Product Adoption Platforms: Your Business Case for Building or Buying

Product Adoption Platforms: Your Business Case for Building or Buying

When it comes to product adoption platforms, should you build or buy? What sort of business goals can you achieve with them? What use cases are there? We answer all of it.

Jinwoo Park
22 min read
Product Adoption Platforms: Your Business Case for Building or Buying

Welcome to Part 2 of our  Product Adoption Platforms Buyer’s Guide. Have you read Part 1? Make sure you do before getting on to this part! 🤓

So far in this guide, we’ve defined what Product Adoption Platforms (PAPs), or otherwise known as Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) are, outlined some of the key features you should look out for, and highlighted the main benefits your team can gain by using such tools as part of your tech stack.

In this part, we'll start going over the use cases that would justify buying or implementing a PAP. But first, we'll take a step back to evaluate whether you should consider build over buy in this context. Let's get to it.

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TL;DR
  • How can you define if you need a product adoption platform in your tech stack? We'll give you a framework to evaluate the problem that needs solving, the resources available to do that, and how much the solutions can cost your team.

  • To build or to buy? That is the question that we'll help you answer by going through the pros and cons of each option so you can make a well-informed decision.

  • Besides increasing product adoption, what other goals can you achieve with product adoption software? From improving customer service to reducing churn, we'll show you the value a PAP can add to your product.

  • The use cases are plenty! We'll go through 9 main use cases for buying a digital adoption platform, like increasing user activation and announcing product updates with ease.

Mapping out the need for a product adoption software #

Before we get to the pros and cons of build vs. buy dilemma, let's define your need for a PAP and how you're going to make use of it (and get your ROI). There are a series of questions that you and your team should consider before starting the building or buying journeys, and we can group them into three categories of evaluation: the problem, the resources, and the costs

Problem: What are you trying to solve? #

Us SaaS folks are well familiar with the infamous problem. We attract customers by proposing to solve a specific problem they have. When we become potential customers ourselves, the tables turn. 

What problem do YOU need to solve and does it justify investing in buying new software or building it in-house?

At this stage, you should develop an understanding of the problem your team is trying to overcome, the level of urgency, and the goals you want to achieve.

Questions to ask at this stage:
  • Why do you need new software?

  • What are you trying to solve?

  • What are your goals?

  • What do your users need?

  • How urgent is this?

Resources: Can you handle the scope of the project? #

After you’ve clearly defined your problem and the conditions to solve it, you can analyze whether you have the correct resources to make that happen. This is when you consider key factors like time, budget, team, and scope.

Questions to ask at this stage:
  • How much time do you have?

  • What is your budget?

  • What is your current people-power to handle this new project?

  • Is the product team ready for it?

  • Do the engineers have the right skills and enough time to dedicate to the project?

  • Would you need to hire external support, like freelance engineers?

Costs: How much will the project actually cost? #

Understanding the costs of both building and buying software doesn’t only paint a picture of your expenses, but also of your earnings. One of the most important actions to take at this stage is to estimate your expected ROI from either option.

For both of the solutions, list all the items, issues, resources, processes, and anything else that might have a price tag attached to it.

Questions to ask at this stage:
  • How much will the project actually cost?

  • Are there any hidden costs?

  • Is it within your budget?

  • What is the expected ROI of each option?

  • When can you expect to see the ROI?

Answering these questions isn't a one-person job. While there might be one person, likely a Product Manager, owning the decision-making process of building or buying a product adoption tool, several teams should be involved in identifying the problem, rounding up the resources, and estimating the costs. 

If you want to actually crunch the numbers and see if it makes more sense to build or buy, here is a simple build vs buy calculator you can try out.

Once a decision on the build vs. buy conundrum is made, the person who owns the project can spearhead the rest of the process. If you're building, that person might be a project or product manager. If you're buying, it's best to be led by the person or team who will use the software.

Pros & Cons: Weighing out Build vs. Buy options for product adoption platforms #

Now let's get to the pros and cons of both building and buying. By now, after getting through the previous stage where you were answering all those questions, you probably already have some light as to which path makes the most sense for your team. Nonetheless, let's get into the details of what you can gain and lose in either option.

