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Article 7 min read

What is user adoption and how to achieve it

Last updated November 9, 2021

When your organisation decides to implement a new product, software or tool for employees or customers to use, you must get everyone on board. There is little point in purchasing a new system if people are unable or unwilling to use it.

In this blog, we’ll define what user adoption is and how you can develop a user adoption strategy to suit your business and ensure everyone is on the same page.

What is user adoption?

User adoption, or onboarding, is the process of adopting a new product or service and committing to using it. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong!

When a company decides to implement a new solution, it’s usually because it’s better than what they are currently using. However, this often means users won’t know how to use it when compared with a system they have experience in, which can result in resistance.

Your employees or customers will only use the new system you are implementing if it helps them to achieve a goal, better suits their needs or improves their life. It’s therefore clear that before you introduce a new system, you need to manage the change and ensure the software or solution is going to benefit everyone.   

Why is user adoption important?

User adoption is important because it ensures your users are on board with the new product or solution you are implementing. You could invest in the best solution on the market, but if your users don’t use it, it’s not worth the money or time you have invested.

How to drive user adoption

Driving user adoption can be difficult, but there are several user adoption strategies that can be used to ensure buy-in.

Involve key stakeholders as a pilot group from the beginning

If your business is planning on implementing a new CRM solution, for example, the first step in the adoption process would be to include key stakeholders. In this case that might be members of your sales team who are used to working with your current CRM tools.

There are a few reasons why involving stakeholders is a good idea. First, it allows you to learn the challenges or pain points they currently face and understand what solutions would help them. The second is that your key stakeholders will likely become advocates for the new solution, helping to bring others on board when the time comes.

Create excitement around the change

Once you’ve decided on a solution, it’s time to start creating a buzz. There are several things you can do to create excitement about your new product or solution.

You could start by sending a series of emails to your users letting them know what to expect, why you’ve chosen this product and how it’s going to benefit them. It’s important to emphasise the advantages of the new solution in relation to the challenges you learned about earlier.

For example, with CRM implementation you could focus on showing your sales team how quickly data entry can be completed, giving them some time back for selling. You could also host webinars showing how the new solution works or hold Q&A sessions.

Hold training sessions

Training sessions are invaluable. Whether you hold these online with your pilot group or in-person with the solution provider, you should ensure everyone who will be using the product is included.

At Zendesk, we know the value of training and offer multiple options to ensure our customers always get the most out of our customer service solutions.

Using our CRM project example, training is imperative for successful CRM integration. You should ensure your sales team has training on every aspect of the new system, focusing on features that will help them achieve their goals.

Thorough training is key to improving CRM user adoption rates, especially in sales teams. In 2018, a study by CSO Insights found that just 45.7% of companies reported a CRM adoption rate above the desired 90%.

Create user guides

Creating user guides is essential, no matter how many webinars, emails or training sessions you hold.

A user guide should include step-by-step instructions on how to use the new system and who to direct questions to. You should seek the help of users from the pilot group to create the guide, ensuring it’s easy for others to understand.

Launch the solution

You should only launch your solution when you’re 100% certain that any teething problems are in the past. The last thing you want to do is create a tonne of excitement around the launch of a new solution, to have it fall at the first hurdle.

You must carry out extensive testing with your pilot group before the system goes live, acting on any feedback and ensuring all questions have been answered.


Ensuring your users continue using the product after the initial launch is the hardest part of user onboarding and adoption. Your company is continually evolving, which means your new solution will be required to evolve too.

To ensure users continue to use the solution, you’ll need to go back to the beginning of the process – testing, training, creating excitement and ensuring you have buy-in from everyone.

The retention rate of users is equally as important as the product adoption rate. By measuring how many people continue to use the solution, you can see how much value it provides.

Choosing a user adoption strategy to suit your business

Your user adoption strategy will depend on your business archetype. By taking a deep look into how your business is perceived, you can understand your archetype and put a plan in place for driving adoption.

For example, ‘the explorer’ archetype is typically a business that finds fulfilment through discovery. They’re likely to be pioneering and ambitious – think Jeep and Red Bull for example. A business of this type should pitch the new solution in a way that aligns with its key characteristics.

You could showcase the product at a pre-launch event, creating a hype around the solution being different to anything else that your competitors are doing. You would emphasise how it sets you apart and positions you as an innovator in the industry to get people excited about it.

How to measure user adoption

You’ve likely made a significant investment in the new solution, so you must verify this spend by measuring user adoption.

Determine your goal

Before you begin measuring, you should define your goal. Would you like to see every member of your organisation or customer using your new solution? Or are you hoping to see an uptick in sales through the use of a new system?

Define adoption metrics

Defining adoption metrics enables you to effectively measure users against something. Your metrics will depend on factors including the type of solution you’ve implemented and what adoption means to you.

Is it how many team members have opened the new solution once? Or is it the number of users who performed an action – e.g. data entry in CRM or purchasing a product through the new checkout system.

You can find your adoption rate using this formula: (number of users using the new system/total number of employees or customers) x 100.

E.g.: 80 users in a 100-employee organisation are using the new system, so this would be 80% of the business – (80/100=0.8) x 100 = 80%

Measure baseline metrics

Before you can compare new data against your old system, you need to understand your current metrics and how successful (or not) your current solution is. This will act as a ‘before photo’ in essence, allowing you to see the impact that your new system has had.

User adoption is a tricky thing to get right, but if you put the effort in then you can successfully achieve high rates of adoption. So whether you’re implementing a new customer service solution or encouraging customers to use your website in a new way, keep user adoption in mind from the beginning and check back on this guide to ensure you’re doing all the right things.

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