Product Adoption Platforms: What Are They and Why You Should Care

Everything you need to know before purchasing a product adoption software and why self-serve is the best option for product-led, high-growth SaaS teams.

Camila Cury
19 min read
Product Adoption Platforms: What Are They and Why You Should Care

If you manage a SaaS product, chances are you’ve already heard about Product Adoption Platforms, also known as Digital Adoption Platforms. You might even be considering a few options to choose from. But as with all things, whether it’s a car, a laptop, or a new software, you need to know everything about what you’re buying and why you’re buying it, in order to get the best option for you. 

To aid you in this process, we’ve developed a Product Adoption Platforms (PAP) Buyer’s Guide to navigate you through the whats, whys, and hows of Product Adoption Platforms. 

We’ll help you create your rationale for implementing a product adoption tool, consider the pros and cons of build vs. buy, give you resources to develop your case study for buying, and take you through the entire process from talking to the sales team, running a free trial, procurement phase, and closing. In the end, you’ll become better informed about how to buy a product adoption software that best fulfills not only your needs and goals but also those of your users. 

Here, we present you the first part of our guide. Welcome aboard! 

  • Product adoption is the goal of every SaaS company trying to get its product(s) become the go-to tool for its users. Why? Because higher product adoption rates translate into higher activation, engagement, retention, and customer satisfaction rates.

  • In its essence, a Product Adoption Platform helps you add a seamless layer of in-app messages that you can personalize to your users’ experience.

  • Adoption-related use cases that a PAP software can help you streamline include user onboarding, in-product guidance, new feature announcements, UI redesign tours, and much more.

  • How to detect a great product adoption tool in the wild? It will be easy to use and scale, have code-less building capabilities, offer on-brand styling options, have powerful integrations with tools you’re already using, allow granular user segmentation for precise targeting and experimenting, and more.

  • Why should you consider investing in product adoption software? Saving time and money, decreasing churn, and reducing support tickets are only some of the reasons. For the complete overview of the benefits, jump straight to the section below. 

Is this the right guide for you?

If you’re part of a product team within a SaaS company, and you’re looking for new ways to execute your product adoption strategy more effectively, increase user activation rates, improve user engagement within your product, and get higher retention rates, then – by all means — you’re at the right place!

Here’s a list of roles that might benefit the most from using product adoption software as an addition to an existing tech stack. 

  • 1 Product Managers looking for ways to boost adoption, retention, and activation rates using effective in-app guidance and messaging.
  • 2 Product Marketing Managers looking for ways to engage with and target user segments with relevant messaging. 
  • 3 Customer Success Managers looking to reduce support tickets, offer contextual self-serve support, and delight customers at every step of their journey.
  • 4 Growth Managers trying to leverage quick returns, scale their product offerings based on users’ needs, increase customer lifetime value, and generate more revenue.

Still with us? Great! Now, let’s get into more details on what Product Adoption Platforms are, why you should invest in them, and how to know if they are the right fit for your business. 

What are Product Adoption Platforms?

Product adoption is the ultimate goal of most SaaS companies: it’s the result of enabling your users to understand how your product works and how to actively use it.

Product Adoption Platforms add a seamless layer to your application that is both personalized and contextual for each user. They help lead users to “aha!” moments within your product; recognizing your value proposition and efficiently integrating your product into their stack.

Why is the “aha!” moment so important?

The "aha!" moment is the first time the user recognizes and internalizes the value of a product or feature. A moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension that helps them adopt the product more quickly.

Self-serve is on the rise (and what does it mean for product adoption)

Empowering your customers to take action and make decisions within your product independently is crucial for product-led growth

Many Product Adoption Platforms are customizable and can integrate natively over any application, which makes them an excellent solution for companies looking to offer self-serve guidance through their products. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, “81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a representative.” 

Just think about how many times you've preferred to say you’re just having a look around to the store clerk instead of telling them specifically what you’re looking for because you’d rather explore on your own for a bit. Users also want to discover tools and find their way to “aha!” moments on their own, so providing self-serve options that are clear, convenient, and timely is critical to a product’s success.

We needn’t go far to back this up with more data. While analyzing millions of end-user interactions with Chameleon-built Experiences for our latest Benchmark Report, we’ve seen a 43% completion rate for Tours started from Launchers, our in-app widgets for menus and guides. This means that product Tours that users can trigger on their own, when most convenient, have a higher completion rate than those that are disruptive to their experience.

