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5 Ways to Get Feature Adoption Right

By 2021, more than 75% of small businesses had adopted SaaS products, and this number will keep growing in 2022. To ensure that your products are of the adopted ones, you need to provide value with your services.  The only way to achieve this is by adding features that will satisfy customers.

So, how can you design features that add value to your products? How can you make sure that customers realize the importance of these new features? And, most importantly, how can you improve feature adoption?

If you want to answer these questions, keep reading and learn all about how feature adoption can help you win and retain customers.

What is feature adoption?

Feature adoption means that users have discovered a feature, used it, and derived value from it. Here’s an example that can help you understand and improve feature adoption better: 

Let’s say your product can create customized dashboards for your customers. Now, a newly acquired customer may not know about this feature and they’re probably only using critical features that they were initially aware of. Seeing this, you can update your onboarding guide and show the customer when and how to create new dashboards. Having discovered this brilliant new feature, your user makes their first dashboard.

Thanks to your update, your user has adopted another feature!

Feature adoption can be pretty straightforward once you’ve got the hang of it. Unfortunately, this simplicity doesn’t mean that users will keep utilizing your feature forever.  If they find a problem with a feature while they go down your adoption funnel and are unable to use it to its full potential, they may start losing their interest in your product.

Feature adoption displayed through multiple users interacting with products

Why is feature adoption important?

We’re all users of different products, so it’s easy to put yourself in the shoes of your customers: would you pay for a product if you use only a couple of its features? The answer is probably no. 

So, if your features aren’t adopted, your products become meaningless for customers, which will lead to:

  • A decrease in user retention.
    Customers will not keep paying for a product if its features don’t address their pain points. A natural consequence of this is also a decrease in your retained revenue.
  • A negative reputation on the market.
    You had promised your users value, but you can only deliver this value through your features. So, when critical features go unnoticed, you’re also unable to cater to your users’ needs as you had promised. This makes your brand seem less trustworthy.
  • Complaints about your pricing.
    Your company decides on the price of products based on all of their features and their value. However, when a user pays for all these features but only uses a few of them, the perceived value of your product will decrease, and they’ll start wondering about your price tag. This could lead them to switch to a competitor.

In short, feature adoption affects product success, revenue, retention, and more. This makes it one of the critical aspects that you should improve.

What is the difference between feature adoption and product adoption?

Whether or not you’re focusing on product-led growth, both feature adoption and product adoption are essential SaaS metrics, and only thinking about one of them isn’t enough since these two adoption metrics account for different things. While product adoption (and the product adoption curve in particular) takes a holistic look at customers’ interactions with your tools, feature adoption analyzes customers’ interactions with individual features of your products. 

A customer may adopt your product by simply purchasing it and using it several times, but they may not adopt all of its features and only use one or two of the most basic ones. So, a successfully adopted product doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved feature adoption.

A versatile product adoption tool such as HockeyStack can help you keep track of both product and feature adoption via customizable dashboards. These tools provide you with numeric data and visual elements like graphs and charts, making it easier to understand your product’s performance.

How can you measure feature adoption?

To someone hearing about it for the first time, feature adoption may sound like a simple yes or no question i.e. does the user utilize a feature or not? However, if this was all feature adoption was about, there wouldn’t be so many ways to work on and improve it (and this article probably wouldn’t be so long). 

While talking about feature adoption, one should also consider:

1. Breadth of Adoption

The breadth of adoption corresponds to the number of people who have adopted the feature. The feature engagement metric can help you see the segments that have adopted your products’ features and those that haven’t used them yet. You can direct your attention to the unaware segments’ needs while designing new features or optimizing existing ones to improve customer retention.

2. Depth of Adoption

The depth of adoption means the quality of feature adoption. You could say that a user has adopted a feature after their first interaction, but would that conclusion be meaningful if they never used it again? To see if users have really adopted a feature, you should measure stickiness. Analyze users’ behaviors when they utilize your critical features to see if they know about all of its use cases. A feature is less likely to stick if users haven’t understood how it’ll help them.

3. Duration of Adoption

Lastly, the duration of adoption accounts for the time users spend with a feature. Adoption metrics such as the average time spent using a feature or average usage frequency can tell you whether your features have proved valuable to users. Frequent and long periods of feature usage lead to more perceived value and an increase in retention rate.

In short, feature adoption is far more layered than a yes-no question. It includes the behaviors of customers and their changing interactions with your products.

Why do you need to improve feature adoption?

