June 22nd 2020
Life long student of technology. Heads pre-sales & Product Management at an IOT Startup for a living
When someone asks me about how to make a product stand out and what could be one of the key product differentiators.
I always tell them to stop looking at the product, wearing the lens of the one who has created/developed it. Instead, try wearing the lens of its user and customer to determine why he/she is willing to use it.
Product Experience can be one of the key product differentiators. In my experience, Product Experience is a combination of customer journey and customer engagement. The best way to improve Product Experience is to simplify journeys and build emotion-based engagement for the product from a customer perspective.
Let me elaborate them for you
One of the best ways of improving product experience is simplifying customer journeys across the lifecycle of the product
What is a customer journey?
It is a story of a customer’s experience of how he /she engages with the product. This includes multiple facets of the journey like how the customer discovers the product, how they are onboarded, and finally how they use to product to derive maximum value.
The experience of discovering the product and the ways of delivering it rests on how well the product is marketed. But the experience of onboarding (installation, registration etc.) and product usage falls on the product design & engineering team on how well this part of the journey has been visualised and laid out.
How do you improve customer Journey?
One of the best ways of improving a product is not adding new features but ensuring that the product delivers “more for less”. The product can deliver more value to the customer by improving and simplifying the various facets part of the customer’s journey.
For instance, you can provide value to your customer by reducing the number of steps involved in achieving the end state/objective by using the right and optimal set of features. This will assure your customer always uses your product (ensures retention) as it helps them save time (better value). There will be other features, that add different perspectives like insights and analytics on usage, but the core features of the product should be in line with the product’s vision.
Let’s look at a simple example of the food ordering experience on Swiggy and Zomato. Both of these are India based food delivery companies
Disclaimer: I am just comparing the core features of Swiggy and Zomato based on my experience only. I have nothing to gain from Swiggy or have anything against Zomato
I always found Swiggy’s approach to ordering food to be a very simple customer journey than that of Zomato’s. Swiggy’s simple design ensures the core process of ordering food is achieved in a few clicks. This is achievable right from the home page, making it easier even for a new user to get started.On Zomato, the multiple tabs that you see on its home page can be very confusing even to a new user. I understand Zomato does more than food ordering, but the core experience of ordering food is rather complex
In the current COVID crisis, the way both Swiggy and Zomato have changed their business modalities is commendable.
But, Swiggy has ensured that people don’t forget that it is a food ordering app that also delivers groceries. I found, the interface of Zomato a bit confusing, as it conveys too much of information as against keeping
Now if you are a new user, you will find it difficult to understand what is Zomato trying to do. This results in poor product experience. You may even end up uninstalling it or would not know that Zomato can also be used for ordering food.
Hence simplifying customer journeys is critical for better Product Experience. Once you simplify your customer journey, the next step to improving product experience is making the customer come back for more through better customer engagement
Customer engagement is the other critical aspect of improving product experience. Improved customer engagement is one of the outcomes of great product experience.
What exactly is customer engagement?
A simplified definition of customer engagement helps establish that emotional connection between the product and its customers. This makes them use the product, engage with the product, which ultimately leads to building an inseparable bond between the product and its users
How do you improve customer engagement?
One of the best ways of improving customer engagement is to get that emotional connection or tug going with the customer. These can be achieved through various strategies like:
- Involving the top customers for improving the product and product trials. This gives them a sense of purpose, making them more involved with the product. This helps to reduce customer churn and improve customer retention
- Relevant personalisation including recommendations of content for each customer, makes them feel exclusive. This makes the customer use the product more thereby increasing average revenue by the customer. For example, the extent of personalisation and recommendations provided by Amazon is so effective that over 35% of Amazon’s sales came from recommendations as per McKinsey in 2017.
- Sharing the customer’s success stories, will make them feel relevant and help increase their engagement with the product. For instance, the trending feature in Linkedin, wherein if your post has higher levels of engagement it will start trending in your network.
There are many strategies like these. But the best way of getting all of these together is by using a technique called Gamification.
Improving product experience using Gamification
According to Wikipedia,
Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts and scenarios.
By using the game-design elements as part of user engagement its easier to develop an emotional bond while the user is achieving their goals using the product. This has a significant impact on product experience.
One of my go-to frameworks in gamification is the Octalysis framework developed by Yu-Kai Chou. It is based on human-centred design driven by 8 core drives/principles of human nature.
These 8 core drives can help improve customer engagement through a combination of emotions that appeal at various levels, while some of them are good for long term engagement and some for short term engagement
The core drives mentioned on the left can help build the engagement from a long-term perspective, the ones to the right help building short and quick engagements.
These strategies help in keeping the customer engaged and help improve the value the customer gets from the product.
Let us look at a few examples of how gamification has been used in popular products to drive engagement
Unpredictability and Scarcity drives are used as part of the rewardsIn addition, during last Diwali (India’s festival of lights), they made it very interesting where you need to collect certain reward types (e.g., lamp, firecracker) etc. to win a cash-back. The Social Influence element was leveraged, where the user could exchange their rewards to build on their collection of rewards
Accomplishment & Ownership elements are used, triggering most of the users to use CRED to make their credit card payments to collect rewards (CRED Coins & Gems)In addition to that, they use the Unpredictability core drive where you can pledge some of your CRED points to either win a product or get a hefty cash-back
Your product’s experience is directly related to the time spent by your user on your product. Hence it is a huge opportunity in terms of reducing customer churn and driving customer retention. Better product experience drives better engagement and hence it is not just a trend but a need to survive in the market