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Does your company need a Product Adoption Platform?

Put simply, all companies that care about their software being used effectively by users need a product adoption tool.

To be more precise, here’s a list of some of the most common use cases and scenarios when using a PAP could make the biggest impact on your team.

Product adoption software is an essential tool for teams: 

  • Icons 300 Trying to build onboarding flows tailored to their user’s needs
  • Icons 300 Wishing to seamlessly introduce new product features
  • Icons 300 Looking to increase (advanced) feature adoption rates 
  • Icons 300 Hoping to reduce their backlog of support tickets
  • Icons 300 Aiming for more free-to-paid conversions
  • Icons 300 Promoting plan upgrades within the product
  • Icons 300 Looking for ways to gather more relevant user feedback
  • Icons 300 Communicating technical issues inside the product

The exact use case(s) for your team will depend on your needs and goals, and might differ depending on your company’s growth stage. So let’s take a look at the benefits of using a PAP that you might gain as your business grows.

Startups: Drive more early adopters

Startups need PAPs to drive early product adoption. A product-led go-to-market strategy will target buyers who prefer to self-educate and see the product experience as an essential part of the buying process.

👉 Use our product-led go-to-market resource cheatsheet to kickstart your strategy building.

Growth: Implement your PLG strategies efficiently

Companies in a post-startup stage, especially those oriented towards product-led growth and experiencing rapid growth, need PAPs to leverage quick returns. Product adoption is fundamental at this stage and PAPs can streamline the process of implementing effective product-led strategies.

👉 Need help defining whether your business is product-led? Here are the PLG theory, examples, and resources to guide you.

Enterprise: Keep users around for the long haul

Enterprise-level companies need PAPs to retain users for the long haul. A large user base means more user segments with distinct needs and pains. At this stage, PAPs can help you target specific user cohorts more effectively to keep churn in check.

👉 Customer retention is a primary use case for implementing a product adoption tool into your stack. Get inspired by our guide to creating loyal customers.

Why you should invest in a PAP

Product adoption software is a fantastic tool to add to your product’s tech stack to help you increase activation, retention, and adoption rates. And when you factor in your customers' success, there are certain aspects that will highly increase the effectiveness of your PAP.

So first, let’s look at the reasons why you would consider investing in product adoption software. 

You have a software-driven product

A PAP is a solution that enables users to understand your product faster and use it more successfully. So it is no surprise that a SaaS product would be the one that would most benefit from a PAP.

Here is a nice summary of what that means for users, from Chameleon’s CEO and Co-Founder, Pulkit Agrawal. 

“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 product adoption tool 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, CEO and Co-Founder of Chameleon 

As mentioned above, it is crucial for software companies to deliver value to the end user as quickly and effectively as possible. Thus, driving success at scale is about having the product itself help the users figure things out, not needing frequent interventions from your Customer Success team. 

You are finding limits with your own dev resources

When PMs, PMMs, or CSMs are looking to create product experiences to engage users, typically the first step would be to go to the developers within the company. They are the ones who built the software, so it is natural to ask them to make changes to the product that will help guide users.

However, it’s common that your request may not be addressed right away because what you consider a priority, may not be the same for the dev team. This means that you are at the mercy of the developers’ schedule for delivering something as simple as an in-app notification. If you are experiencing such unnecessary delays and it is obvious that your dev resources are stretched thin, it’s time to move over to a solution that doesn’t require coding. This is where PAPs come in.

PAPs are no-code solutions that can be used to easily create in-product guidance. This gives freedom to you and your dev team to focus on product development. You don’t have to rely on the dev team every time you want to create user experiences, and your dev team is liberated from having to redirect resources. Plus your product team won’t have to wait weeks just so that engineering can fit you within their next sprint. You can get going right away

You want to achieve product-led growth

We are now in the age of product-led growth, which is where companies achieve faster and more efficient growth by leveraging their products to convert users to paying customers. 

But first and foremost, product-led growth allows you to scale very efficiently and effectively. In fact, OpenView reports that once PLG companies hit the $10M ARR mark, they tend to scale faster than others. The reason being their sales, lead generation, and customer success processes are driven by the product itself, while others are bottlenecked by labor intensiveness. 