If feature adoption is so complex, why should you spend time trying to figure it out and improve it? There are several answers to this question.

Firstly, your product team spends days or weeks coming up with a new feature. During this time, your business expends both money and other resources developing features with the perfect UX to answer the market’s needs. When these features are out and ready to be used, you shouldn’t just abandon them and wait for users to discover them. 

Just because you know that time, money, and resources went into developing your features doesn’t necessitate that a customer will understand their value. The only way you can ensure that your efforts are communicated to your customers is by making efforts to improve feature adoption. By creating a strategy to help users understand the what, why, and how of your new features, you can improve the breadth, depth, and duration of adoption until your brand is their top choice.

A well thought-out feature release strategy and constant efforts to improve feature adoption can also have a positive effect on customer engagement., This is because one of the best ways of getting more engaged customers is by giving them more reasons to interact with your tools. Feature adoption results in precisely this: when features stick, customers come back to your products, engage with them more, make them a part of their daily lives and keep paying. They may even pay for upgrades and more expensive plans, which will be reflected in your improved expansion rate!

In the end, increasing feature adoption, directly and indirectly, leads to more revenue and customer satisfaction. Below, you can find out how you can lead to such an increase.

5 tips to increase feature adoption

Here are a few ways in which you can inform more users about new features and improve feature adoption:

1. Use in-app messages to announce new features

While product launch strategies are extremely important, it’s unfortunate that feature announcements don’t get nearly as much attention. When this is the case users easily look past newly released features. The first stage of the feature adoption funnel requires customers to be exposed to your new feature.

Switching on notifications for feature updates

If that’s not done the right way, the result can look like low adoption rates and ignored product updates.

You may now be thinking, “Marketing is already complex, and you’re expecting me to create long-term campaigns for individual features?!” Of course not (though such campaigns can be very effective once in a while, given that you have the budget). There are a couple of simple strategies to prevent customers from overlooking your feature release. 

Using in-app messages is one of the most effective methods of informing users about a new feature because such messages are hard to ignore and prompt the user instantly to give the feature a try. You can also use these messages to explain the feature’s use cases and instructions on how to make the best use of it, though you should do a detailed explanation during onboarding. Similarly, you can announce new features in your email marketing campaigns and social media to get attention.

Insider in-app message screenshot
Image from Insider

The picture above shows an example of an in-app feature announcement. The feature release notification briefly explains the use of the new feature and guides users to their first interaction with the CTA. If these in-app messages pop up at the right time (for instance, if this had come up when the customer was going to check out), they increase the likeliness of feature engagement.

2. Familiarize users with new features with an effective onboarding program

Onboarding shouldn’t end once a user is acquainted with your product. If you leave existing users behind while your product changes and evolves, you will end up with a customer base that can’t get the maximum value out of your products. Thus, you should continue onboarding existing users as you add new features so that they don’t miss out.

An effective onboarding program for features should have the same characteristics as any successful customer onboarding program. The first stage of your onboarding program may include an email announcement for the feature release. Next, you can send a short email sequence that contains instructions on how to use this new feature (if you have a complex feature,) an example illustrating the usage of the feature, and a reminder email for users who have not yet engaged with the update.

However, you cannot educate all your users via emails. Onboarding within your product via guides and tutorials will ensure that the customers that ignore your emails are also aware of your feature’s usage. Lastly, those that skip all guides within your product should be able to get answers to their questions without asking for support. You can achieve this via documentation about the new feature, which addresses the most common problems of your customers.

3. Analyze feature adoption rates

Getting quantitative and qualitative data is essential for improvement, and the first quantitative data you should be tracking is your feature adoption rate. This rate helps you understand the breadth of adoption by showing you the rate of users interacting with a feature. You can calculate your adoption rate by dividing the number of people engaged with the feature by the number of total customers.

There could be several reasons behind a low feature adoption rate. Your analysis should lead to the most accurate conclusion based on other data (such as qualitative feedback, explained below.) The possible reasons include:

  1. Customers weren’t aware of the availability of the feature. This problem is usually due to a lack of announcements and campaigns for new features.
  2. Customers didn’t know how to use the feature. This is either because your feature is too complex and has problems with its UI, or it’s because your onboarding program wasn’t practical. An ineffective onboarding program is easily skipped: a boring ten-minute video that looks skippable to customers is an example of such a program.
  3. Customers didn’t need the feature. Sometimes the market analysis you do before designing a feature turns out to be (sadly) inaccurate. Making your customers pay for features they didn’t ask for results in churn. It’s also a virtue to take out the aspects of your tools that aren’t needed.

