Digital Adoption Platforms: Layering User Onboarding with Self-Serve Support (+ Top 5 DAPs)

Digital Adoption Platforms: Layering User Onboarding with Self-Serve Support (+ Top 5 DAPs)

We explain what digital adoption platforms are and how to find the right fit for your needs. Plus, we review the best DAPs to consider for enhancing your user onboarding goals and product adoption rates.

Ray Slater Berry
11 min read
Digital Adoption Platforms: Layering User Onboarding with Self-Serve Support (+ Top 5 DAPs)

Picture your SaaS product as a sandwich. Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) are a dressing that makes the difference between a dry, chewy bite and a burst of flavor that makes you excited for more. DAPs add a seamless layer over SaaS tools that is personalized and contextual for each user. They let product teams use a variety of patterns, such as highlights, nudges, walkthroughs, and more, to help onboard new users, introduce new features, and promote a healthy dose of self-serve learning. 

This article will walk you through the what, the why, and the how of digital adoption, and give you a look into the best-in-class DAPs to consider. We’ll also share our tried and tested selection process with you, to ensure you find a platform that’s perfect for your business needs. 

Lunch is served.

What is digital adoption? #

Digital adoption is the act of enabling a user to understand how a product works and start using it actively. When a user adopts a SaaS tool into their tech stack, it’s safe to say that they find it useful, valuable, and feasible.

Digital adoption means a user has not only reached and rocketed past their “aha!” moment with your SaaS technology, but they’re also completely comfortable with your product and are more than likely to recommend it to a colleague or a friend.

Digital adoption can apply to your product overall, but also to specific features; as software continues to develop it’s important to help users continue to adopt and benefit from changes and new functionality.

What is a digital adoption platform? #

A digital adoption platform is a software layer over another technology tool that guides users through. Digital adoption solutions are typically used by SaaS brands looking to decrease churn, delight users, and minimize customer effort scores for certain tasks. 

A solid digital adoption process should be a seamless experience between your product and the tool you’re laying over it to guide your users. Done well, the right DAP can drastically increase user activation, retention, and your SaaS MRR. 

As Gartner estimates:

“By 2025, 70% of organizations will use digital adoption solutions across the entire technology stack to overcome still insufficient application user experiences.”

Now, let’s take a look into why DAPs are becoming so increasingly popular.

What are the benefits of using a DAP? #

To answer this question, we reached out to our very own Pulkit Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO at Chameleon. His answer might surprise you:

“One of the biggest benefits of using a digital adoption platform is: speed.”

Why speed? Because, as Pulkit further explains, product growth and success depend on how quickly you're able to help customers use your product successfully, and digital adoption platforms like Chameleon can help you speed that process up. 

Let’s hear Pulkit out for more insights. Spoiler alert: The benefits also include saving time and resources, and running more in-product experiments, more effectively.

What types of companies will benefit from DAPs the most? #

The product or company types that will find the most benefit from a digital adoption platform are those that care about their software being used effectively by users

The way Pulkit puts it:

“If your company has a software product, or it’s enabled by a software product, whether it's for internal or external users, it's really important for them to discover the functionality and use the software effectively. 

This is where a digital adoption platform comes in. That typically means it's useful for all SaaS companies and even B2C products that have web-based software, as well as companies that care about being product-driven, or that want to build a self-serve motion.”

– Pulkit Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO at Chameleon

In other words, as Pulkit concludes, if you want to drive success at scale, or you want your users to figure things out through a tech-touch without interventions from your CS team, digital adoption platforms can be very powerful and very helpful for you.

Best-in-class digital adoption platforms you should consider #

Now that you know what DAPs are, why you should consider adding them as an additional layer to your software, and who will benefit the most, let’s look into which platforms are among the best and how to choose the right fit for your business needs. 

For a visual representation of top DAP solutions, you can check out the G2 Grid® – a map based on G2 scores of products, user reviews gathered from the G2 community, and data aggregated from online sources and social networks.