By improving the user experience and enabling users to achieve success faster, PAPs can be your stepping stone towards product-led growth

The benefits of using a Product Adoption Platform

By now, we’ve outlined some of the benefits of implementing a product adoption tool into your stack, but besides catering to the rise of the self-serve model and being valuable for SaaS companies of every growth stage, these platforms can also make a direct impact on your revenue and growth. Here’s how.

Save time and resources

This is an obvious one. As we mentioned before, PAPs can bring considerable relief to your engineering team and allow other teams to create user experiences on their own – quickly and effectively. 

But not only that, PAPs allow you to easily implement changes and create features on the fly. 

“One of the biggest benefits of using a product adoption sofwtare is: speed.”

Pulkit Agrawal, CEO and Co-Founder of Chameleon 

Such speed drives efficiency and cost-saving that would be otherwise unattainable with engineering teams. Here’s just one of the examples that showcase the benefits that one of our customers saw after using Chameleon as a product adoption tool.  

“Chameleon is 10x cheaper than engineers.”

Tori Funkhouser, VP Product at PeopleGrove

Run in-product experiments

Product success happens from continuous iteration and improvement. For this to happen, you need the right user feedback to give direction on how to optimize your product, enabling you to make every product decision based on evidence. 

This is why in-product experiments are so important. They give you clarity while testing your assumptions. With a PAP, you can deploy an in-product experiment quickly and run A/B tests right within the application.

Here’s another example from one of our customers who saw success with Chameleon Tours.

Real-life example: Moz, an SEO software company, conducted an A/B test that demonstrated how users that were shown Chameleon Tours had 10% less churn compared to users who haven’t seen a Tour.

Facilitate faster onboarding

As we mentioned earlier, speed is one of the main benefits of PAPs. That also applies to users. A product adoption software lets you create in-product experiences that help users understand your product faster. The quicker they start using the product to achieve their own goals, the more likely they will convert from a free trial or freemium to paid plans.

Real-life example: Degreed, a learning platform, achieved a 280% increase in beta platform opt-ins and actionable feedback when they launched a new product design to 50,000 users with Chameleon Tours and Microsurveys. 

Decrease churn

Churn is every SaaS company’s headache, and it’s something that all products want to minimize. But in the end, reducing churn is simple: it comes down to helping your customers succeed faster.

When you are able to onboard users quickly and get them going as fast as possible with sufficient education for active usage, you gain happy customers who are more likely to continue using your product. This not only decreases churn but increases your customers’ lifetime value (LTV). A PAP is a perfect solution to achieve this. 

Real-life example: The Motley Fool, a financial services company, achieved a 9% reduction in churn over 45 days by using Chameleon-built product Tours to onboard new premium members and educate them on key features. 

Reduce support tickets

The standard way to unblock users is through a support agent providing answers. Instead, a PAP can communicate solutions right within the app.

You can have in-product tooltips and alerts, product tours, as well as modals with links to useful resources and help articles – all within the user interface. This allows users to get what they need faster and in real-time, reducing the number of support tickets the team needs to address. 

Real-life example: AvidXchange, an accounts payable automation software company, leveraged Chameleon-built Tours and other forms of in-app messages to deflect 20,000 tickets over 12 months. 

8 types of software that are NOT a product adoption platform

With so many different categories in the SaaS software landscape, it can be difficult to fully understand the difference between tools, as well as between use cases and audiences the tools are built for.  

Whether you need to add a product adoption software to your tech stack will depend on your goals and use cases, so let us begin by clarifying what a PAP is not. 

👀 Note: You can integrate your product adoption tool with tools built around different purposes listed below to get a holistic view of your product usage, user behavior analytics, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research data, integrated communications with your users and customers, and more. 

You may already have some of these tools in your stack, so let's understand how they differ from Product Adoption Platforms, and how to get the most out of each – on its own or integrated with a PAP.

1. Employee onboarding

Examples: WalkMe and Whatfix

Certain tools are more fit for internal usage, such as employee training and onboarding. They aim for a lower monthly active user base, and the use cases tend to follow a linear path since their goal is to train new hires. In contrast, a product adoption platform primarily focuses on helping end-users adopt features and expand their use cases continuously.  

