Featured, Product Success | 4 MIN READ

Product Adoption: The Key to SaaS Success

Product adoption is the key to success of SaaS businesses. It involves various product adoption stages that describe, let users try, and use it recurringly.

Arnab Chatterjee
Nov 25, 2019

product adoption

The advent of consumer mobile apps has created new benchmarks for user experience. Also, fatigued by an increasing ecosystem of SaaS tools, modern users want their web apps to ‘just work’.

Stung by criticism, customer churn, and flat-lining of their product usage, many SaaS companies have woken up to the fact that product adoption is the fundamental driver for overall business success. And, getting users to quickly and appropriately adopt their product, seems to be the goal for companies to achieve.

Product Adoption

Taking a step back

What is product adoption? It’s loosely defined as the process of users finding value in a product or solution and using it to fulfill their needs. But here’s the twist: no matter how much value the product offers, people will not use it, if they think it’s difficult to.

So, even if an online subscription business goes past the first goal post of purchase or sign-ups, it might struggle to retain users or get them to become loyal customers. Think of new software implementation programs that encounter employee resistance. Or, how despite high initial sign-ups, some apps see low usage of key features.

That shifts the spotlight squarely to the key success area we mentioned above: how easily can users find and realize value? How easy is it for them to achieve the desired outcome using the product?

Hello, product adoption!

When a product helps users succeed, it stands a strong chance of becoming a part of their lives, something that metrics like log-in numbers or time spent on pages can’t indicate. One needs a strategy built around facilitating adoption at each stage of the user’s journey, and here are three areas to focus on while working on product adoption plans.

1. Smoothen on-boarding

A quick and personalised on-boarding experience validates the users’ decision to sign-up for the product. At this stage, users are willing to try the product but are yet to experience its value. The product is still unfamiliar, and unfamiliarity breeds resistance. One needs to smoothen the challenge by creating an easy path towards impact.

· Provide demo videos and in-app tool-tips to guide users towards their goal. Live chat is another way of providing accessible help, especially if users need to complete an installation or setting-up process. For enterprise SaaS tool users, who expect user-friendly technology, the absence of such support features can sour the first interaction with the product, reducing its chances of acceptance.

· Creating personalised onboarding journeys is another way of helping users avoid clutter and move towards the goal that matters to them.

2. Analyze usage

Convincing users to stay with the product is easier when they experience the value expected during the sign-up. However, delivering this value consistently to keep them returning over a period takes effort, based on a deep understanding of the users’ behavior. Features like product usage Heat-maps and Event Sankey Flow diagrams can throw light on key aspects, such as:

· Which features are used the most and which ones are under-utilised?
· Whether users’ activity levels have changed?
· What is the nature of the support tickets raised?
· Which topics and features dominate help requests?
· Which part of the user journey causes maximum drop-offs?

By analysing the data, businesses can understand where users fumble and who needs support, and where. Lessons that can guide tailored interactions with users — think targeted promotions of new features or training to show how users can get the most out of select features before their enthusiasm wanes. The product management team needs to use such cues to plan their path ahead if they aren’t already.

3. Deliver contextual learning

By designing the product such that it can deliver task-based learning on demand, within the app, enterprises can help users become more proficient in lesser time. It is important to draw users’ attention to features, upgrades, or important tasks with visual helpers and hotspots. Products need to drive adoption and self-service in the moment of need — interactive training and quizzes, embedded videos, and other forms of contextual guidance serve this requirement.

This might seem like a short list, but if executed well these steps can turn first-time users into active, loyal advocates who keep the renewals coming in. Businesses today, and SaaS companies, in particular, can no longer approach product adoption in isolation. Where renewals and revenue are driven by customer expectations, businesses need to place customer success at the heart of their strategy, and in the process, power their own business success.

This article is written by Arnab Chatterjee, Co-Founder & CPO – SmartKarrot. It originally appeared on Medium

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Originally Published November 25th, 2019, Updated June 30th, 2021

Arnab Chatterjee

As an entrepreneur Arnab spent over 20 years handling design & development on latest technologies. In his prior role as Co-founder & CIO of a US healthcare tech organization he was responsible for all technology R&D strongly intertwining with clients’ business needs.

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2 years ago


Great tips! I can say from experience how effective a good demo video can be, I’ve seen them implemented very nicely and I’m now introducing them to my own platform. Another great idea to help on-boarding is a visual guide. Highlight certain areas and explain what they do with tooltips, this way you can be sure the user knows where to find everything.

2 years ago

Ronald Sutherland

The SaaS model is an interesting one and I’ve taken quite a liking to it. After seeing Adobe take the SaaS approach, I took the plunge as well. It has forced me to build a better product and offer better support as one-time payments are now gone. As you mention, the onboarding is critical. I’m using tooltips extensively and live chat support is online 24/7. These are good tips, SmartKarrot!

2 years ago

Harry Fisher

You’re right, people want apps to just work. It’s with this in mind that I don’t bloat my apps with unwanted features, I only offer what the user came for and try my best to make it easy to use. This way, I don’t have confused or overwhelmed users, but the downside is that I have to manage more individual apps. It is a good trade-off though.

2 years ago

Henry Samson

I was skeptical of the SaaS model when it was picking up but it’s actually really good, my business operates entirely on it now. Your article underlines some key points, particularly about contextual learning. Customers need to understand everything you have to offer and how to use it. There’s nothing worse than someone quickly abandoning because they couldn’t find something.

2 years ago

Walter Nygaard

The SaaS business model is a favorite of mine. It creates a consistent flow of revenue and gives the customer confidence knowing that the software must be updated and well supported or the business will just lose customers. With regards to analyzing usage, I recommend hiring an expert to do this. It’s not something to be done quickly before the work day is over.

2 years ago

Bryan Patrick

After operating for almost a year without any analytics or usage data, I finally hired a specialist to implement and monitor them, and report back to me. The things you can learn about your visitors are mind blowing, it has actually helped me to streamline the onboarding process and will be vital to our success to come.

2 years ago

Cliff Goodman

These 3 tips are very good ones, essential for ensuring a high adoption rate. I’m right in the middle of developing an interactive guide to help onboard new users, it’s not easy to get right. I’m trying to make it quirky and entertaining to ensure people follow it through instead of quickly dismissing it. I think it’s probably a good idea to track how many people go through the entire guide as well, you’ll know something needs to be changed if not many are.

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