Complete Guide to Digital Adoption - Strategies, Examples, Platforms

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    Home / Growth / Complete Guide to Digital Adoption - Strategies, Examples, Platforms

    Nowadays, there is not one company that uses no digital technology.

    The most traditional company you know out there still uses Excel or Spreadsheet.

    In fact, a recent study showed that even companies with less than 50 employees use an average of 16 SaaS applications.

    And this number goes up to 150+ tools for enterprise businesses.

    However, there are still obstacles.

    Say you’ve got the fanciest tools and systems for your business, efficiency, and success is in your sight.

    But you are skipping one problem:


    Without your users - customers, employees, merchants, any stakeholder - knowing how to use the tools you've worked so hard to gather together, you'll fail.

    That's why we need digital adoption solutions.

    So, let's dive into:

    • What digital adoption is and how it differs from digital transformation,
    • Why digital adoption matters and its benefits,
    • The challenges in the face of digital adoption,
    • How to successfully increase digital adoption,
    • Digital adoption examples to inspire you, and
    • The best digital adoption platforms to start out with

    Don't have the time? Here's the TL;DR:


    👉 Digital adoption is a part of digital transformation where users - employees and/or customers - adopt software and processes to make workflows more efficient.

    👉 Digital adoption helps keep retention rates high, higher performance and satisfaction, and enhanced user experience,

    👉 Some challenges in the face of digital adoption are:

    • Complex software,
    • Poor planning,
    • The wrong digital adoption tool.

    👉 Some strategies for higher digital adoption are:

    • Ensuring leadership support  
    • Addressing resistance to change  
    • Incentivizing change  
    • Taking a holistic approach  
    • Utilizing smart onboarding  
    • Being flexible and experimental  

    👉 A good example of digital adoption is RAM's case, where they used UserGuiding to ensure quick and effective digital adoption.  

    👉 Some good digital adoption software are UserGuiding if you have the budget for a paid product or Shepherd.js if you don't have a budget.  

    Looking for CUSTOMER digital adoption? This is where you should be: What is Product Adoption and How to Increase It

    Without further ado, let's start with defining the concept:

    What is Digital Adoption?

    Digital adoption is, in the simplest terms, achieving a state in which your employees and/or your customers are using a provided software, tool, or any other digital asset properly and to its full potential. The reason why such adoption is crucial is because of the positive effects it may have on the general workflow for employees and when it comes to customers, an increase in customer retention rates as well as other benefits it entails like a better customer experience, customer loyalty, and more.

    Moreover, customer and employee digital adoption really show differences in places.

    Employee digital adoption strategies encompass training for the use of many different software, adopting the company culture, taking part in behavior-changing activities for more effective workflows, and more.

    Meanwhile, digital adoption for customers often refers to the adoption of one product, that is, your product.

    So, essentially, customer digital adoption is a lot similar to a user onboarding process.

    So to lay it out simpler...

    Customers and employees benefit and suffer from digital adoption done good and bad:

    digital adoption for customers and users

    Another comparison worth making is:

    Digital Adoption vs. Digital Transformation - What is the difference?

    The difference between digital adoption and digital transformation is pretty simple.

    Digital adoption (DA) is a part of digital transformation (DT), which is an entire process of business change of its own.

    Here's a quick look:

    digital adoption vs digital transformation

    Along with this distinguishing main difference, it is also important to note that:

    👉 Digital adoption has a general focus on users and their experiences while digital transformation focuses on processes and change

    👉 Digital adoption is undertaken by individual users while digital transformation is implemented by higher stakeholders

    This brings us to our next question, then:

    Why is digital adoption important? - Benefits

    Digital adoption undertaken the right way can prove to do much good.

    As obvious as this is, there are 3 main reasons why digital adoption matters, for employees and for users alike:

    1- Retention

    A well-designed digital adoption strategy, especially if it is part of an even better digital transformation strategy, can help increase your user retention rates.

    Be it employees, or customers.

    This is because, essentially, digital adoption efforts aim for:

    👉 Higher user engagement,

    👉 Improved user productivity and satisfaction, and

    👉 A generally enhanced user experience

    When these requirements are met through a good digital adoption process, retention rates will naturally go up.

    2- Higher performance & satisfaction

    As we discussed above, higher performance and satisfaction are necessary for retention.

    But with a good digital adoption plan, higher employee performance and customer satisfaction are not too hard to achieve. 

