Quantifying User Adoption

Analytics Growth Hacking UX Engineering

The team over at Mixpanel wrote a wonderful article on measuring user adoption.

In the article, Mixpanel defines adoption as the process by which new users become acclimated to a product or service and decide to keep using it.

They suggest that user adoption conforms to this formula:

Adoption = Value / Effort

I think this is a solid start. If users see value in your product, they’re likely to use it as long as the effort of doing so isn’t too high. Too much time, too high a price, or too much confusion will sour the experience and decrease adoption.

But I’d like to suggest a few more nuanced measurements that build on this idea.

We can break up adoption into three discrete stages: acquisition, activation, and retention.

Acquisition = Initial Perceived Value / Effort

Acquisition, or the number of people who will try the product, is based on users’ initial perception of the value a product will drive and the effort required to sign up and start using the product.

In product terms, think of all the first moments when a user encounters your product in the wild: things like ads and email referrals and landing pages. In design terms, acquisition is based on how well these moments match the user’s mental model and how much friction you can reduce.

Activation = Moments of Discrete Value / Time

Activation is the first time users get discrete value from your product. If your product is a social app, a key activation point might be seeing something a friend posted and feeling in the loop. The faster you can deliver those first moments of discrete value, the more likely a user is to activate.

Retention = Ongoing Value / Effort

Retention is all about keeping your users around for the long run. Doing so requires that you deliver value on an ongoing basis.

If your product delivers little ongoing value, you’d better require minimal ongoing effort. But this is a short-sighted approach. Valueless subscription products that auto-renew will eventually be cancelled when users remember they’re paying for them.

Your best bet here is to make sure you provide regular value as frequently as possible. The higher the value and the lower the effort, the better off you’ll be.