User adoption is important across regions and sectors, but how can we optimize end-user uptake and satisfaction? As a growing digital health company in East Africa, we don’t have all the answers, but we have five years of experience to share and we continue learning each month about this dynamic market and sector.

The East African landscape is currently dominated by mobile and relies on Short Messaging Services (SMS) and social media, and these trends are likely to continue. Recent data from StatCounter shows that in Africa mobile devices make up more than 60% of the market share as an affordable, accessible and convenient choice. Desktops follow composing about 37% of the market and are commonly used in offices, schools, universities and computer centers. The remainder is made up of tablets which have a small but growing presence. Also of note, the type of mobile device varies greatly by country and area of country, but smartphones have a growing presence. In mid-April, a study by Jumia Business Intelligence and GSMA Mobile indicated that over 60% of Kenyans have smartphones. Beyond the device, the means of communication is important and led by SMS. The Communication Authority of Kenya reports that there were 15.8 billion SMS messages sent in Kenya in the first quarter of 2017 alone, this averages 35 SMS for every adult and child in the country.

East Africa is quickly evolving, moving from limited information and communications technology (ICT) to expansive growth in infrastructure and innovations. The digital transformation creates enormous opportunities for solutions but also requires nimbleness and foresight. Companies need to not only consider the current user and landscape but also understand how users and the landscape are shifting in order to be relevant through the digital transformation. These dynamics not only influence product development but user adoption.

User adoption should be a fundamental part of the business planning and implementation – considered across product development and sales, support and beyond. Below are five fundamental considerations to improve user adoption.

1. Address a large pain point

Start with the pain point or goal rather than the technology. If a technology doesn’t address and improve a real problem in the market, then no other steps towards adoption will matter. It may be technically impressive or get traction in a niche capacity but products will not scale unless they solve an issue that people care about and want fixed.

“In healthcare, it is particularly important to solve a real problem. There are many areas to innovate and simplify with digital health. Start with the most essential feature that fixes a common issue.” -Mark Achola, Senior Director of Sales & Strategic Partnerships, access.mobile International

2. Build with your end-user in mind

Understand your user and develop your product accordingly. Depending on your business strategy, your target user may deviate from the mass market trends in certain areas. The social and demographic trends of your users should dictate the development of features - consider the language, technology experience, device and platform preference, internet availability, age and job position.

“Understanding the key similarities between your users as well as their potential differences and then developing the product with those in mind will allow for rapid adoption. There are common considerations like language, tech experience, platform, mobile carrier, but what are some that may be unique and relevant for your platform? Do work hours, data plans, or payments timing influence use of your product?” -Cecilia Mwangi, Customer Success Manager, access.mobile International

3. Simplify the product as much as possible

Users need to be able to quickly understand not just the value of the product but how to use it. Even if your solution solves a real problem and is built for your market segment, if it is too complex, uptake and adoption will be slow. Simplicity will drive efficiency and adoption. Each part and new feature should be as intuitive and easy-to-use as possible. Initial training and ongoing support are important, particularly for users who are newer to technology or in complicated fields like healthcare, but with some basic guidance anyone should be able to learn how to use the technology quickly and correctly.

“Usablity is key to adoption. If too much training or intensive ongoing support is needed, a product will not get widespread use. To scale, a product should be simple and intuitive. In the East African market, this is particularly important because the level of tech literacy can vary greatly.” –Tabitha Kamau, User Support Technician, access.mobile International

4. Get feedback from early users

Build on the learnings, feedback and successes of first users. It is invaluable, and even necessary, to have a collaborative relationship with a set of initial users to understand what is not working and where they want something more or different. They are truly the experts of their issue and can provide great insights and suggestions. Checking in on a regular basis will not only improve the product but can build loyalty that will also help them become champions of your product.

“I think it is important for technology solutions to continue to involve users, providing information and training but also seeking feedback and suggestions for improvement. One of the great things about technology, especially cloud-based technology, is the ability to be agile and to evolve. It is great to be part of the evolution of amHealth with access.mobile and especially rewarding when our suggestions are incorporated into the solution.” –Timothy Otieno, Head of Information Services, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya

5. Provide information and incentives

Beyond discussions with your users, feedback loops that consider rewards and incentives or that provide analytics and insight can go a long way to support additional adoption. For example, analytics on usage and real data on improvements demonstrate use and value to you and your users. Users are motivated by real changes that they see from uptake and can even be motivated by besting their own use numbers. This can be done with automation and bot driven technology but tailored to your users in ways that are relevant and motivating to them based on culture, language, and demographics, particularly in the enterprise space.

“Providing information and incentives about usage can improve adoption. It is key to let users know how they are using the platform and where they can get more from the solution." –Cynthia Oile, Public Relations Officer, Le Mémorial Medical Services, Kampala, Uganda

"The benefits of the product should be clear to users. Data analytics help to provide insights into product usage and can be packaged to let hospitals know that they both use your product and could use various features more. It is also critical that this information and the system as a whole are secure and private; people need to be confident that information will not be accessed of shared with unauthorized users.” –Joel Oroni, General Manager, International Medical Centre (IMC), Kampala, Uganda

At access.mobile, we continue to learn and evolve not only our products but the ways we can engage and work with our users and potential users. Please let us know if you have any suggestions or feedback in the comments below, we would like to hear your views.