    And so, another reason why digital adoption strategies are necessary is that they naturally bring along meaningful activity from the user side.

    This is not limited to performance and satisfaction but also user loyalty, positive user behavior, employee productivity, ease of implementation for customers, and more.

    3- Cost prevention & better time management

    Just as streamlined processes prevent wasting money and time, so does digital transformation.

    Since digital transformation is essentially a streamlining of workflows and digital tools, it helps just as much in cost prevention and time management.

    👉 For employees, a transfer to a platform everyone can use helps save time when collaborating while also potentially helps cut expenses going to different tools.

    👉 For customers, the introduction of an onboarding experience through a digital adoption platform instead of a product demo or a training session helps sales teams to save time and thus money.

    Here's a question, though:

    If digital adoption is so important has so many benefits, why is it hard to realize it successfully?

    The answer is hidden in:

    Why does digital adoption fail? - digital adoption challenges

    Digital adoption is a serious matter that has to deal with one of the hardest things to deal with in history:


    The main aim of any digital adoption or digital transformation efforts is to change user behavior in a way that will consequently benefit them.

    Yet for people, it is hard to understand that what they are doing is in fact, not the best way to do that. This is primarily because of a cognitive bias called illusory superiority.

    So, the main challenge in the face of digital adoption is people.

    The users, your employees and customers.

    But also:

    1- Complex software 🤖

    If the software or the processes you are trying to adopt require advanced knowledge, your users might be suffering.

    👉 Especially when it comes to employee training, businesses might expect too much in the adoption of digital processes and thus might jeopardize a successful adoption process.

    👉 For customers, even though most businesses offer app guidance or some sort of software adoption method, the product might still be too complex, and contextual guidance can become more than just an option.

    When these needs are overlooked, a digital adoption challenge gets further enforced.

    2- Poor planning 🎯

    Even if the technology adoption part of your digital transformation project isn't too hard to grasp, por planning of digital adoption can be as challenging. 

    This includes time planning, deciding which user segments or internal teams will be subject to the project, or even the communication of the tiniest piece of information.

    To avoid failing here, some best practices are:

    👉 Finding champions or stakeholders for employee onboarding,

    👉 Documenting details and distributing them on time and to whoever is included,

    👉 Deciding on user segments early on and being in communication with all relevant stakeholders for customer onboarding,

    As long as you take the planning stage seriously and document well, there is nothing to be afraid of.

    3- The wrong digital adoption tool 🧑‍💻

    The problem isn't always internal.

    If you went with a digital adoption software that turned out to be inadequate (or way too much) for your needs, you might be challenged during the digital adoption program.

    So, what solution should you go with?

    Pro Tip: Solve Employee & Customer Adoption with One Tool 🚀

    Many businesses start looking for change management tools when digital adoption is mentioned.

    And when it's on to digital adoption for customers, everyone wants product tours.

    What if I said there is a solution that can solve both?

    Meet UserGuiding:

    userguiding digital adoption

    UserGuiding is a no-code user onboarding solution that can double as a digital adoption tool.

    While keeping the process easy to use, easy on the eye, and easy on your pocket 😎

    Among UserGuiding's capabilities are:

    ✅ Interactive guides, product tours, walkthroughs,

    ✅ User onboarding checklists,

    ✅ Tooltips, hotspots, in-app messages,

    ✅ Resource centers for in-app self-serve help,

    ✅ In-app surveys for user feedback,

    ✅ Localization,

    And more!

    All powered with powerful analytics, high customization, user segmentation and targeting, and everything else a digital adoption solution can offer.


    👉 Give it a try, for FREE 👈

    How do we fight the obstacles and challenges against digital adoption then?

    How to increase digital adoption in 6 steps - best strategies

    Especially during the pandemic and the following period, the business world has grown increasingly remote.

    This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and it even shaped how we perceive digital processes.

    So, here are some best practices for digital adoption that became especially relevant after our exposure to mass digitalization ⬇️

    digital adoption strategies

    1- Ensure Appropriate Leadership Support

    A vital prerequisite before digitizing your organization is ensuring that you have the buy-in and the support of upper management.

    Not only is it necessary for them to lead by example and encourage staff to make changes, but they are the ones that sign off on the projects, and the budgets, to implement new digital solutions.

    You need to ensure that your upper management is genuinely behind digitizing workflows, and not just paying lip service.

