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Feature Adoption: How to Make Your New One Stick

May 21, 2024

14 minute read

New features? Exciting! Getting users to adopt them? Terrifying! We’ve all seen features launched with fanfare, only to fizzle out faster than a candle in a hurricane. That’s why we’ll be taking a closer look at feature adoption, to help you help your users to find and utilize those features you are confident they will love.

First things first, forget about keeping up with the Joneses. Obsessing over what your competitors are doing is a recipe for a feature flop.

The real secret sauce? Your users. I’m talking deep dives into their problems, frustrations, and the awkward gaps in their workflows.

Imagine you’re an anthropologist studying a fascinating (and slightly grumpy) user tribe. Their habits, challenges, and hidden desires are your Rosetta stone, leading you to features that solve real problems, instead of ending up as just more shiny clutter.

How to drive feature adoption

Feature adoption starts at the discovery phase

Getting people to adopt a feature starts long before launch – you lay the groundwork right at the start, in the discovery phase. It’s where you get your feet under you by getting elbow-deep into your users’ problems, pain points, and workflow gaps.

Engage with your users early and often. There’s no point in making something that seems shiny and cool at the time. You need to build something that adds real value to people’s lives.

Validate your assumptions through direct feedback and observation to avoid developing features that miss the mark. Conduct interviews and surveys, and analyze user behavior to pinpoint problems your product can solve in a new or better way than the rest.

With a clear grasp of the problems, get a team together to brainstorm feature ideas with your users in mind. The more diverse your crew the better – including a wide range of skill sets will net you fresh ideas that are both feasible and laser-focused on what users need.

User personas and user story mapping can be a handy way to visualize your user experience and pick out where a new feature could seamlessly integrate into it. 

Understanding your different types of users, and the steps they take to do what they want in your product will help ensure your new features solve real problems and fit naturally into your users’ existing workflows.

Competitive analysis is also really important. Look at how your competitors address similar problems, identify gaps, and find the opportunities they’ve missed. This will help refine your feature ideas – but remember the aim is to outshine them, not just copy their latest successful feature.

De-risk your launches

Nobody wants a feature to land with a thud. That’s where de-risking comes in – it’s like building a safety net for your awesome new feature before you light the fuse on the rocket.

Here’s how to make sure it becomes a user favorite, not a forgotten relic:

Nail your story before you break ground on the code

Take inspiration from Amazon’s “Working Backwards” method, and try writing the press release for your new product before you even start work on it – tell a killer story about what problem it solves and why users will love it. Your putative press release should answer questions like:

  • What problem does this feature solve?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • How does it improve the user experience?
  • What sets it apart from the rest?

If you can’t explain it in a way that’ll make people say “sign me up!”, maybe your idea needs some more work.

Spy on the competition (Shh!)

Before you jump in, check out what your rivals are up to. See what they’re doing well (and not so well) so you can make your feature stand out like a unicorn at a horse race.

Check out what their customers are saying in reviews. See if they have a public roadmap that you could explore. Have a thorough look at their website and help center.

Don’t just steal their ideas, though! Use their strengths and weaknesses to identify gaps in the market. Maybe their feature is clunky and confusing – yours can be smooth and intuitive. Maybe it lacks a key feature – yours can be the whole package.

Talk, talk, talk

Don’t build in a bubble! Talk to your users, your team – basically anyone who might use or be affected by the feature. Get their feedback early and often. It’s like having a built-in focus group before things get serious.

User interviews and surveys are great, but don’t forget your internal team too. Designers, Devs, Marketing, et al. – everyone has a perspective that can help shape the feature.

Test drive before you hit the gas

Don’t unleash a buggy mess on your users. Build a quick and dirty prototype or MVP – think a sketch on a napkin – and see how real people react. This lets you fix any kinks before you invest a ton of time and resources.

A controlled rollout (feature flagging can help here) lets you monitor the feature’s performance and gather feedback from a more manageable group. You can use this feedback to make any necessary adjustments before you commit to a full-scale launch.