Build a product adoption software  in-house: Pros and Cons #

Building is a great solution if the product adoption solution you're developing fits the context of your company and can create revenue that will justify the expenses. 

Overall, building tends to be a more costly and time-consuming option, but if the tool you're building to use in-house has the potential to become a product or service you can also offer your customers, it can be a valuable endeavor.

Pros:

  • You’ll have a custom-built platform that fits exactly your team's and product’s needs

  • Product adoption can be a complex problem, and building your own solution can solve it efficiently if you already have a tested and approved strategy for tackling it

  • The built-in-house tool can fit the context of your business and become part of your capital, aggregating value to the company

  • You have full control over the solution and can have a better handle of change

Cons: 

  • Can take a lot of time and dev resources to build a brand new software. If you consider building, plan a long roadmap for getting it together.

  • Can be a costly solution, especially if you need to hire new people for the execution and maintenance of the software.

  • Can go over the initial budget as costs can be unpredictable and are subject to non-anticipated delays.

  • Can have additional maintenance costs over time, so you will still have a recurring expense even if the development has already been paid in full.

Buy a dedicated product adoption software: Pros and Cons #

Buying tends to be the go-to option for teams who have a lack of engineering resources, tighter timelines, or simply don’t want to start such a big project in-house. 

If you are looking for an efficient way to allocate your resources to a straightforward solution, buying may be the best solution for you. You’ll still be able to test out different products until you find one that fits your team's exact needs but without the burden of it falling into your pocket and straining your resources.

Pros:

  • Easy setup that needs minimal engineering support. Some product adoption software can be installed with a single code snippet and a Chrome extension, like Chameleon 😉 

  • Quick results that can show ROI in a few weeks and can be tracked in real-time through reports or built-in dashboards, which brings the added bonus of being able to respond to results instantly and improve your strategy as you go.

  • Try before you buy. A  free trial period, if well-taken advantage of, can be enough to determine whether the software works for your team or not.

  • No dev time is needed to keep the software running and in use. This means that your product, marketing, Sales, CS, and other teams can use software independently, easily adjusting it to their needs and goals. 

  • No coding skills are required as product adoption platforms let you create in-product UX flows intuitively with point-and-click selection and real-time editing.

  • Integrates with your tech stack to expand the functionality, allowing you to target users more precisely, analyze the performance, and execute your product adoption strategy more effectively. A tool that integrates well with your growth stack – customer data platforms, analytics tools, CRM, etc. – will improve the ROI of the other products you use as well.

Try our no-code builder for in-product experiences

Save time and money by building user experiences all without any dev resources required.

Cons:

  • Can take time to evaluate existing solutions: If you want to solve a common issue, there are likely many existing solutions out there. Look for the ones with a dedicated focus on your purpose. 

  • Might need additional installment and integrations: If there’s a mismatch between a new solution and existing software you’re using, you might need additional integrations. Make sure to understand how deep integrations are at the offer and how those can benefit your purpose. 

  • The buying journey can take longer than expected: The process of evaluation and purchase of a B2B SaaS solution doesn’t happen overnight. It typically takes a few months, but it can take longer depending on how specific your use case is.

Quick tip if you're buying:

Keep leadership and key stakeholders aware of your decision-making process and clearly explain why you’ve made a decision to purchase a particular tool. A non-approval at the end of an entire process can set you back months.

 

Your Business Case for Buying a product adoption platform #

Once you’ve decided that buying a dedicated software is the way to go, you now have to consider what your business case will be in order to justify investment into a product adoption tool.

The overarching goal of investing in a PAP for a SaaS product is to drive product-led growth (PLG). Because the main function of a PAP is to add a layer of in-app messages and in-product experiences over your existing product. This would streamline the user flow, which could then drive more conversions or higher retention rates. 

In this section, we’ll take a look at what business goals you could achieve more easily with a Product Adoption Platform, and what primary use cases could serve those goals. 

