Whether they eat it in an expensive restaurant, at a lunchtime food court, or in a grocery store parking lot, people love sushi.
This Japanese specialty has become standard fare in the United States and many other countries around the globe—but it wasn’t always so. What started off in the 1960s as an exotic novelty in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood turned into a trendy Hollywood phenomenon in the 1970s and then a nationwide craze in the 1980s and 1990s. And along the way, an amazing product portfolio that featured classics like tekka maki and unagi expanded to make room for decidedly nontraditional items like the California Roll and the Philadelphia Roll.
This evolution from new kid on the block to mainstream staple is a product adoption journey that any Product team would be thrilled to replicate. So what lessons can product experience enthusiasts learn from the lesson of sushi? Break out the wasabi and soy sauce as we dig in.
What is product adoption?
Product adoption is the process by which customers discover, purchase, and become users of a new product or service. While many SaaS companies focus on acquiring new customers, profitability in a recurring revenue model is actually driven by customer retention and expansion. Customers who fully adopt a product are much more likely to renew and provide a long-term source of revenue.
The five stages of product adoption
New product adoption can be divided into five stages. These stages can be thought of as the customer verifying the value proposition of the product.
Awareness. Potential customers become aware that your product exists. At this stage, they will get a basic sense of the value prop: how the product solves an existing problem, or possibly a problem they didn’t know existed. This stage typically happens through marketing efforts such as advertising or content marketing, but could just as easily happen through word of mouth.
Interest. Once a product has piqued a customer’s interest, they will be open to receiving more information about it. This is a chance for you to fill in some of the gaps about your product and expand on the benefits in a broad way.
Evaluation. The customer is now considering the product. At this stage, customers will be engaged in serious research. This includes checking out content on your website, but it also involves reading reviews from other users and professional third-party evaluators.
Trial/sampling. Customers are ready to try the product via a freemium or free trial model. At this point, Sales may enter the picture, but in-product messaging and other product-based tactics can also help bring the customer along to seeing the value of the product. This stage is a transition from a rational state of mind (evaluation) to an emotional state, where they decide how they feel about the product.
Activation/adoption. This stage can be defined several different ways. Activation generally means the point of sale, but it could also include the onboarding process, because if a customer purchases but never uses the product, churn becomes almost inevitable. The transition from activation/purchase to regular use, or adoption, will determine the long-term success of the product.
Measuring product adoption
How will you know if product adoption is happening? Here are some metrics that provide visibility into whether the customer is finding value in your product.
Adoption rate. The number of active users divided by the total number of subscribers. It can be measured either at the feature or the product level. If the percentage is rising, this could mean waning interest and a pool of users likely to churn.
Time to first action (or key action). The amount of time it takes for a customer to utilize a key feature or function of your product.
Product activation rate. The number of users that completed a core activation action compared to the total pool of available subscribed users—this measures the “aha!” moment.
Product Qualified Leads (PQLs): Measures the number of customers who have activated and are ready to adopt, but need a push.
Feature adoption rate. The number of features a customer has adopted, compared to the total number of features. The more features adopted, the more likely the customer will renew.
NPS score. Customers’ overall satisfaction, represented by their willingness to advocate for the product. Good scores represent users who have completed the new product adoption curve.
How to move a product from novel to normal
When a new product enters the consciousness of a potential customer, it is completely unknown. While this can seem like a daunting challenge to overcome, it is actually a huge opportunity for you to define your brand and your value proposition in the minds of customers.
Differentiate vs competitors. In today’s competitive landscape, there are almost certainly other products doing something similar to yours. While you shouldn’t be too aggressive, there is nothing wrong with pointing out flaws and gaps that only your product can fill. Customers need this information in order to evaluate their options.
Tell your value story. Your product is great—so talk about it! Or better yet, show how the product works with demos, and then back up the results with hard data. Even better, let your biggest fans do the talking, with testimonials, customer stories, and case studies. Customers are looking to understand the outcomes they will achieve from using your product.
Decrease friction. Dive into your user data to identify friction points and then work to smooth them out. This could be through improved product design, or it could just be a matter of in-product messaging to help customers get over a hump.
Create trials. Nothing markets a product like actually using the product. An easy, low-stakes trial is the quickest way for customers to understand how the product works and what they can achieve with it. Once they start using it, the product is no longer something mysterious and new—it is now a tangible, familiar thing.
Product education. This includes software documentation and user manuals, but those tactics are just the tip of the iceberg. Look to develop user-centric, interactive tools that teach your customers how to extract value from your product. These could include in-product messaging, product walkthroughs, community forums, and contextual content.
How Gainsight Helps
Gainsight PX offers tools to help you at every stage of the new product adoption process. Our product adoption software helps you surface adoption trends with detailed usage analytics and proactively guide your customers to realize more value from your product at scale. Schedule a demo today.