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Crack It – Removing Barriers To Product Adoption

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

When you think about your venture and the considerations that apply to the development process, it can be difficult to identify a market opportunity and offer a unique product that is adopted by your target customers, as it makes the leap from early adopters to a wider audience.
The challenge is even greater in developing countries and emerging markets, where entrepreneurship and innovation can be significant drivers of growth. Yet, communities often struggle to adopt new technologies, as the knowledge gap and the lack of trust are some of the substantial barriers to their adoption. In order to reach potential markets, entrepreneurs need to gain insights about the users and uncover the barriers to implementing new products and services in different surroundings. The growth strategy, end-to-end marketing, product or service innovation, and the different aspects of the business model have a central role in creating growth opportunities. These opportunities also rely on external factors such as infrastructure, local policies, and social support. The focus of this article is on product awareness and product development aspects, as a way of connecting with people’s experiences and improving product adoption. These areas can influence the user’s perception of your venture. The technology adoption life cycle model was described by Everett M. Rogers in Diffusion of Innovation (1962) and was later developed by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm (1991) for marketing disruptive high-tech products to mainstream customers. This model defines the adoption of a new product based on the demographic and psychological characteristics of different groups of adopters. Another approach to product adoption was presented by Clayton M. Christensen as the theory of Jobs To Be Done. This theory suggests that in order to understand customers' choices, companies should focus on “what an individual really seeks to accomplish in a given circumstance” and the experience they aspire to have, rather than on customers’ characteristics. Despite the differences in the approaches to innovation acceptance, they all raise questions regarding the potential market, customer segmentation, and the barriers of product adoption.

According to Diffusion of Innovation by Everett M. Rogers, the innovation’s adoption rate is affected by five characteristics based on their evaluation by individuals. We can link a wide range of product adoption barriers or enablers to these characteristics:

Advantage – the innovation’s perceived advantage relative to existing alternatives. The solution should be compelling enough to motivate the users to use it, in light of possible costs.
Compatibility – the innovation’s perceived alignment with the values, needs, and experiences of potential adopters, and the change in behavior required to assimilate the product into one's life. The possible barriers refer to the perceived investment of time and effort, cultural norms, habits, language, environment, availability (e.g. access to the Internet), affordability, and digital inclusion.
Complexity – the degree to which the innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use. Complexity is tied to usability, skills (e.g. digital skills or literacy), and confidence.
Observability – the degree to which the product and the benefits of using it are observed. We can connect observability with the following enablers: familiarity with a new technology, knowledge (learning from others), a positive user experience, and a positive perception of the company.
Trialability (Divisibility) – the degree to which the innovation can be easily experimented with, on a limited basis or in part. Testing a product is an effective way for the user to learn about it and evaluate the benefits compared to the risk involved, without experiencing its full cost.

The innovation’s perceived level of risk is an important factor in adopting a new product, as it refers to the risk of making mistakes, having privacy or safety concerns, the risk of losing autonomy, and paying a cost (time, effort, and money) without receiving value in return. Risk is associated with low levels of trust, low confidence, and uncertainty, which are essentially tied to fear. Reducing risk is possible by increasing product awareness, credibility, and knowledge about the product. These aspects may be affected by the characteristics mentioned above. For example, learning about the innovation by observing or testing it can reassure the user and make the product seem less intimidating or difficult to use.

How to successfully tackle some of the barriers of product adoption

The analysis in this article refers to psychological and emotional aspects, as well as to functional characteristics of the product. We suggest following a structure of three phases in the development process in order to ease the complexity and frame the challenge: Brand Vision, Value Proposition, and User Experience. These phases are interconnected and evolve over time, as you link the customer’s situation to the product side, translating user insights into the brand and product strategies. Crack these challenges and remove some of the barriers to product adoption. This structure may apply both to consumer products (B2C) and to products used by businesses (B2B). To a large extent, your success depends on how your brand and product experience make the users feel, whether the product addresses a problem or a need for the users (delivering value to the customer), and if the users believe that it has an advantage over other solutions, with relatively little risk involved—less uncertainty, more confidence and trust.

Brand Vision The brand vision sets the direction of your company as the expression of its core purpose. It can also form an identity of a reliable brand, and be the first step for your users towards product adoption. Some well-known examples are Nike’s vision “Bring Inspiration And Innovation To Every Athlete In The World”, which is accelerated by the statement “Just Do It”, and TED’s message “Ideas Worth Spreading”. Another example is the company Embrace Innovations with the message “Healthtech with Heart”, which targets the developing world with a portable infant warmer. The structure of the phrase may vary between companies (or they can have several expressions for multiple brands), yet mostly the message is clear, aspirational, inclusive, and it is in some way about the user. In that sense, the brand vision allows you to shed light on the value for the customers, create marketing and product experiences around that purpose, as well as develop new product directions. In addition, reflecting the ideas the company stands for or the social goals it promotes can also resonate with the users’ values, goals, and interests. Other attributes, such as the company’s logo, name, and design, affect the brand salience and complete the identity image. With a purpose-driven and distinct brand, you are able to raise brand awareness, build trust, and reduce uncertainty. The next phases should maintain these efforts.
Value Proposition

In this phase, we focus on the value proposition for the target customers, which is an expansion of the narrative of your vision. The value proposition should accentuate the benefits that you aim to provide to potential users in the context of their limitations, hardships, and preferences. Find a product-market fit with your offering by testing your ideas and forming a solution to the user’s problem or need [you can learn more about the iterative process in The Lean Startup Methodology by Eric Ries]. Building up key insights about the users based on research that combines data insights and a design thinking process (human-centered design, HCD) could lead to innovative solutions both in terms of technology and the business model.