Onboarding isn’t just for new products

Launching a feature is like opening a new restaurant – you probably wouldn’t just throw open the doors and hope people know how to order, would you? You’d have a menu and a friendly waiter to explain the dishes and help people pick the perfect combo of options.

Do the same with your feature – make it easy and inviting for users to explore and adopt it. Don’t just drop the feature and expect everyone to figure it out. Use clear messaging, tutorials, and support options to help users understand and embrace your new creation. 

A beta approach to feature adoption

If you feel like you’ve de-risked enough and you can handle the risk, then you might not need a beta. But often beta testing is a great way to understand if the feature will be adopted. If you push it out to a beta group and everyone balks, then you know it probably won’t work when you release it to the wider audience.

Make sure you gather both qualitative and quantitative feedback. See how people interact with the feature, where they struggle, and what they like. Establish a feedback loop –  make necessary adjustments based on the feedback, and communicate those changes back to the people who suggested them. If the feedback is positive, you know you’re on the right track.

How do you measure feature adoption?

Once your new feature is out in the wild, you need to make sure you’ve got the right measures in place to see whether people are actually adopting it. You can’t just press the button and cross your fingers—you need to track how it’s being used.

Event tracking and session replay tools can be incredibly useful to see how people are interacting with your feature. Tools like Mixpanel, Amplitude, and Hotjar let you track specific actions users take, replay sessions to see exactly how they use your feature, and gain insights into their behavior.

Here are some key metrics to track feature adoption:

  • Usage Frequency: Measure how often users engage with the feature. Are they using it daily, weekly, or just once and never again?
  • Task Completion Rates: Check how effective the feature is by seeing how many users successfully complete the intended tasks using the feature.
  • Return Rate: Monitor how often users come back to use the feature again. This helps you understand if the feature has lasting value.

Once you have the usage tracking in place, don’t be blinded by that initial spike when you launch. Sure, it’s exciting, but what you really want to see is sustained usage over time. That’s the pay-dirt.

Make sure the feature becomes part of the fabric of your product, so that people who join later also know about it and use it. Continuous promotion and integration into user onboarding are key to ensuring long-term feature adoption.

By consistently tracking these metrics and keeping a close eye on user behavior, you can understand how well your feature is being adopted and make informed decisions to improve and refine it over time.

product metrics e-book

How do you sustain feature adoption?

People won’t adopt a feature they don’t know about. So, If you never tell people about the feature again, it just fades into the background. Build it into your onboarding emails, train your Customer Success team to talk about it, and integrate it into in-app flows. This way, new users can discover and start using the feature as part of their regular experience.

You also need to make sure that the feature is easily accessible. There’s no point in hiding it behind complicated menus. Make it a prominent part of the user interface, so people can find it easily and start using it right away.

Regularly update the feature based on user feedback. Show your users that you’re committed to improving the feature and making it even more useful. This continuous improvement helps keep the feature relevant and valuable.

Keep an eye on your adoption metrics and if you see usage dropping, consider promoting the feature afresh. Try dedicating a regular section of your customer newsletter to showcasing a ‘feature of the month’ – it gives you the perfect vehicle for reminding your users about this great feature, well after its launch. That’s what we do here at ProdPad!

Continually promoting your features will help you ensure that they don’t just have a brief blaze of glory but become a valuable and regularly used part of your product.

Who is responsible for feature adoption?

Everyone, frankly. Feature adoption is a whole-team effort. You need to get everyone on board to make sure the feature lands and is successfully adopted.

Product Managers

You’re responsible for understanding user problems, defining the feature, integrating it into the product roadmap, and aligning it with the overall strategy. You’re there to coordinate the efforts across all teams to make sure everyone is aligned. But your job doesn’t stop there.

PMs also own the data. They monitor usage, analyze metrics, and measure how well features have been adopted or not. This data is crucial for understanding user behavior, identifying areas for improvement, and ultimately, driving successful product adoption.

Design and UX

Design and UX teams make sure the feature is intuitive and easy to use. They help create the prototype, then conduct usability tests and iterate on their designs based on user feedback. Their goal is to create a seamless user experience that makes the feature easy to pick up and keep using.