Business goals you can achieve with a product adoption platform #

Broadly speaking, we can identify four primary business goals that PAPs can help you address. Let’s go over them in more detail. 

Goal #1: Increasing product adoption  #

Adopting new software products – and new features in a familiar product – requires making a change in user behavior. Conventionally, this is better known as digital adoption.

The problem with a digital adoption platform is that it's a catch-all for a range of technology adoption platforms. A digital adoption solution may be The best digital adoption platform may not be the best product adoption platform.

But what we want to talk about is more than employee onboarding or digital transformation of an organization. We want to talk about the end user adoption of a SaaS product.

With a product adoption platform, your team can easily adjust the timing and placement of in-app messages to score higher adoption rates. This way, you’ll help users quickly find value in your product, implement it into their workflow, and start using it actively. 

Product adoption may sound like a vague concept, but it's actually a very specific stage of a user journey. 

This journey includes five stages:

  1. Awareness: A prospective customer knows your product exists

  2. Interest: The prospective customer goes in search of more information

  3. Evaluation: The prospective customer evaluates your product against the alternatives

  4. Trial: The prospective customer starts using your product for a short amount of time or in a limited capacity

  5. Adoption: The prospective customer makes a decision whether to make a mental (and financial) investment in your product

Note: Adoption isn't a guaranteed outcome. The flip side of it is Rejection, which results in the prospective customer abandoning your product, choosing a competitor’s product, or realizing that they don’t need such a tool after all. 

In other words, all of the money you put into raising awareness and hand-holding leads through the trial process can easily go to waste if the user doesn't end up making the mental shift required to adopt your product. To be in control, you need to manage that mental shift for them.

💡 Curious how to draw insights and parallels from the change management field of study? Read all about in our article on 10 key principles of change management applied to product adoption.

Goal #2: Improving customer support #

Having excellent customer support is key to any SaaS product trying to grow their customer base. Untimely responses and disjointed support causes user productivity and success to suffer, and when users are not satisfied with the experience, they are at risk of leaving.

Product adoption software can bridge this gap in two ways. One is by providing an excellent onboarding process, they can equip new users with all the knowledge they need.

Second, with a product adoption platform you can set up self-serve support to provide information instantly when the user needs it all inside the app. This also reduces the amount of support tickets generated, which relieves the pressure on your support team.

Goal #3: Driving growth through conversion #

Growth is essential for SaaS companies. And growth happens when revenue increases either by turning more prospects into paying customers or having existing customers pay more for additional services.

As mentioned above, a product adoption tool can help you achieve this by nudging users toward conversion-related behaviors. This can consist of active prompts toward the user, such as asking active free trial users to see if they’re ready to transition to a paid plan, or if existing users are prepared to upgrade to a higher plan. 

Or, to put it simply, a PAP could improve user experience so much that the user will quickly grasp the product value and be happy to pay for it. 

Goal #4: Reducing customer churn  #

Even if you have a stellar number of active users, if people are constantly leaving your product and canceling their plans, you will have trouble growing your revenue. 

Churn can be fatal to a company, and the best way to combat churn is to make sure that the customer doesn’t want to leave in the first place. 

Creating amazing in-product experiences via a PAP can help you effectively address churn and increase retention rates, as well as customer lifetime value. 

Goal #5: Collecting better user feedback #

If you’ve ever tried to solicit your customers for feedback, you know the struggle. Many times you are met with dismal response rates, and when you do get answers, quite a number of them are not very actionable. 

This is why in-product feedback is important. With a product adoption platform, you can ask for quick responses such as NPS or CES scores. Or you can ask how the user is enjoying a feature right as the feature is being experienced.

So if you’re looking for a better way to collect user feedback, a product adoption platform could be the solution to get contextual feedback with a much better response rate than other conventional forms of surveys. 

9 key use cases of product adoption platforms #

Now that we have looked at what sort of business goals PAPs can fulfill, let’s examine the use cases that can lead to achieving those goals. Here, we’ll be looking at nine  most common use cases across the board. 

