What is Feature Adoption and How to Increase It

TL;DR

  • Feature adoption is your target users starting to use a new feature or an existing feature habitually and regularly.
  • Driving feature adoption as well as tracking feature adoption, is important to increase user satisfaction, perceived value, and user engagement and to lower churn rate and increase user retention rate in the long term.
  • Some best practices for increasing feature adoption rate are: increase the value of features, engaging users and announcing features in a persuasive way, making the feature benefit loud and clear, collecting feedback, analyzing relevant metrics, and more.
  • Interactive guides, video onboarding, hotspots, and other onboarding UX patterns can make all the difference.
  • Some good tools for increasing the feature adoption rate are UserGuiding, Intercom, Wyzowl, and Shepherd.js

Up until recently, I had a very disturbing problem of losing my keys.

There were so many times that I got locked out that I started to blame myself for not being careful enough.

It happened so often that I started thinking, “how?”

I realized that I often dropped my keys when taking stuff out of my pockets or my bags.

As I was searching through the internet for a solution, I came across suggestions like putting your keys in an unused pocket in your bag or simply fastening it with a string to your bag.

But what made me have my “Aha!” moment was simply this:

product feature adoption example

Did you know that the hooks inside the pockets of jackets are there for a purpose?

As I later found out, they are there to prevent stuff from falling out once attached; life-changing info, no?

And this, folks, was my most recent moment of discovery and adoption of a feature.

More often than not, we adopt features without even noticing; it might even become muscle memory sometimes.

And sometimes, you just can’t until you are pushed to it, like in my case.

So, today, let’s explore the concept by answering the questions:

👉 What is feature adoption,

👉 Why do we care about feature adoption in SaaS,

👉 How you can increase feature adoption with the best strategies of 2022,

👉 Some metrics and KPIs to measure the success of feature adoption, and 

👉 Some of the best tools to increase product adoption

Let’s start with some definitions first:

What is Feature Adoption?

Feature adoption basically means your target audience “adopting” a feature of your product or app by simply using it. Rather than a one-time action, product adoption is a process where users discover a feature of a product, try it out, decide if it is useful for them or not, use it again, and in the long-term turn it into a frequent action. Feature adoption can be measured using different metrics, and different tools can be used to increase it.

So basically, getting your users to use a product feature habitually is the aim of feature adoption.

Here’s a basic process of feature adoption:

✅ You make a new feature release/decide to increase the adoption rate of an existing or forgotten feature,

✅ You pinpoint the segment of users in your user base who would best benefit from the feature,

userguiding user segments
Here’s how my segments look on the UserGuiding Panel

✅ Your customer success managers and product managers work together to create feature release announcements, onboarding flows, and other in-app messaging patterns,

✅ You expose engaged users or your entire user base to the feature with an attractive,  preferably interactive user onboarding pattern,

calendly new feature announcement

✅ You encourage further feature use with follow-up tooltips and emails that urge users to pick up where they left or offer deals if it is a premium feature,

✅ You ask for user feedback on how to enhance the feature, 

✅ You assess feature usage and stickiness using feature adoption metrics most compatible with your product and checking your feature adoption funnel,

userguiding feature adoption funnel

Here’s what a feature adoption funnel looks like:

✅ You optimize your feature according to the feature and product adoption rate and other key metrics

✅ You keep a record of the process for future feature launches and feature adoption efforts

Throughout this process, keep 3 things in mind:

Getting your users to their “Aha!” moment for features is the key to success.

Evaluating your feature adoption rates actually tells you a lot about your success.

Feature adoption is directly related to the success of your business.

Getting your users to their “Aha!” moment for features is the key to success. 

Evaluating your feature adoption rates actually tells you a lot about your success.

That is to say, feature adoption is directly related to the success of your business.

Then, what is feature discovery?

Feature discovery is your users discovering a feature of your product. This is the first moment that your users find that there is a feature that they can use to make it easier for their work. Feature discovery can be through feature announcements, random discovery, or suggestions.

So, putting it in perspective, me finding the hook in my pocket is pure feature discovery.

Me actually starting to use it regularly is feature adoption.

What is crucial here is that we know that feature adoption isn’t possible unless your users discover the feature in the first place.

And so, it is your responsibility to get your users to discover your features if you want them to adopt them.

But why do you want them to adopt the feature in the first place?