2. Client/customer onboarding

Examples: Rocketlane and GUIDEcx

Client onboarding software might seem similar to product adoption software, but they are very different. Client onboarding deals with bringing clients or customers onto a project through either a collaborative platform, or a common solution where progress can be mutually tracked. This is much more fit for agencies, consultancies, or any other B2B companies that sell services rather than a product. 

3. Interactive demo software

Examples: Reprise and Walnut

Interactive demo software, as the name suggests, allows pre-sales, sales, and marketing teams to create product demos with ease using features like screen capture and customization. While similar to in-product tours that most product adoption tools offer, the goal of these experiences is to sell the product rather than help new and existing users adopt it.

4. Product analytics software

Examples: Mixpanel and Amplitude

Some product adoption tools may offer analytics from the data collected within the in-product experiences created with the software, but you cannot expect digital adoption platforms to track how users behave inside your product beyond their interactions with experiences created with the tool.

5. Product building software

Examples: Retool and Thunkable

While great product adoption software like Chameleon makes your in-app messages look native to your product, they’re not a product-building tool. Experiences created with a PAP exist as a layer over your product, not as product features.

6. Help desk software

Examples: Zendesk and HelpScout

Help desk tools allow you to create an external repository of support content. In contrast, product adoption software allows you to create an internal layer of contextual content over your product. However, some digital adoption software like Chameleon let users integrate their help desk links within the in-app experiences to direct end-users toward self-serve support.

7. Live Chat software

Examples: Intercom and Drift

Similar to the previous examples, some product adoption software will integrate with live chat software to trigger chats from in-app experiences, however, PAPs don’t offer native chat functionality. 

8. Online survey tool

Examples: SurveyMonkey and Typeform

When thinking about digital adoption software, always remember the key term ‘in-product’. If you’re looking for a feature that happens outside your product, like an e-mail survey tool, then you’re not looking for product adoption software.

What a great Product Adoption Platform looks like

Now that we’ve covered what Product Adoption Platforms are, what benefits they give to you and your users, let’s talk more about how to actually pick the PAP that is perfect for your needs. 

Of course, this may vary depending on your product and your users' needs and preferences, but there are features and aspects that every PAP should have.

Here are some must-haves to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a PAP solution. 

Ease of use

First and foremost, a great PAP must be easy to use. If the software is confusing to configure and the UI is cluttered, then it’s lost the point.

The whole purpose of a PAP is to make it easier for teams to deliver effective in-product guidance. 

This also means features must intuitively present themselves. A great UI and UX goes a long way for PAPs. 

Ease of scalability

A PAP is a tool for growth. Its role is to facilitate product-led growth by creating in-app experiences that are meaningful and engaging. 

So when your product grows, your PAP must be able to grow with you. Whether it’s because of more end-users, more experiences being created, or growing teams, a PAP should not have bugs or issues because of added pressure. It must stay effective and functional at all times, no matter how fast or how large you are growing. 

In addition to growth, the PAP should also have different roles and permissions for different team members, so that everything is coordinated better as more people join the company and use the platform. 

No-code solution

One of the main reasons for investing in a Product Adoption Platform is to reduce the strain on development resources for creating and managing in-product experiences to drive users to success more quickly. 

This is why no-code implementation is absolutely essential. PAPs should be built to easily integrate with existing tools so that you can create experiences that are tailored to users’ needs. 

Some product adoption tools may advertise themselves as a no-code solution, but in reality require some coding knowledge in order to take advantage of advanced features. What you should look for are true no-code tools, in which you can customize everything and get access to all the features offered without writing a single line of code (if you don’t want to).

On-brand styling

Picture this. You’re a user navigating through a product. Suddenly, a modal pops up and suggests some helpful articles for you. But you notice that the modal’s styling looks a bit off from the rest of the app. Or worse, it looks nothing like what’s around it, and you even start to question its validity, or the quality of the product. It can be hugely distracting, or worse yet, off-putting.

This is why being able to achieve native styling within your interface is extremely important. Every product experience you deliver should feel natural, contextual, and seamless. It should blend with the surroundings like a chameleon 😇  

Of course, creating from scratch is tough, which is why PAPs should always be equipped with templates that can form a starting point for designing user experiences.  

Native A/B testing

One of the best things you can do with Product Adoption Platforms is to run in-product experiments. You can set up various points of user engagement in-product and test different versions. 