Use case #1: Increase user activation through user onboarding #

The first and foremost thing that could help you convert more users is quickly leading them to their ‘aha!’ moment, where they first recognize and internalize the value provided by the product. 

For this, you need to drive user activation, in which new users are ‘activated’ via a specific series of steps and events to be completed. In other words, they need a great user onboarding experience. Activated users are more likely to discover value within the product, and that means they’re more prone to sign up for paid plans. 

PAPs excel at creating great user onboarding experiences. With a combination of versatile in-app widgets and tools, you can guide users in a series of nudges and drive user activation.

User activation best practices: 

  • Make your experience look native. A modal or a Tooltip that looks completely off from your brand can snap your user out of the immersion. 

  • Target who sees the onboarding experience. If someone has already viewed it, that person might not be interested in seeing it again.  

  • Keep it short. Our Benchmark Report suggests that 3-step tours have the best completion rate. 

  • Use images or videos when you can. Visual instructions are much more engaging and easier to understand. 

  • Make the product adoption experience optional. Some users may want to just explore on their own. Let them.

Example: DataCamp

Here is a great onboarding example with DataCamp. First, it introduces the user to the tutorial, but it allows the user to easily skip it.

Afterwards, the user onboarding experience continues to highlight different aspects of the UI, clearly outlining what the user can do.

If you want to check out the full DataCamp onboarding experience, view it in our inspiration page

Use case #2: Optimize free trial conversions #

The best way to convert free trial users is to have an excellent user onboarding experience that convinces them that they need your product to get their jobs done.. 

However, there are always ways to improve trial conversion. This could be in the form of in-app messaging that reminds users to upgrade when they try to access certain premium features. Or it can be a notification that their free trial is expiring. 

Free trial conversion best practices: 

  • Give a gentle nudge when it’s appropriate. For example, you can give a reminder that their free trial is expiring soon.

  • Make it unintrusive. If it’s too in your face or unavoidable, it will be unpleasant for the user.

  • Find opportunities to remind the user of the value they may be missing out.  

  • Target the messaging to users most likely to convert. For instance, try to find users who have already gone through the onboarding process but have not converted yet.

Example: Zenefits 

Here is a nice example from Zenefits. It’s a bottom banner that is reminding the user that their trial is ending. It’s eye-catching, but at the same time also doesn’t interfere with the user experience. It’s a simple, straightforward nudge. 

(Source)

Use case #3: Identify upsell opportunities #

Upsell is an essential part of continuously driving growth. It’s the process of convincing an existing customer to invest even more into your product. 

For example, if a customer is on a starter plan, maybe you can convince them to upgrade to the plan above. If a customer is on the free plan, maybe you can motivate them to move to any of the paid plans available. 

You might think that these are users who have already found their ‘aha!’ moment. After all, they are successfully using your product. But with a PAP, you can build experiences on top of your product to subtly nudge users to go even further. 

These nudges could be in the form of: a modal that pops up when your user has reached the maximum usage with their plan, a tooltip that lets users know a certain premium add-on can benefit them, or anything else that fits your product.

Upsell best practices:

  • Your upsell attempts should be targeted. This means that your upsell prompts should only be shown to people who have met certain criteria. 

  • Your upsell attempts should not be too frequently shown because it will become very annoying to users.  

Example: Asana

Here, Asana launches a modal when a user clicks on a feature that isn’t available in their current plan. It clearly outlines the value that the user would get if they go through the upsell. Clean and concise, highlighting key features efficiently.

(Source

Use case #4: Announce product updates #

Let’s say you have a new feature as part of your latest update. You’ve been developing it for a long time. You proudly launch it with a campaign that floods your content channels, be it social media, your website, your email list, or your blog. But usage ends up being low. This is because most of the time, companies try to announce their feature updates outside of their product. 

On the contrary, communications about new features or changes to the product should be done in-app, because that’s where the users already are. Context and proximity matter when it involves trying to nudge your users toward adopting a new feature. 

This isn’t just limited to feature updates. If you have a big design change, and you want to notify people about that to avoid any confusion, it’s better to do it within the product. 