What makes feature adoption so crucial?

Why is Feature Adoption Important?

Only 12% of a product’s features are the attraction points of the majority of clicks on apps.

1- The baseline of customer acquisition and retention

One thing is for sure: Feature adoption essentially is why users stick around.

There is no feature adoption unless your features are getting discovered and used in the first place.

And consequently, there is no product adoption.

And as a consequence of no product adoption, there are no customers sticking around.

Reminder: no customer = no business.

The more people adopt a feature, the more likely they are to stay as your users.

A higher rate of adoption will increase your customer retention rate and decrease churn and attract new users.

2- How products grow

Adding new features and getting users to use them habitually is practically how products grow and develop.

As new features are promoted, and older features are removed, product adoption increases, which leads to higher product growth and higher customer retention.

3- Opportunity for feedback

Efforts toward higher product adoption have a bright side if getting your PMs and customer success managers to and being more willing to collect feedback and analyze it more.

Consequently, the collected feedback increases not only product adoption but also overall customer satisfaction and a better product.

So then, how do you get down to achieve all that?

Let’s take a look at:

why is feature adoption important

How to improve feature adoption?

Since increasing the product feature adoption rates is crucial in having your product achieve success, you need to skyrocket both feature adoption and product adoption rates.

So, let’s elaborate on how you can improve these rates for your own product.

#1 Increase the value of features

feature value illustration
What some features of products feel like:

Let’s be honest: It all starts with a useful feature.

Your product team might be all in for a feature update and the initial appeal might be high for everyone on the team.

But that doesn’t mean it is actually a critical feature or a key feature at all.

You might have used common sense or customer feedback in deciding to go for a new feature rollout, but hear me out:

Sometimes, even users don’t like the features they specifically requested.

They are only aware of their problems, not how they can be solved via user experience principles.

And so, it is you who should know your target users and decide how useful the feature will be to them.

Assess customer feedback, consider your current feature adoption rates, don’t go for complex features, and get your product team to work with the customer success team.

That’s how you come up with valuable features.

#2 Announce features the right way

Have you ever thought that the reason behind your low feature adoption metrics could be your users not being aware of them?

Believe me, once you get this part right, you’ll solve a big part of your feature adoption problems.

And you’ll only keep announcing your feature the right way.

If you don’t let users know that a feature exists, there is a really slight chance they will even find out about the feature (just like my hook problem!)

So, you need to announce this new feature both to existing and new product users.

The first decision to make is where you’ll be announcing your new feature: it could be via email, social media, good old in-app feature announcements, and many other different methods.

But if you ask me, the best way to do it is to announce it contextually, exactly where and when the user needs it.

Amplitude does this perfectly:

amplitude new feature adoption

Now you might not agree with me by just looking at a screenshot, but hear me out:

This type of feature announcement just makes more sense because, this way, your users will be more tempted to try it out.

For example, imagine you’ve designed a food delivery app that also offers a feature called “live-tracking” that lets you see your food delivery on a map.

Introducing this feature before users order something just doesn’t make any sense.

They have no reason to use it.

It would be much more appropriate if the feature was introduced after the user placed an order, or even sometime after the order placement so that they can see if it is arriving on time or not.

And the second part is how you’re introducing this feature.

The golden rule of announcing features correctly: DO NOT annoy your users!

Would you think a pop-up that covers the whole screen saying “HELLO, CHECK OUT OUR NEW FEATURE!” would harm your UX?

Absolutely.

So don’t do that, or anything similar.

Instead, I’ll recommend using in-app messages, which are proven to increase feature adoption.

Let’s work it on an example:

Plandisc is a circular yearly planning tool that gives you an overview of your entire year at one glance. Sounds cool, right?

They didn’t have much of a problem with getting the users to use the core features since they introduced this in their product onboarding.

But they had a hard time getting the users to try out a new feature, let alone getting it adopted by them.

What they did to solve the issue was to use a hotspot that blinked to get the users’ attention, and it looked a bit like this:

Read more on how they saw a 15% feature adoption increase with UserGuiding in just a week here 👈

Indicata went through the exact same thing, and here’s their hotspot:

indicata hotspot feature adoption

Read on how Indicata achieved a 47% feature adoption rate with UserGuiding here 👈.

#3 Analyze your feature adoption rates

This is the gold mine where you extract all the valuables to increase your feature adoption rates.

