Genentech asked us:

Why are the adoption rates of our app so low? What are the usability issues and how can we track metrics moving forward?

We answered:

Leading biotech company, Genentech, wanted to improve adoption rates of their app intended for tablet use to enhance efficiency of its field-based Clinical Specialists and increase engagement with health care professionals (HCPs) to increase revenue. The company’s goals were to:

  • Determine why app adoption rates were low
  • Identify usability issues, opportunities to improve, and recommend solutions
  • Establish benchmark metrics and track progress over time

To gain a deeper understanding, AnswerLab utilized:

  • ethnography research methods to observe barriers to usage in the field
  • in-depth interviews to delve into usability questions surfaced in the ethnography
  • quantitative surveys to validate qualitative findings and establish benchmarks

The team sought to get real-world user insights, capture the full-range of health care practitioner interactions, and identify training opportunities for clinical specialists. During the interviews, the researchers would look for how and when the clinical specialists were using the app content.

Because of the variability in the length of the interactions with the health care providers – which could be as little as two minutes or as many as 30 minutes – and the variability of the information provided in the app, the ethnographic approach was recommended.

AnswerLab’s UX researchers went on field rides with 12 clinical specialists throughout a day of visits with more than 50 health care providers.

The research revealed that a combination of technical issues, poor navigation, lack of sharing capabilities, and a steep learning curve prevented app adoption.


AnswerLab increased clinical specialists’ adoption of the app and frequency of use for improved sales efficiency. This significantly decreased clinical specialists’ reliance on print materials to reduce costs and increased engagement with health care professionals during field visits.

We also developed a defined approach for all future app development across the organization and put in baseline measures to evaluate all new apps across the organization that demonstrated how teams use technology.

Research with AnswerLab empowered the Genentech team to:

  • apply insights to prioritize app upgrades
  • evaluate intuitive navigation, app utility and overall user comfort 

The combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods throughout this research program gave the Genentech team the confidence to know they were focusing on the core areas to improve app usability that persisted across all brands, as well as the detailed reasons why and how to address intuitive app navigation.

Featured in Quirk's Marketing Research Review: How research helped Genentech improve its app-based sales-detailing tool (full article)

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