This is where PAPs can come in handy. Use them to creat in-app experiences such as modals and notifications to show the changes you’ve made. This way, you’re more likely to prompt the user to try a new feature because it would be a relevant and contextual message for them as they are already inside the app.  

Product updates can be in a form of: 

  • Modals that announce what changes have been made 

  • In-app widgets that list the changes in the latest release

  • Tooltips that let users know a certain feature has been changed 

  • Banners or slide-outs that announce the change

In fact, with a product adoption tool, , you can easily replace long-form release notes with concise in-product notifications regarding new releases and product updates. 

Product updates best practices: 

  • Make them clear and concise. Deliver the message as efficiently as you can to the user.

  • Don’t lead the user outside of the app. Context is everything. If the update is within the product, then it's more likely that the user will try out the updated feature.

  • Make the in-app message unobtrusive but visible. The product update shouldn't be something that prevents a smooth user experience.

  • Try not to show it again once the user has seen it. Configure your settings so that a user does not see the same update twice or more.

Example: Stripe

With a simple modal, Stripe has outlined the most important features in this particular release, just as the user enters into the dashboard. It is relevant, it tells the user exactly what to expect, and it’s contextual enough that the user can immediately start using the new product knowledge as it is fresh in their minds. 

(Source)

Use case #5: Offer self-serve support #

Providing excellent customer support is an essential part of creating a successful SaaS product. But there are a few issues with how support is done across the board. 

The first problem is that human-driven support is often not available 24/7. It is very costly to have the support team work around the clock. 

Second, timing and context are less than ideal in conventional support settings. Usually, support tickets are submitted outside of the product, by which time the user has moved away from the context under which they needed the support. 

Instead, by having the help accessible in-product, users can get the information when they need it, all without a support ticket ever being generated. This can be in the form of a widget that contains all the resources a user would need. 

Self-serve support best practices:

  • Keep everything in-product. Your users likely want their problem solved right away as they are experiencing it. So don’t try to shuttle them off to an external page. Try to lead them to a solution in-app, so that there’s no back and forth. 

  • Style it on-brand. Make sure that the help center and in-line help you offer actually look like it’s a part of your product, not an external tool. 

  • Target the right audience. Create custom user segments to provide the right type of help to the right users, exactly when and where they need it.

Example: Figma 

Here, Figma’s widget has everything you need for all-around self-service support. It even directs people to contact support in case your answer isn’t there. The widget is styled so that it looks native to the website, while being unintrusive to the user experience. 

(Source)

Use case #6: Collect contextual product feedback  #

You can’t fix what you don’t know, which is why – in order to drive continuous improvement – you need product feedback that accurately reflects how your users feel about your solution. 

The problem is that getting product feedback that is as relevant as possible to the actual user experience is tough. Surveys are usually sent outside of the product setting which results in lower response rates and less accurate user feedback overall. 

Not only that, it’s also quite difficult to get responses in the first place. Surveys often come across as extra work we don’t really want to engage with. 

With a PAP, however, you can create in-app surveys that are bite-sized and easy to undertake. They are also contextual because the survey is being given as the user is navigating through the app. It is no wonder that in-product surveys have double the response rate as email. 

Product feedback best practices:

  • Don’t overwhelm the user. Don’t show more than one survey to a user at the same time. 

  • Thank the customer for their time and for helping you with their feedback once the survey is done. A little gratitude goes a long way. 

  • Keep it short. Our latest Benchmark Report indicates that a perfect Microsurvey includes 10 words. 

  • Make it easy-to-complete. For feedback that only requires quick answers like NPS or CSAT, use a multiple-button survey. For more elaborate feedback, present a dropdown or freeform input.

Example: YouTube 

Here is a quick CSAT survey example from YouTube. It is in-product, very easy to take, and simple to understand. 

(Source)

Use case #7: Increase feature adoption  #

If you have a particular feature that users are overlooking or just not catching onto it,  user experience around that feature may not be good as you think it is. Maybe it’s not clear enough from the user onboarding flow that the feature is there, or perhaps users just don’t understand the value that comes with it. 

