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Product experience is a subset of the entire user experience. It focuses on the total of the customer journey that takes place within the product itself. It’s from the first time a customer logs in until the final time they quit using an application. Everything occurring within the digital “four walls” of a product contributes to the product experience. Also, in the age of free trials and freemium business models, customers trying out products for themselves is now the leading way purchase decisions are made.
Placing a focus on product experience is in line with customer-centric approaches to product development and embracing design thinking. What the customer experiences and how they experience it Is the product from their perspective. If it doesn’t do what they want and how they want it, it’s not meeting expectations. Negative consequences could follow.
Why is product experience important?
Intuitive product experience is more important than ever. A lousy product experience will chase away users away or make them resent having to use a product to complete a task. Meanwhile, good product experiences increase usage, build loyalty, and improve net promoter scores.
Many products lack formal training or onboarding as part of their sales and adoption cycle. Users are expected to dive in and figure it out as they go. Therefore, the product must be clear, discoverable, and well-labeled. In-app help and support should be available from within the product.
The product experience should guide, educate, and nudge users at the appropriate points. There needs to be enough information and context without distracting them from the task at hand.
The prevalence of subscription pricing models is also a key factor. Customers no longer feel locked in or “stuck” with a product they’ve purchased outright. Thus companies must deliver superior customer experiences long after the initial payment. So for products with free trials, it’s even more imperative to provide value right out of the gate.
Who is involved in the product experience?
Product management teams take the lead when it comes to defining the product experience unless there is a dedicated product designer in the organization.
The user experience/user interface/graphic design staff are also integral. They share responsibility for the product experience and have the expertise to optimize things from a customer perspective. Product development is involved as they build the product and UX team’s designs.
Your organization must overcome silos to capture the full value the organization has to offer. Customer support, account management, and sales are a unique source of customer feedback. They deal with customers and prospects more frequently and can provide the voice of the customer input. This elevates requests and complaints. They can also quantify support inquiries, identifying problem areas, and friction points.
Marketing also plays a role. Marketing generates content and messaging that sets expectations and accompanies new users along their journey. Such as an email explaining how to fully take advantage of a feature sent after a user’s first time trying it.
Of course, customers themselves also play a role. They provide direct feedback, take part in surveys, usability testing, and focus groups, and contribute to the data set. Their real-world experiences and insights are incredibly valuable.
Elements of managing the product experience:
Product teams have several tools at their disposal to create an optimal product experience. Start with understanding what customers want, how they feel about the product experience, and what they’re doing.
Based on those inputs, product teams can improve the product experience and continually highlight the added value and enhancements.
What customers want, think, and feel about a product drives customer centricity. Collecting and acting on their feedback is a critical ingredient. Channels and tactics for soliciting customer feedback include surveys, interviews, and site visits.
Additionally, internal customer-facing teams should mine for insights. They’ll hear more complaints than compliments, shining a light on shortcomings.
Feedback collection should occur on an ongoing basis, but figuring out what to do with it all poses its challenges. Ideally, the valuable nuggets funnel back into the product prioritization process. This further enhances the product experience and address customer needs and concerns.
Companies are no longer forced to rely on anecdotal observations and “gut instincts” to understand how customers are using their products. With analytics, user behavior is collected, aggregated, and analyzed in a plethora of ways.
Product teams can leverage analytics to identify causation. Which behavior leads to using a particular feature? Which features drive increased frequency and longer sessions? Which experiences result in abandonment of cancellation. It’s all about data-driven decision making that will temper the demands and wishes of over-eager stakeholders.
All product development requires prioritization to determine what to build when. In the context of the product experience, analytics, and feedback drive prioritization.
This is in contrast to prioritizing and roadmapping based solely on what the company is trying to achieve. Many wishes and wants of actual users may not contribute directly toward the achievement of the strategic goals and KPIs the company has laid out for itself.
But, if customers aren’t satisfied and happy with the product experience, it won’t matter. Without a stable, if not growing cohort of active, engaged users, who are going to use any of those new features or contribute to new revenue streams?
“Build it and they will come” might be true in some cases, but there’s nothing in there about getting people to come back and stick around. That’s where engagement strategies come in.
New users need onboarding, that combines basic education about how the product works with prompting to get them to complete initial tasks that lead to more meaningful usage. Additionally, when the product adds new functionality, you must inform users, including its benefits and how to best access it.
And, of course, if usage declines or stops altogether, prompt lapsed users to re-engage. This includes showcasing extra benefits, new functionality or relevant success stories.