    Here's more:

    Research conducted by Mckinsey suggests that less than one-third of all organizations consider their digital adoption and transformation projects to have been successful.

    But these transformations are 1.6 times more likely to be successful when the company also employed a Chief Digital Officer.

    This is because they bring relevant expertise to the senior management team, and they are also there to advocate for digital transformation at the top level.

    This research also found that there are 2 important strategies to employ at this point:

    👉 Having a clear story that justifies the need for the transformation, and

    👉 Instilling a sense of urgency in the need for change

    And then, you can start to:

    2- Address Resistance to Change

    If there is a general resistance to digital adoption among staff, it is essential to identify and address the underlying concerns.

    While there are many reasons why staff might be reluctant to change, the 2 most common reasons are:

    👉 Fear that they lack the skills to adapt to the new technology and that their lack of skills will lessen their value;

    👉 The belief that change is being implemented for change’s sake, and will not only not improve work productivity but make some tasks more difficult

    Dealing with these concerns is again an issue for senior management.

    It comes back to them telling the story of why the change is both important and urgent, and how it will benefit staff and the company.

    The digital solution development process should also be consultative, showing staff that solutions are genuinely being designed to meet their needs and streamline workflows.

    Information about training should be made available from the outset, and staff should be reassured:

    ✅ That they are supported and have the time that they need to learn the new systems, and

    Their roles will not be diminished by new technologies.

    Only then you can ease the worries of laggards and move forward.

    Check out our article on software adoption for a deeper look at the technology adoption curve and more 👈

    3- Incentivize Change

    Another effective strategy for boosting digital adoption is incentivizing change.

    This can be done in a number of ways.

    Who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned competition?

    People are naturally competitive, and sometimes just knowing that another team within the company is ahead in adoption can be enough to give them a push to try a little harder.

    This can be further incentivized with prizes for the teams that are doing their best.

    Tracking and demonstrating the impact that digital adoption is having on the company’s key performance indicators can also be an effective incentive.

    If information can be shared about how:

    Adoption is gradually saving staff time,

    ✅ Boosting productivity, or

    Increasing sales,

    This can provide staff with the incentive they need to overcome inertia and start actively making changes.

    4- Take A Holistic Approach

    This means two things.

    First, digital approaches must be introduced across the entire company workflow.

    Frustrations emerge when staff hit roadblocks or delays because of processes or individuals that are still on analog systems.

    👉 Staff cannot effectively work using digital systems if there are gaps in the provision.

    In the second case, this means as much standardization and consistency as possible between systems.

    No one likes having to have a different password for every system that they use or having to switch between menus that use slightly different formats and terminology.

    Systems should be streamlined as much as possible. 

    This minimizes the learning curve and lets staff feel more confident as they only have to learn one or two new systems, rather than 10.

    👉 In addition, wherever possible, burdensome and unnecessary processes should be avoided.

    Any workflow that requires double-entry, or recording information that should be automatically generated and recorded by the system, is a recipe for frustration, wasted time, and lost productivity.

    5- Utilize Smart Onboarding

    Training staff to use new systems can be one of the most challenging aspects of digital adoption.

    You simply can’t design the same walkthrough for various users from different backgrounds.

    For some, the course will move so slowly that they will forget important instructions as a boredom response.

    For others, the course will move too quickly for them to grasp key concepts.

    A much better solution is to use a digital adoption platform like UserGuiding.

    This integrates with systems to train staff while they are using them.

    It works at the pace of the individual and has been shown to provide more effective information retention than traditional approaches to training.

    It also reaches those staff who never seem to be able to make it to a single training session (you know the ones 🫢).

    Automated guides can also be used to bring new tools to the attention of staff as they become available.

    This can be extremely valuable when a company is undergoing a digital transformation and new tools are being introduced on a regular basis.

    6- Be Flexible and Experimental

    It can be frustrating to invest resources and time to introduce a new software or process.

    And then staff ends up going for something that they are already familiar with from other activities.

    For example, Zoom.

    But if the aim is to empower staff to do their jobs as effectively as possible using digital tools, these frustrations should be embraced rather than rejected.

    👉 The idea is to find the solution that is most effective, not to force burdensome systems on staff for the sake of it.

    Staff should be empowered to suggest digital solutions that they are familiar with and that they know work for them.