Whatever it is, with a PAP you can nudge users toward the undiscovered or underused features to increase adoption rates. For instance, you can add tooltips to the user flow in order to highlight certain features, communicate their value to the user, and prompt usage. 

Feature adoption best practices: 

  • Motivate users to act. Don’t just talk about how a certain feature does something. Instead, try to show the value of the feature by how it benefits the user. 

  • Keep it short and sweet. This is not a manual booklet. Everything you have to say should fit in a few sentences. Otherwise, it becomes more of a nuisance than help.

  • Don’t state the obvious. Be truly helpful by providing new information and addressing any questions your user might have. 

Example: Mixpanel

Here, Mixpanel nudges the user by setting a clear starting point. It reduces confusion, and clearly directs the user toward action. 

(Source)

Use case #8: Send in-product notifications  #

It’s always best to keep your customers in the loop with all product changes and updates. Maybe your software migrated and you need to let users know how it is going to affect them. Or there could be a company related change that you’d like to share, such as feature announcements.

This could be in the form of banners on the top or the bottom. Or it could be a modal that pops up when the user loads the app. With a PAP, you can easily deliver an in-product notification that informs the user without disrupting their in-app experience. 

In-product notifications best practices:

  • Try to keep notifications simple and concise. Nobody wants to read an essay in a modal or a banner. 

  • Don’t send the user to another location. Try to fit all your communication within the notification itself. 

Example: Segment

Here, Segment uses a banner to notify the user that they have moved their app to a new location. All the important bits are included, and the user doesn’t have to travel to another page to learn about the change. 

(Source)

Use case #9: Create cancellation flows  #

As important as it is to create onboarding flows that delight, same goes for cancellation. All products dread users cancelling. However, even if your users decide that they need to cancel their subscription, not all is lost. 

Cancellation offers you a unique opportunity to engage with that user for one last time and gain insights into why the user is leaving. As such, creating a well-formed cancellation flow can be very beneficial.

With a PAP, you can easily add user experience elements to enhance the flow like modals to remind them of the benefits they would be losing. You can load modals to remind them that they’d be losing all the benefits of their current plan, or a Microsurvey to get user feedback. 

Cancellation flows best practices:

  • Remind the user of the value they would be letting go. Sometimes a user could simply be forgetting just how much value they're getting. Give a gentle but clear nod toward it.

  • Ask for customer feedback before they leave and try to learn why they are churning. Every time a user cancels is an opportunity for learning.  

  • Make it easy for them to flow toward cancellation if they wish. Don’t hold them hostage.  

Example: Zoom

Zoom’s cancellation flow involves a modal in which a user can see what exactly they could lose by canceling. In this example, it says the user has 475 cloud recordings that they won’t have access to anymore. It’s clear and concise. But Zoom also doesn’t try to back the user into a corner by holding those recordings hostage. It gives them an option to download them. 

(Source)

In conclusion: a product adoption platform is super versatile  #

The use cases above are by no means an exhaustive list. A product adoption platform can be applied very flexibly and they can address dozens of different use cases that you may require, ranging widely from user onboarding, feature adoption, user feedback and more. 

To recap here's a quick checklist of goals that fit investing into a product adoption platform:

  • Increasing product adoption

  • Improving customer support

  • Decreasing customer churn

  • Driving growth through conversion

Of course, this can also vary depending on what platform you invest in. Different PAPs offer different solutions – look for the platform that best fits your business and product needs. The deeper the functionalities and features, the more possibilities in use cases you will have.

When it comes to building or buying a product adoption solution, consider what resources you have available, and what use cases you want to fulfill. A PAP is a powerful tool, but without direction it’s just an expensive toy. Think carefully about what your needs and goals are and whether a PAP will suit them. 

And if you’re wondering whether Chameleon can be the best PAP solution for you, don’t hesitate to book a personalized demo call with one of our product experts to understand how exactly Chameleon can fit into your tech stack. 

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