Complete Guide to Digital Adoption and Achieving It

You can be a business owner, a manager, or an employee.

Doesn’t matter.

You probably know how much effort, money, and time are being poured in new software and anything that would improve work efficiency nowadays.

There’s especially one channel that businesses need and prefer to focus on:

Digital tools.

Ranging from the very basics, such as excel and outlook, to more complicated software such as CRM systems and customer success tools, digital tools are fundamental for all sizes of business.

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:


Even when the digital tools are right, if the users are reluctant to use them, or just don’t know how to use them, your business cannot succeed. In this scenario, users can be customers or employees.

Regardless, it is critical that you make sure they use the tools to the fullest. That’s when digital adoption happens.

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

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, work atmosphere, and quite possibly the whole business.

If digital adoption is achieved, there will be:

  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Increased employee performance
  • Better integrated work
  • Optimized and automated workflow
  • Reduced expenses

It is a great opportunity to be able to achieve all these positive effects with one step, however, since these effects are very drastic, so are the negative effects if the digital adoption is not applied or applied poorly.

If digital adoption is not achieved, there will be:

  • Decreased productivity and performance
  • Lowered employee morale and satisfaction
  • Customer frustration leading to customer churn
  • Expenses not meeting the needs

Although digital adoption as a general term refers to both the satisfaction of customer and employee, there are some differences between the two users, especially when theory turns into practice.

While employee’s digital adoption includes training on the digital tools and the monitoring of the effectiveness of the tools being used fully; the customers’ adoption revolves around in-app tutorials and ads. Thus, the way to achieving digital adoption is through these two different users.

However, as different as these can be (which is not much) digital adoption does not work with only one step achieved.

Let’s visualize it a little:

Imagine a food delivery service app and you are a new customer ordering using the app.

You realize there’s a mistake in your order and you need to cancel it. You can’t figure out how and now you have to call for support. Y

ou manage to get on the line and ask the support member to cancel it for you, but since the member is not so familiar with the system, they can’t track your order, and even if they are familiar with it and manage to help you, your first impression of the app is bad.

Now you have to eat something you don’t want to, plus you’ll uninstall the app.

Both sides lose. 

Now there was probably a tutorial showing the basic functions of the app to the customer when they first opened the app. They may have skipped it, or maybe the tutorial didn’t have the “cancel order” option included in the tutorial.

There’s even the possibility that the tutorial was so boring they forgot. Whatever the reason might be, it is not unsolvable.

In fact, digital adoption’s aim is to solve these problems.

what is digital adoption

6 Steps to Achieve Digital Adoption in your Company

I’ve got to mention this:

Since COVID-19 Pandemic, many companies have switched to remote work and adopted many tools they’ve never heard of…

… just to increase efficiency.

Chances are, you’ve experienced the same thing, at least saw many companies transform their whole workflows to keep up.

But transforming your company from a traditional business to one that is digital isn’t as easy as it sounds. Leading your staff to success will be as difficult as finding and integrating the right systems.

Wondering how you can speed-up the adoption process with full efficiency?

Here are the 6 steps you should take:

1. Ensure Appropriate Leadership Support

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

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 having a clear story that justifies the need for the transformation, and instilling a sense of urgency in the need for change, are also effective strategies.

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 two most common are:

  1. Fear that they lack the skills to adapt to the new technology and that their lack of skills will lessen their value;
  2. 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.

The benefit of digital working processes is that it allows staff to work anytime and from anywhere, but this can also be a perceived negative as staff now see themselves as on-call all the time.

The fact that they are reachable can be hugely disruptive to the work-life balance. This is also an issue that should be dealt with from the outset, with expectations and boundaries established. Again, senior management should lead by example: no emailing staff at four o’clock in the morning.

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 the 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 that they need to overcome inertia and start actively making changes.

improve digital adoption

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 and confidently 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. As much as possible systems should be streamlined.

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

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

Related: Only Digital Adoption Platform You Need

6. Be Flexible and Experimental

It can be frustrating when we invest a lot of resources and energy into creating a system to serve a specific purpose, such as hosting meetings, only to find that staff prefers to bypass this system and use 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 they know work for them. Potential approaches that unexpectedly make their way into workflows should be seriously considered, and not dismissed out of hand.


Digital adoption can be customized for every type of business and both the measures and the effects change drastically according to the size of the business.

What matters is to 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 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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Mert Aktas

Mert is the Marketing Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.