    Potential approaches that unexpectedly make their way into workflows should be seriously considered.

    Not dismissed out of hand.

    Now, let's see how digital adoption looks in a real-life example:

    Digital Adoption Success Story: RAM

    A good success story for successful digital adoption is RAM.

    RAM is a successful hand-to-hand courier company from South Africa, top of the market and they needed to take a digital transformation initiative.

    They made a big change in their IT systems, which is when they needed a digital adoption solution that would work efficiently and quickly.

    Luckily, their software was their their own, so it was even easier to create a product experience.

    Still they had a big challenge:

    They had thousands to include in the employee onboarding.

    They had no time to offer personalized training, and the employee learning process was estimated to be long.

    They find their solution in UserGuiding.

    Without losing any more time, they create a fun interactive walkthrough with on-screen guidance from their mascot, Sam.

    Here's a quick look ⬇️

    RAM success stry digital adoption
    digital adoption example userguiding ram

    RAM managed to lead its digital adoption with ease thanks to its digital transformation initiative of opting for a  scalable adoption solution that would increase employee engagement and enable continuous training. 

    Read the rest of the success story here 👈

    Now, let's take a look at how YOU can start out with a digital adoption platform ⬇️

    Digital Adoption Platforms - Free & Paid

    Now, let's clear up one thing first and foremost:

    At its core, digital adoption is a series of business processes and software adoption in a time of change.

    So, apart from change management software, there are more laser-focused solutions for digital adoption that deal with user adoption, support, and help.

    Here is one paid and one free option for the cause:

    No-code Digital Adoption Software: UserGuiding

    UserGuiding is a no-code user onboarding solution by design, but in matters of digital adoption, it is the tool you are looking for 🚀

    This is because of 3 reasons:

    1- It is easy & quick to implement

    Being a no-code solution, UserGuiding is pretty easy to implement.

    In fact, I created this onboarding sequence in a matter of 5 minutes, using YouTube's UI:

    digital adoption userguiding

    But more importantly, because UserGuiding has a Google Chrome extension, the process naturally takes shorter.

    2- It is helpful with education & support

    UserGuiding doesn't only offer app guidance or interactive walkthroughs.

    Among UserGuiding's features are:

    Interactive guides and product tours,

    Tooltips, hotspots, in-app messages,

    User onboarding checklists for contextual learning,

    Resource centers for in-app self-support,

    In-app surveys for in-app user feedback,

    Localization for multi-language support and learning,

    And more with powerful analytics, high customization, user segmentation and targeting, and more.

    3- It is affordable

    UserGuiding is one of the most affordable digital adoption platforms for its set of features and capabilities.

    Currently, the pricing plans are:

    Basic Plan - $89/Month when billed annually, with 2,500 MAU

    Professional Plan - $389/Month when billed annually, with 20,000 MAU

    Corporate Plan - $689+/Month when billed annually, with custom quotes

    👉 Give it a try, for FREE 👈

    Need a more affordable option?

    Free & Open Source Product Tour Software: Shepherd.js

    Shepherd.js is a free, open-source JavaScript library, essentially designed to help you create onboarding sequences that will introduce products to users.

    shepherd js digital adoption

    If you don't have the budget to get a digital adoption solution but can spare some developers to create a user adoption plan, it can come in handy.

    Though limited, when used right, it can turn into a great tool.

    Shepherd.js doesn't offer any analytics, segmentation, or targeting options, and the onboarding elements are restricted.

    But it is free 🤷

    To Wrap Up...

    Digital adoption can take many different forms for different businesses at different times.

    It might turn into product adoption, feature adoption, adoption of new business processes or a business strategy, and more.

    But at the end of the day, what matters is to take digital initiatives that will make work more effective and generally just better for the employees.

    That's rule number one.

    If you have that intention at heart, you can easily take the next step knowing what fits you.

    Take baby steps if you need to, what is important is that you leverage your digital tools to fulfill your business' and employees' needs and make use of technology as much as possible.

    Tech is your friend!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is digital adoption?

    Digital adoption means having the users use the product or the service offered to the full extent in the way it was meant to be used.

    What is the relation between onboarding and digital adoption?

    Employees, users, and customers who are onboarded effectively will engage with your product more often and more efficiently, increasing digital adoption.

    Why should I invest in digital adoption?

    In order to have more loyal customers and have a high conversion rate, investing in digital adoption is mandatory.‍

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