For our list of the best digital adoption platforms, we’re starting off with Chameleon. We couldn’t exclude ourselves from the article we’re writing, could we? 🙃 

1. Chameleon #

Elevator pitch: Chameleon is a best-in-class Digital Adoption Platform with deep functionality to create Tours, Microsurveys, Tooltips, and Launchers. A lightweight, modern, focussed offering, Chameleon offers advanced features such as real-time event-based targeting, custom CSS, rate-limiting, A/B testing, native integrations, and more. 

Best for: Teams that prioritize good UX, want a connected stack of product tooling, leverage modern tech (such as single-page apps), and have been frustrated by other solutions. Examples of successful customers include Mixpanel, which switched from WalkMe to Chameleon and improved user retention, and The Motley Fool, which reduced churn by almost 10% within 2 months.

Ease of implementation: You can get started for free, without a credit card. Chameleon offers a sandbox environment to test the Builder, a Chrome Extension to build in your own product, and many installation options, such as Segment, Freshpaint, Google Tag Manager, npm, and plain JavaScript. 

Pricing: Chameleon pricing starts at $279 per month for the feature-rich Startup plan, best suited for smaller companies. The Growth and Enterprise plans, starting at $10k per year, are designed for teams that will be relying on in-product experiences to drive growth or collect feedback. You can start for free, without a credit card, on all the plans, or get in touch for a demo.

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2. WalkMe #


Elevator pitch: WalkMe enables organizations to enhance the experience and improve efficiency for both employees and customers. It offers a code-free platform to measure, drive, and act to ultimately accelerate their digital transformations and better realize the value of their software investments. With WalkMe, you can create customized product Walk-Thru experiences and use third-party integrations for more options. For example, one of the additional solutions that WalkMe offers is the UI Intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics 365 which adds an additional layer of product analytics.

Best for: Companies that want to increase the productivity of their teams by implementing a DAP for employee onboarding and training, as well as the businesses that want to improve customer satisfaction rates, and drive product adoption. Some of the industries and verticals that would be a good fit include telecommunications, retail and eCommerce, healthcare, and the public sector.

Ease of implementation: The learning curve may vary depending on your use case. The tools are easy to implement for basic usage, but the more integrations and tools you add, the more skills you’ll need for running the process of adoption effectively.  

Pricing: With the Basic plan, you’ll get up to three Walk-Thrus with five steps per each, while you can customize the offer to fit your needs with the Custom plan. For each, you’ll need to reach out to their team to get a quote. Additional tools, like UI Intelligence, for example, are paid for separately.

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3. Appcues #


Elevator pitch: Appcues helps non-technical teams create in-app onboarding tours, feature announcements, and in-product surveys. To better understand your user behavior, you can also use the platform to track events and analyze the product usage data through reports. 

Best for: Product-led SaaS businesses and larger companies with multiple products that want to improve user onboarding and manage flows within the app.  

Ease of implementation: It’s easy to get started and integrate with third-party tools to scale the usage up, but note that some of the integrations would need an intermediary tool like Zapier to bridge the data flows from Appcues to other tools, and vice versa.

Pricing: The Essentials plan starts at $299 per month, the Growth plan starts at $879 per month (paid annually), while the Enterprise plan offers flexible terms and you’ll get a custom quote for it. Pricing for each plan scales with the number of your monthly active users (MAUs).

4. Pendo #


Elevator pitch: Pendo is a digital adoption platform that enables product teams to manage the overall product experience for their users, as well as to increase the adoption of employee-facing software. You can use it to create in-app messages, feature guides, and product walkthroughs based on the insights you gain from customer feedback and interactions. 

Best for: SaaS products that want to increase the adoption rate for advanced features they offer to their users and companies that want to guide their employees through onboarding and change management. 

Ease of implementation: The initial setup might require some training on the platform, but once you set everything up, the ease of use increases. Based on the user ratings on G2, Pendo scores 7.9/10 for ease of setup and 8.3/10 for ease of use.