Now let me warn you, your current feature adoption rates might be questionable 🫣

Unlike what you may hope, it is quite likely that countless features are getting barely any attention and even some are completely unused features.

Don’t worry, though.

Many features of products get lost before feature exposure happens.

The distinction between niche features that are barely necessary and high-value features your users definitely need to see can’t even be clear even in your product team.

But of course, there is a solid way of knowing.

The data from the analysis of feature adoption rates can be an excellent way for you to comprehend the interaction between your users and your product’s features.

To make sure healthy feature adoption rates are preserved, feature awareness is high, and feature discoverability is worked closely on, a best practice is to check basic usage metrics and more in-depth ones regularly.

#4 Check your expectations vs. reality

With the help of all the data that you collect on users’ responses to your features, you should check your initial expectations and the outcome of the data.

Do you see that you are on the right path?

The incompatibility between your initial expectations and proven reality can show how much you know your audience and their habits.

Considering your initial target of users and  your actual feature users your product is a perfect opportunity to go through some of your features and make adjustments accordingly.

For example, I could come up with a new feature for my project management app that lets users check their workload and time needed to finish a project.

But my new feature could be dominated by team leaders to check up on (and even monitor too closely) what’s everyone up to.

Some features may appeal to only a specific group of users, and some may not.

Alter or build upon your expectations to develop more efficient strategies for increasing feature adoption rates.

#5 Provide a better UX

It is for sure that simplicity and practicality attract people.

Naturally, that is what is mainly expected from many companies and mostly SaaS companies.

Friction during new feature onboarding can be irreversible.

So, then how do you enhance the overall UX and onboarding user experience?

Here’s 3 principles to keep in mind:

👉 The easier something is the more usable it becomes; fond the easiest way out and try to find an even easier way,

👉 If it looks and feels good, it becomes automatically more usable; keep the visual design simple, elegant, easy to navigate, and worthwhile,

👉 You can’t get value out of a customer without offering value yourself first; make sure that it is clear that the new feature aims to make it easier for the users

Or you can head to our guide to onboarding UX here 👈

#6 Be accessible when your users need you

Every feedback point can improve your product’s usage.

If your users know that they can reach you any time during their journey with your product, you will see that your adoption rates will increase, and users will feel more related to your business.

As is the case with any other feature, feedback points must be in the foreground.

Frase’s example is perfect for new feature and feedback through survey done right:

frase feature adoption

Although it is not easy to reach every user for feedback, any data you can get is a treasure for you.

Bonus points if you prove to your users that their comments aren’t in vain by reaching out to them about their feedback.

#7 Improve yourself continuously

Launching a new feature is not even close to the end of your feature adoption efforts.

You are expected to improve and optimize a feature taking the analysis of feature adoption rates and feedback into regard.

Make sure that you know about the expectation and behavior of your users and consider their needs and desires accordingly.

With the help of a quality feedback system, you can improve UX and also analyze the difference between what your users expect and what your product’s features offer.

This is also an excellent way to know your target audience and reflect the knowledge on your product.

Even the worst comments or feedback are a great opportunity for you to be able to improve yourself.

Now, that was all feature adoption in theory.

Let’s take a look at what it looks like in practice through strategies:

Top 5 Best Feature Adoption Strategies in 2022

In order to build the best feature adoption strategy, you need to focus on these three key points:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Feasibility

Taking these three key points into consideration, you will realize that:

feature adoption starts with a good user onboarding process and goes on with a good user onboarding process.

What I mean is that onboarding isn’t merely a one-time practice for you to give your users the quick onboarding tutorial.

It is, in fact, a never-ending process.

And so, you need to engage with users during their journey constantly.

👉 Engaging with your users, you aim to educate your users about a feature of your product and encourage them to make use of it,

And in return:

👉 You aim to collect data and feedback to increase the usability, accessibility, and feasibility of a feature of your product.

So then, how do you get down to it?

How can you constantly engage with your users?

1- Interactive guides

interactive guide example from UserGuiding

Interactive guides help you engage with your users at any desired moment of their journey.

Now, this just might sound presumptuous, but interactive guides are much better than other methods in helping users adopt features.

👉 They enhance the duration of adoption by saving your time and product users’ time,

👉 They offer hands-on experience and improve the product adoption curve,

👉 They decrease the need for support since the users are fully enabled to perform the new feature tasks

And that’s not all.