The customer value is demonstrated through product or service availability (in time or place), product qualities, price, usability, brand perception, and human connections. The desirable outcome of the value-creation model is to remove limitations, enable new ways of interacting, and create new possibilities.

Once you articulate a differentiated offering, it is essential to create product awareness and product visibility, and to communicate its benefits to the users in order to overcome the knowledge gap. As you shape the perception of your venture, you should implement the right marketing intervention to drive demand (channels, content, etc.), create a knowledge environment, and convey effective messages to the end-users. Consider the customer segments and the overall go-to-market strategy for targeted messaging and visuals that are aimed at these audiences.

Moreover, you can support the needs of your customers and have a greater effect on their perception by addressing the emotional experiences that are associated with your offering. For instance, when the users face uncertainty in their lives, it is possible to associate the offering with a sense of security or to emphasize control over a process that inspires the users to solve their challenges. The role of the emotional aspects in product development is referred to next.

Product adoption evolves from awareness of the innovation to consideration and eventually to action. Increasing awareness of a new product or a new technology and communicating its value to the customer can increase its adoption over time and benefit individuals and their communities.

Product Adoption Through User Experience Your product or service and the technology it uses realize your vision, and this is how the value proposition is narrowed down to the user’s experience. Enable the user to utilize the benefits of the innovation by removing the barriers to a seamless and intuitive experience. Both a digital and a physical product need to have a clear hierarchy of icons and indicators, as well as a connection between the design and the function it serves. By focusing on the user’s touchpoints with the product, from its discovery to usability aspects, it is possible to identify the barriers in the product adoption process and attain an experience that is complementary to the user’s decisions and actions. In order to tackle the skill-gap barrier and low confidence, it is important to provide adequate training and support as a way of reducing complexity for the user and improving product assimilation with current practices and behaviors. Training and support are particularly valuable for those who lack the social support for acquiring new skills or have lower literacy levels.
Consider the constraints of the target audience and the way the product or service can be accessible, affordable, and adaptable to different conditions in order to meet these constraints with your value proposition. This may include designing a portable product (which can make it cost-effective), creating an inclusive design by choice of visuals and product features, and making a service available in multiple languages (local to your audience) or suitable for mobile payments. This kind of intervention can be found in the healthcare industry with portable medical equipment, or when companies design digital tools for mobile devices in various fields, such as agriculture, finance, and education. Successful implementation of the solution depends on delivering value to the customer through a design of a reliable, efficient, and user-friendly product experience that builds confidence and reduces risk for the user.

Not only this, but enhancing the customer experience could lead to increased engagement and habit formation around your product. You may want to provide behavioral support in the form of feedback, incentives or rewards, or to leverage the functionality, the qualities, and the user interactions that are unique to your product. From a strategic point of view, find the functional and visual expressions of the sources of customer value, the main characteristics, and the messages of your brand. Regardless of the experiences provided (digital or physical), the ultimate goal is to design fulfilling, meaningful, and personalized interactions with the user in order to obtain long-term customer retention. Having a wide perspective throughout the development process on the product’s role for the user, both the emotional and the functional aspects, can achieve the desired user experience. Such a role can be changing something in our beliefs and helping us thrive, achieve more, and reach our full potential. This is similar to a healthy relationship with another person that inspires us and makes us feel empowered. This analogy underlines the connection with the user, which can pave the way to product adoption. You may choose to emphasize other approaches based on user insights. Translate your approach into actionable directions, depending on the product or service, for example: • Empower the users with personalized and credible information, allowing them to make informed decisions that save time, effort, and money. • Instruct the end users by using different methods to illuminate information (such as online learning programs). • Allow the user to modify a service according to their preferences. It is interesting to observe customization as a process of choices that the user applies in various resolutions to get from one situation to another, often to achieve a certain result.
In conclusion
Exploring the users’ pain points and the obstacles to product adoption is valuable for the development process and for your ability to support the users in achieving their goals. Adoption of the solution can lead to a change in the human experience, as well as having a far-reaching effect on attracting potential users through viral marketing, network effects (when the value for one user increases with more participants), and setting an example for other users. One way to attract new customers is by spreading the word about your innovation. If applicable, illustrate the impact through inspirational user stories that show a user’s problem and how your solution met their needs. Additionally, word of mouth that is shared by users to other people based on their experience of the product can be an effective way to reach more people, as they may find the advice trustworthy. Another way to optimize growth is by designing for shareability in various ways, such as in-product referrals or features for sharing on social media. This will allow existing users to draw in new customers and cultivate a sense of community. However, shareability may be limited by users’ possible insecurities or privacy and safety concerns, despite their desire to be socially engaged. The demonstrated value to customers and a positive user experience build product awareness and reinforce customers’ trust; two aspects that are especially important at the initial stages of expanding the customer base. There are several means to track the product adoption process, such as conversion rate and other user activity indicators, user feedback, retention, and measurable outcomes for the user. As you define the objectives and create your story of innovation, think about the ways to tackle the barriers of product adoption and redesign the adoption experience for your users.

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