Pricing: There is a Free plan for up to 1,000 MAUs, limited to one web app key and one mobile app key.. Subscription-based plans include the Team, Pro, and Enterprise plans – you’ll need to get in touch with the team to get a quote for these.

5. Userpilot #


Elevator pitch: Userpilot helps product teams create behavior-driven in-product experiences to improve the onboarding flow for new users, offer interactive tips, and guide users to their “aha!” moments. With Userpilot, you can also track and analyze your product growth and gather qualitative customer feedback through surveys.

Best for: Fast-growing SaaS businesses that want to onboard new signups with ease, offer personalized in-app messages and stimulate feature discovery as their product evolves. Based on the user reviews on G2, it might not be the best fit for companies that are looking for advanced product analytics features or sophisticated customization options.

Ease of implementation: Userpilot’s tool is easy to implement, which got this digital adoption platform a score of 9/10 on G2 for ease of use. Besides that, its customer support is also highly rated by users, with a score of 9.9/10. 

Pricing: After a free trial, the Growth plan starts at $299 per month while the Enterprise plan, which offers priority troubleshooting, advanced security options, and more, starts at $749 per month, paid annually.

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How to choose a digital adoption platform for your SaaS #

Keep in mind that just because someone is raving about their digital adoption platform, that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. You need to consider a few things when picking the perfect digital adoption process and tool for your SaaS company. 

What to pay attention to the most? Let’s take a look at what Pulkit Agrawal, Co-Founder and CEO at Chameleon, has to say.

In a nutshell, the secret lies in building and nurturing a strong relationship with the DAP solution of your choice. Think of it as a long-term partnership and you’ll be on your path to success.

Apart from that, here are some other aspects to take into consideration when making a decision.

Your access to resources #

Consider what resources you have access to. Certain digital adoption solutions will require a greater lift than others, especially when it comes to human resources. 

For example, do you have access to in-house developers? If not, a no-code or low-code solution may be a better fit than a solution that requires developer input.

Your product learning curve #

This is an exceptionally important point to consider when picking the right DAP, or whether you need one at all. No matter how great your UX is, if your product is complicated or has multiple features, there’s a high chance your users are going to need some guidance getting started. 

What does your product onboarding look like, and where are you delivering it? If it’s only in emails at the moment, then a DAP solution can offer self-serve, in-app product onboarding to help break down the complexity of your product.

Your product branding and maturity #

The digital adoption platforms we’ve listed above come with an array of different branding capabilities. Some fully allow you to take over and give users a seamless brand experience. However, others are quite clearly a separate product or charge more in their plans if you want to brand the overlay. 

How mature is your brand, and how important is product branding right now? For example, if you’re in beta testing, branding may perhaps not be top of your list when you’re just trying to find product-market fit and build a user base.

Your digital adoption goals #

Lastly, what are your goals with a DAP? What are you hoping to achieve? A few goals, KPIs, and retention metrics to consider are: 

  • Product adoption rate

  • Feature adoption rate

  • Churn rate

  • Engagement rate 

  • Customer retention rate 

  • Customer lifetime value (CLTV) 

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score

  • Customer Effort Score (CES) 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

When you understand what the above metrics currently look like for your product, you can set some goals and KPIs around improving them with a digital adoption platform.

Serving the sandwich #

That’s a wrap (or in this case – a sandwich) on digital adoption solutions. Hopefully, you’ve discovered the best practices around digital adoption platforms you can implement for your users, product, and business. 

In closing, try to track and analyze product usage to kick-start your digital adoption process on the right foot for your company. Once you’ve got a better understanding of your users and data, you can compare the above products to find what’s the best fit for you. Remember, all of them are designed to help SaaS applications succeed, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect for your needs. Take your time in working through your selection process. 

And if you think Chameleon is the perfect match, you can start using it for free right now!

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