Of course, the problem with a feature is rarely only one of these. Usually, there’ll be customers who find the feature unnecessary and those that don’t know how to use it, and the major problem will be the one that concerns a big customer segment.

4. Create surveys to understand your users’ responses to a new feature

While you can identify several issues when you measure feature adoption, the number it gives you cannot lead you to a definitive answer on where the problem lies. To reach an accurate conclusion, you should go directly to your customers and ask them their opinions regarding your new feature.

You can best take qualitative and quantitative feedback from users via surveys.

Qualitative Surveys

Creating custom surveys that ask for short responses will give you more insight into why certain features weren’t adopted by your customers: Users will tell you whether the problem is with the interface or if they weren’t aware of the feature in the first place. Qualitative feedback like this is helpful because it doesn’t leave you guessing. Unlike quantitative data, it gives you a place to start while improving your adoption rate.

However, there’s also a downside to qualitative surveys.

Customers are less likely to take the time to respond as writing complete sentences requires more effort (think of the number of times you’ve closed a survey because it looked too long). Thus, you should back up qualitative surveys with quantitative ones.

Quantitative Surveys

Qualitative surveys will likely have a non-response bias, meaning that the answers you get will mostly be from customers with strong opinions about your feature. To reach a comprehensive segment, you’ll need to use quantitative surveys. A Customer Effort Survey (CES) or a Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT) is a good fit for this job. With a CES, you can ask customers about the amount of effort they put into using a feature (example below), and the CSAT will ask them whether they’re pleased with the feature or not. These two surveys only require choosing a number, usually from a scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. Since this takes no time, more customers are likely to respond, giving you a better understanding of their responses to your new feature.

HubSpot survey screenshot
Image from Hubspot

5. Incorporate user feedback

All this feedback would be useless if you don’t take action on it. If you’ve followed the tips above, you should have feature adoption rates, quantitative data and qualitative data.

It’s also important to remember that the most meaningful feedback will be the most common one. If the majority of the data signals a problem with the usability of your new feature, then direct your attention to the UI and design. Work on your onboarding if it points to a problem with the breadth and depth of adoption. Whatever the action is, make sure that customers see meaningful change within your feature to know you value their opinions.

Get Feature Adoption Right with HockeyStack

HockeyStack is a SaaS analytics and attribution platform used by 7000+ companies.

Using HockeyStack, you can build any dashboard you need with metrics from different departments. Custom dashboards allow you to connect the dots to better understand what drives revenue for your SaaS.

For example, with HockeyStack’s no-code interface, you can build an engagement by feature dashboard to see just how many customers are using a new feature you just launched.


Pro Tip:

You can try out these customizable dashboards right now 🙂

Here’s what an engagement by feature report in HockeyStack looks like:

HockeyStack feature engagement live demo

As seen in the screenshot above, you can track the results of a new feature and figure out just how many people are interacting with it on a regular basis. If you notice that this number is much lower than the average feature adoption rate, you can try A/B testing with various elements such as design to see if there’s any improvement.

The key here is to constantly measure feature adoption and find out if there’s any way in which you can help your users leverage your product’s new features in a better way.

Alternately, you can also build an active users report to get the full picture of how many users are engaging with your products:

HockeyStack active users live demo

Charts such as this one also give you a good idea of feature usage, helping you understand whether or not any new feature you launched is being received well existing users.

On top of custom dashboards, HockeyStack has other features too, such as

  • Surveys to understand how existing users feel about your product as a whole,
  • Step-by-step user journey to identify how new users are interacting with your website and product,
  • Funnels & goals to identify how many users complete a certain task in your customer journey,
  • Revenue Attribution to understand the top performing revenue drivers,

and more.

By integrating data from multiple touchpoints and improving visualization, HockeyStack allows you to get a complete picture of all of your product success metrics such as user engagement, customer feedback, revenue, and even marketing so that you can make data-driven decisions to increase your MRR. Try out HockeyStack today measure feature adoption and follow the five tips above to improve your brand’s perceived value.


How to increase adoption of new feature?

Use in-app announcements, feature onboarding programs and analyze adoption rates to increase the adoption of a new feature.

How to measure feature adoption?

You can measure feature adoption with metrics like the feature adoption rate, average usage frequency and feature engagement.

What is a good feature adoption rate?

There’s no definite answer since what’s deemed “acceptable” may change from company to company.

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