But how do you know what’s working and what needs to be improved? A common way for continuous improvement of engagement tools is the A/B test. This is where you test two different variations of the same engagement (A and B), and see which performs best. But if the A/B testing feature is not built within the PAP itself, that’s an extra step added to your workflow. 

This is why being able to set up experiments inside the PAP is essential. The PAP you buy should have native A/B testing capabilities, so you can seamlessly and efficiently set up in-app widget variations and learn from the results. 

Deep integrations

The modern tech stack for a product consists of many services. Therefore, it is critical that the PAP is able to integrate with a broad range of other applications, for holistic user understanding and guidance. 

In particular, for Product Adoption Platforms to be fully effective, they should be able to seamlessly integrate with at least the following three types of products.

Product analytics 

When you create in-product experiences and your users start interacting with them, it will create a lot of data points that could be pivotal in making improvements. This is why being able to integrate with product analytics tools is a must. For example, you could integrate Chameleon with Mixpanel, Amplitude, or Heap to analyze Tour performances and get more granular insights. 

You may think, what about product adoption tools that already have an analytics feature of their own? That might seem all good on paper, but in reality,  these platforms are often seen as a jack of all trades, and a master of none. 

A dedicated product analytics platform has much deeper features that enable you to have access to more sophisticated data. You may think that you could be saving money by buying a product that gives you everything, but in the end, you’ll be getting much more value out of your dollar by creating a best-in-class tech stack. 

User feedback 

All great products are built upon a mountain of user feedback, and there is no better place to ask for it than right inside your product. That’s why it’s a massive plus if a PAP can integrate with tools that can prompt users to give feedback. 

Let’s take Chameleon as an example: while offering Microsurveys for you to customize, it also integrates with Typeform.  This enables you to launch surveys and polls directly from product Tours and gather feedback from inside the product while still using Typeform’s powerful form builder.

Customer management

Lastly, in order to take full advantage of a Product Adoption Platform’s ability to engage users, it should connect with CRM tools for customer management and communication.

For instance, Chameleon can pull data from HubSpot’s smart lists, targeting members based on certain criteria. You can also send data from Chameleon Tours back to HubSpot, leveraging insights for growth campaigns. 

Precise targeting of users

Just creating in-app experiences is not enough. In order to truly craft user flows that are contextually adapted, you need to be able to fully control how, where, and when your experiences appear. 

For example, with Chameleon, you can create different audience Segments and configure Environments, through which you can target your experiences to specific groups of domains or subdomains. 

This way, you can control which users see which experiences within the product. It can be really useful if you have several different web pages that cater to different target audiences. 

For example, with Chameleon you can create custom audience segments with a few clicks by pulling data from other integrated tools as shown below.

Targeting users with personalizing onboarding ux

The bottom line

We’ve come to the end of the first part of the Product Adoption Platform Buyer’s Guide. And we’ve covered a lot! Here’s a short overview of the key takeaways on what PAPs are all about and why you should care.

With a product adoption tool your team will be able to:

  • Save time and resources: PAPs can relieve your internal resources by giving product teams agency to create, test, and improve in-product experiences on their own, without relying so much on the engineering team.  

  • Run in-product experiments: A great product adoption software goes beyond giving you the tools to create and analyze in-app experiences. It also gives you the ability to test them until you find the most effective strategy for your product.

  • Facilitate seamless onboarding: First impressions count! Your users will appreciate a frictionless first contact with your app, and be more likely to return.  

  • Decrease churn: Driving new users to their “aha!” moment quickly, helping them understand how your product works, and guiding them directly to the most relevant features, will help you reduce churn rates, especially during the first user’s days within your product. 

  • Manage customer retention: Keeping existing users around can be more profitable than increasing your efforts for acquiring new ones. A great product adoption tool will help you keep users around for the long haul.

  • Reduce support tickets: PAPs let you offer target support and guidance when users need it most, which can have a significant impact on reducing the load of your customer support team.

  • Offer self-serve support: Knowing that more and more users tend to prefer self-serve experiences that give them agency and independence to navigate your product’s learning curve on their own, using a PAP to help them find the most useful resources would be a highly effective way to enable self-service.

Investing into a Product Adoption Platform is a serious but hugely advantageous decision, especially if you are seeking to grow your SaaS business at scale while saving time and resources. In our next article, we’ll cover why buying a PAP is better than building the solution in-house. Stay tuned!

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