By personalizing these guides, you will be able to connect with your users and help them relate to and engage more with your product.

Simply put, you can’t go wrong with interactive guides!

2- Tooltips

tooltip example from UserGuiding

Tooltips help you highlight elements that you think will be most useful to your users.

So given that you use them effectively, your users will not have to worry about finding their way through your products.

Thanks to tooltips, your guide will be the helping hand of your users.

3- Hotspots

plandisc hotspot example

Hotspots are crucial for providing information about the elements of your product.

When your users demand information about the elements of your product, they shouldn’t go somewhere else.

You should provide the necessary information right where users would need it, namely, right next to that specific element of your product.

Hotspots give you exactly that opportunity.

3- Banners

banner example

Banners help increase the visibility of the features of your products and updates.

They can be on a page the entire time and not disrupt your users’ workflow. So, they are perfect for non-disruptive, continuous engagement. 

And since they are targeted, you can engage with any desired user during the most relevant points of their journeys.

A well-designed banner is attractive to users, and what is attractive will accordingly encourage users to take action to adopt the features of your product.

4- Walkthrough/Announcement Videos

beerorcoffee onboarding video feature adoption
created with UserGuiding

Walkthrough videos are vital in helping your users better visualize and understand the processes.

Reading texts can be time-consuming and demotivating for some users.

Thanks to walkthrough videos, you not only help users better understand processes by helping them visualize but also help them save time.

Via walkthrough/announcement videos, you can help users adopt a feature much easier by walking them through the process of feature adoption step by step.

5- Emails

feature announcement via email

The key to engaging with your users via email is that you need to present brief and clear information.

Emails can have an undesired effect once you bombard users with unnecessary information.

You should bundle up the information according to its relevance and explain features clearly and briefly.

When your users find the necessary information in your emails, they will begin to take them into consideration and realize that you are trying to present useful information.

This way they will be encouraged to take a look at your emails, unlike many other emails that they get from hundreds of other businesses.

Once you shine among all the unnecessary emails, you will see that emails will turn into one of the best mediums to engage with your users.

Take a look at our new feature announcement article for more insight on how to write actually readable email announcements 👈

What is the takeaway from what I’ve tried to explain?

The easier you make it for your users to use your product, the more likely you are to provide a good onboarding experience and increase feature adoption rates.

It is not always easy to constantly engage with your users, which can be a huge cost for your customer’s support.

In this case, you need a tool that will be your human touch and helps you constantly engage with your users during each and every step of their journey.

And that tool is UserGuiding.

Jump to the feature adoption tools section or keep reading for the top feature adoption metrics 👇

Top 5 Feature Adoption Metrics and KPIs to Measure Success

feature adoption metrics and kpis

Let’s begin with distinguishing engagement rates from adoption rates.

Engagement rates show how much your users are involved with your product.

Adoption rates show how much new usage takes place.

It either shows the rate of new features that are used by your existing users or the rate of new users who begin to use your existing features.

Here are some feature adoption metrics:

1- Adoption rate

Adoption rate is the percentage of new users that use a feature.

The adoption rate formula is pretty simple: divide the number of new users by the total number of users and there you have it.

feature adoption rate formula

For example, let’s say you have 100 users in total and 15 of those are new users.

In this case, by dividing the number of your total users by your new users (100/15), your adoption rate is 15%.

2- Time-to-first key action

This metric is one of the most important of all product adoption metrics, and it can tell you more than whether you have successful features or not.

The key to understanding this one is to keep in mind that the more time your users spend on adopting a feature, the harder it is to adopt.

The time-to-first key action metric shows how fast your users adopt a feature.

In other words, it tells you how much time your users spend without adopting a feature, which should preferably be as short as possible. 

3-  Daily/monthly active users ratio (DAU/MAU)

Yet another metric that can help you see what drives feature adoption is DAU/MAU ratio.

You might have an overall vast number of daily users or monthly users, but if there is a discrepancy between the two figures, you might be in for some renovations.

The formula is, again, pretty simple.

All you have to do is divide the total number of daily users to the total number of monthly users, and there you have your DAU/MAU ratio.

dau/mau ratio formula

4- Average time spent using the feature

This metric, also known as the breadth of use, helps you better understand how much your users utilize a feature and what different adoption levels look like.