Developers are the ones who are going to build the feature, so they’re the best people to tell you if it’s feasible before you start. They ensure it works as intended, and iterate on it based on feedback. They also need to thoroughly test it to catch any bugs and ensure it performs well under various conditions.


Marketing plays a huge role in promoting the feature. They create campaigns to announce the feature, put out content like blog posts and videos to boost its visibility, and use email marketing to inform customers. They also gather and share user testimonials and case studies to build credibility and show off your product’s real-world value beyond all the marketing-speak.

Customer Success and Support

Your Customer teams provide training and support to users. They create FAQs, help guides, and video tutorials and reach out to users who might benefit from the feature. They’re the front line in helping your users understand and adopt the feature.


The Sales team can highlight the feature in their pitches and demos to attract and retain customers. They gather insights from potential and existing customers, helping refine the feature to meet user needs better. If they understand how it compares to the competition, they can use that to bolster their pitches.

Everyone has their part to play in feature adoption. By getting everyone to work together, you’ll ensure the feature meets user needs and is easy to use, which in turn should lead to it being adopted.

Feature adoption is about focusing on user needs, not your competitors

In the race to develop new features, it’s easy to become preoccupied with what the competition is doing. It’s worth saying again: your main focus should be on understanding and solving your users’ problems. Your competitors might be doing some flashy stuff, but if it doesn’t resonate with your users… what’s the point?

Find creative solutions and invest in a fantastic UX. Don’t just build a feature, craft an experience that delights users. Think sleek interfaces, intuitive workflows, and features that feel like magic, not a chore.

Personalization is a big plus here – tailor the experience to individual needs and preferences, and try to make each user feel like your product was built just for them.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone, though. Focus on what you do best and make it unbeatable. A master chef excels in specific dishes, not a mediocre buffet. Identify your core competencies – the areas where your product truly shines. Invest in refining these strengths to create an unparalleled user experience that keeps people coming back for more.

When you focus on users, you’ll build features they love, not features that just… exist. Putting user needs first won’t just differentiate your product in the market, it’ll build long-term loyalty and satisfaction among your users.

A loyal user base will be your biggest cheerleader, spreading the word about your amazing product for you, and propelling it towards continued success.

Don’t let sunk costs sink you

Sometimes, a feature just doesn’t take off. It happens! The key is to recognize when to cut your losses and move on.

Here’s how to handle sunk costs smartly:

  • Evaluate honestly: Look at the feature’s performance. If it’s not being used, dig into why. Is it hard to find? Not solving the problem? Poorly marketed? Be brutally honest about its shortcomings.
  • Iterate or scrap?: If the feature has potential with some tweaks, iterate and improve it. If not, it might be time to let it go. Ask yourself: if you were starting from scratch today, would you build this feature? If the answer is no, it’s probably time to scrap it.
  • Learn and document: Capture what went wrong and what you learned from the experience. Document these insights to avoid similar mistakes in the future. This step is crucial for continuous improvement.
  • Focus on high-impact areas: Redirect resources to features that show promise or are already successful. Prioritize what will deliver the most value to your users and your business. High-impact areas should get the attention and resources that were previously tied up in the sunk cost feature.
  • Communicate clearly: Be transparent with your team and users about the decision. Explain why you’re making the change, how you reached the decision, and how it benefits them in the long run. Clear communication helps maintain trust and keeps everyone aligned.

Sunk costs are a part of the game. Recognize them, learn from them, and move forward with a sharper focus on what really matters. By not letting sunk costs trap you, you can ensure that your efforts and resources are spent on initiatives that provide real value to your users.

Adopting a feature is for life, not just for Christmas

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, did it ever actually fall? And if a feature is launched and no one is around to use it, did you actually launch a feature?

Remember, keep your users at the heart of everything you do, and ditch the copycat mentality. Focus on what makes your product unique and solve the problems that matter most to your users.

Keep an eye on those feature adoption metrics, be ready to pivot if needed, and learn from any bumps along the road. With a data-driven approach and a user-centric mindset, you’ll craft features that solve problems, win hearts, drive engagement, and justify your paycheck!

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