 3-5 items to their list
Then, it’s about repeating and expanding on those behaviors. Your user might connect his calendar app to get even more value or use additional features that improve their experience.
What really influences a customer’s decisions: Behavioral Science 101
The power of behavioral science is transformative. Today, an increasing number of growth marketers are building their user experience around the principles of behavioral psychology. As a result, they want to increase SaaS product adoption.
Here are just a few psychological triggers that strongly influence customer decisions:
First coined in 1979, this theory explains that humans are more motivated by avoiding loss than by making gains. Famously, marketing efforts focused on scarcity, like time-limited offers, activate loss avoidance to encourage user engagement.
Premium email software Superhuman for instance created an invite-only software and managed to build a waiting list of currently over 450,000 people! Want to skip the wait? Get referred! In return, you get a VIP onboarding to truly help you get to inbox zero.
People love to look for patterns and stories. In fact, when presented with new ideas we tend to compare them to relatable situations and contexts to better understand the possible value. Basically, we focus on the information we already know and interpret things to support our own worldview. This is also called confirmation bias.
A similar thing happens in survivorship bias. Here, we look at successful examples in hopes of achieving the same results. For example “Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college, so if I do the same!” Additionally, high achievers like athletes often look for patterns to explain their own success. That’s why some claim some crazy rituals or foods to be the secret to their victories.
In de the end, it all comes down to knowing your target audience and creating a narrative they would subscribe to. What facts do they already know of? How can you position yourself within their reality? Finally, measure the success of your narrative by tracking user engagement and time on page.
As humans, we make decisions by looking at what other people are doing. Think of your peers, or even better: experts & authorities in the field! Drift for example leverages big, recognizable client names like Gong to win over new customers!
The questions you must answer to improve SaaS product adoption
Improving SaaS product adoption requires a clear strategy. However, you should know a few things about your user, your business goals & product vision. Therefore, we’ve listed the main questions you should ask to drive user engagement and product-led growth.
Who are your most/least engaged users?
What behaviors do they have in common?
In short, these ‘who’ questions will reveal the kind of user most likely to complete your adoption process. Evidently, this data will make you more effective at product adoption!
How long until a user reaches their AHA moment?
When is a user considered fully adopted?
When does it become clear a customer won’t fully adopt?
After learning who your ideal users are, next up is to identify them fast and reliably.
What issue are they solving by using your product?
Which features do fully adopted users engage with the most?
What steps did those users take to get there?
Through analysis, you can reveal which features generate the highest user engagement amongst fully adopted users. Following that, you can double down on them!
How long does it take your users to become fully adopted?
At what frequency do users engage with specific features?
How much customer support did fully adopted users need? And what did they need assistance with?
How do users reach SaaS product adoption?
It’s up to you to figure out the best way to answer these questions. From direct customer feedback, surveys, or any other analytics tool, you will discover your preferred method.
12 SaaS product adoption strategies based on behavioral science
#1 Progress bars fulfill a user’s need for advancement
Intrinsically, all users want you to help them grow! A simple way to meet this need during onboarding is with a gamified progress bar. Not only does it tell users the length of your onboarding, (reducing frustration), but progress bars also provide instant feedback. And that’s what customers crave!
#2 Personalized onboarding empowers future user engagement
To make onboarding more valuable, personalize the experience. Evernote does this by asking why users want to take notes. Then, they show a personalized template feed based on your preferences. In short, personalization gives users faith that you are looking after their needs.
#3 Scarcity triggers user action
MeetEdgar’s product launch used scarcity and loss avoidance to drive user engagement. Initially, MeetEdgar started off as invite-only, and this made users fight harder to be selected! As a result, in under a year, MeetEdgar was raking in over €100k a month!
#4 Loss framing: how your product protects users
In practice, it is more motivating to frame your benefits as a prevented loss than a gain! Prodpad follows this principle when they offer users to “clear the chaos”, essentially framing their product as letting you avoid a bad outcome.
#5 Increase motivation with gamified rewards (and boost referrals)
Dropbox turned 100,000 users into 4,000,000 in just 15 months – how? With a gamified rewards program that incentivized referrals. Additionally, this fueled the Network Effect, where users get more value because their network is also using the product. As a result, Dropbox drove its SaaS product adoption to great heights!
#6 Relativity: comparisons enhance perceived value
Comparisons help you influence the most crucial step in SaaS product adoption: the purchase decision! In brief, side-by-side pricing tables with variable costs make cheaper tiers seem more valuable. In EngageBay’s example, purchasing the $8.99 tier feels like great value when the alternative could be $47.99!
#7 Boost product adoption with gamified checklists
Gamified checklists can revolutionize your onboarding. Take Keyhole, a social media analyzer. After they implemented gamified checklists, conversion rates rose by 550%!
Generally, requesting a user’s private details during onboarding is intrusive and results in churn. But for some apps, there’s no way around it! That’s the case for social media organizer Sprout Social. But with personable copy that focuses on the user’s concern, they instead reduce frustration and improve SaaS product adoption.
#9 The ‘Zeigarnik effect’ will make your product memorable
Human brains are wired to remember uncompleted tasks. This is called the Zeigarnik Effect, and it can help you drive SaaS product adoption! The job-finding tool Handshake for instance, uses gamified onboarding to increase profile completion. They do this through features like progress bars and checklists to remind users that they’re not done yet.
#10 Leverage social proof through testimonials & smart copy
The SaaS product adoption process starts with skepticism. Prospects will question your credibility, your app’s benefits – everything! In short, don’t take prospects for granted! Instead, follow Proof’s model and boost your credibility with copy like “1594 people requested a demo in the last 30 days”.
#11 Remove the fear of change with free, accessible trials
Fear of change is a killer of SaaS product adoption. But one of your greatest tools to combat it is with demos and trials. Take HelloSign for example. On their landing page, the right frame features a cartoon of how the UI functions – and what value the user can draw from it. Pair that with the CTA ‘Try HelloSign Free’, and you have a magnetic product.
#12 Add the element of social status through community
Communities add a ton of opportunities to increase user engagement for your SaaS. Not only does it help scale support, but it also creates power users and drives SaaS product adoption. You can put a gamified layer on top with features like leaderboards and badges.
Airtable for instance has a wide range of badges. Each badge rewards desired behaviors such as sharing links, inviting friends, or answering questions in the support community.
It’s simple – effective SaaS product adoption creates sustainable growth. In short, a better adoption process ensures users experience your full value, making long-term user engagement and retention more likely.
In general, a user is considered ‘onboarded’ after they demonstrate having made a commitment to your platform. In terms of SaaS product adoption, this can be seen as increased or repeated user engagement on your platform.
Leading SaaS companies have adopted the principles of behavioral science to drive long-term user engagement. Psychological triggers, variable rewards, and cognitive bias effects like loss avoidance, can greatly influence the purchase decision.
PLG stands for product-led growth. It’s a growth strategy where the product experience in itself drives full funnel growth. Product-led companies often acquire users through free trials or freemium models and then convert, expand and retain them with in-app experiences.
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