Looking at this metric and looking at the less-used feature, you can see how long it takes for users to quit trying to adopt a feature.

This way, you can even discover what specific triggers contribute to quitting to try by running the adoption flow yourself.

It will help you focus on making changes and fixing what is discouraging your users at that specific moment of adopting a feature.

5- Feedback

I know it’s common sense, yet I believe that I should be the one to remind you that you need to collect feedback from users constantly.

Feedback is among the top indicators of the success or failure of product adoption.

Collecting feedback will help you understand the needs and problems of your users and accordingly make adjustments to satisfy the needs and fix the problems.

The better you do this; the more your will increase your adoption rates.

Best Tools to Drive Your Feature Adoption

1- UserGuiding – Tooltips, Hotspots, Interactive Guides without coding

UserGuiding feature adoption tool

UserGuiding is a no-code digital adoption platform that helps you provide better in-app experiences.

I said earlier in the article that UserGuiding is the tool that you are looking for to be able to engage with your users in the most effective way, constantly.

That’s because UserGuiding is among the top-quality tools that can help you achieve increasing product adoption rates.

Apart from its quality, UserGuiding is:

  • Much more affordable compared to its alternatives
  • An easy-to-use, easy-to-set-up no-code user onboarding software
  • Provides an excellent customer experience and support

With UserGuiding, you can create:

✅ Interactive guides, walkthroughs, product tours,

✅ Onboarding checklists,

✅ Hotspots, tooltips, in-app messages,

✅ Resource centers,

✅ NPS surveys,

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

Here’s how it looks:

userguiding new feature adoption tool

👉Try UserGuiding, for FREE!👈

2- Intercom – Feature Adoption through Email Announcement

Intercom feature adoption tool

Intercom is among the most widely used customer support and service tools.

I explained the importance of emails in engaging with your users throughout the article.

And Intercom is the perfect tool to engage with your users via email.

When used correctly, Intercom is also among the tools that can help you increase your adoption rates.

Intercom can assist you in achieving a lot by making it possible for you to offer support solutions and automate onboarding emails in the most engaging way.

3- Wyzowl – Feature Announcement Videos

wyzowl feature adoption

Wyzowl, as an animated video agency, also specializes in explainer videos that illustrate your product and your features.

If your features need more showing than doing, you can opt for Wyzowl’s explainer videos instead of interactive elements.

And if you’re in for a little bit of extra effort…

You can also combine Wyzowl’s explainer videos and interactive elements to create a more complete feature adoption journey!

4- Shepherd.js – Open Source Product Tours and Feature Highlights

Shepherd feature adoption tool

Shepherd is a free way of improving your feature adoption rates.

It is a Javascript library that helps you guide your users through your product.

Shepherd can enable you to collaborate with developers and designers to create your own interactive guides by customizing guides through coding.

Unlike third-party tools, Shepherd requires additional design and development input.

So if you are on a budget and have a good developer with free time, Shepherd can be a good solution.

To Wrap Up

Throughout the whole article, I wanted to explain what feature adoption is but, most importantly, I tried to give you all the tools and methods to increase feature adoption.

And in doing all that, I hope I made it clear that the prime contributor to a high adoption rate is proper user onboarding.

Remember: you could have the most valuable features, new features that will redefine the customer journey or relevant features that can change user behavior altogether.

It means nothing unless your users get to know about them.

So, start working on user onboarding today!

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you drive feature adoption?

Start with announcing features the right way. Then, explain the benefits of the feature and how users can make use of it. Guide your users through the feature and help them make use of it. Provide better UX. Finally, constantly analyze feature adoption rates and take user feedback into consideration so that you can make adjustments when needed.


How do you measure the success of a feature?

There are a couple of metrics that you can use to measure the success of a feature. Some of those metrics are “adoption rate, product adoption rate, time-to-first key action, percentage of daily/monthly active users”. Also, keep in mind that postive feedback is one of the strongest indicators of the success of a feature. So, you should put some more emphasis on user feedback.


What is the quickest way to improve feature adoption?

It all starts with coming up with a useful feature. When you believe that you have a useful feature that the users will like to benefit from, you should focus on how you announce that feature to the users. After announcing the feature in the right way, you should guide your users through their way to adopt the feature. In other words, explain and guide your users how they can benefit from the feature.


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Serhat Erdem

Serhat Erdem

Serhat is the Creative Content Writer of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.