Why Product Experience is Important & 7 Ways to Improve It
A good product experience helps increase customer satisfaction, improve customer retention, and grow your SaaS business.
A great customer experience sets your company apart. Good CX increases customer satisfaction, retention rates, and the potential for upsells. But a key part of the customer experience is the product experience. A user may feel like they made a good connection with your sales team, but if their experience with the product itself is unsatisfactory, it can lead them to turn and run.
When your product experience shows your customers why your product has value at each stage of their customer journey and why it's worth their subscription fee, they become loyal customers that support the growth of your company.
With a data-driven approach to your customer's expectations and their future needs, and clear processes and expectations for your team, you can create a clear path to product-led growth.
Good Product Experience Creates Loyal Customers
So why does product experience matter? If a user's experience with your product is subpar, they may not buy it. If they do buy it and decide later that the experience isn't worth the cost, that will make it easier for them to cut ties and look for a replacement.
When buying a software product, 70% of survey respondents said they want a free trial or a product demo, according to TrustRadius' 2022 B2B Buying Disconnect Report. It was only beaten out by accessible information on pricing at 71%.
It's important to build loyalty by displaying your product's value from the moment a new user downloads and logs into that free trial. A platform that crashes frequently, is unreliable, or doesn't do what the sales team promised is one that can easily lead to customer churn.
With the importance that buyers place on the product itself and how well it fits their needs, providing them with an excellent product experience is essential.
1. Set Up Your Analytics Infrastructure
Gaining insight into customers' wants, needs, and behaviors is at the core of delivering a digital product of real value. That's why product analytics are so important --- they provide additional context that allows you to truly understand what customers need from your product.
Building out your analytics infrastructure starts by determining the specific metrics you'll use to measure the product experience. Use tools like Amplitude to track user behavior, plan out releases and new features, and identify areas for improvement.
Data visualization tools like Dasheroo and Geckoboard are also great options for making these key metrics and insights visible to your product teams.
Example dashboard via Geckoboard
When you’re able to keep track of how these metrics change over time, it also helps your team have a customer-centric mentality. Lots of people will get tunnel vision as they work through the roadmap of tasks to complete a project, so being able to step back and track their impact is a great way to maintain a clear sense of how their contributions add value to your product over time.
2. Nail Down Your Product Positioning Early
Positioning helps you nail down your target audience and communicate your product's unique value to them. It's a strategic approach for understanding how your product or service enters the market and outcompetes what's currently available.
Market research and competitor analysis are core tactics of a solid positioning strategy. Both will help you identify gaps in what's currently available for consumers in your target market and how your new product, feature, or functionality will fill those gaps.
Positioning expert April Dunford has an excellent template to help you create a playbook and map out your own positioning:
Product positioning template via April Dunford
When you document your product positioning, it helps you understand how to communicate your product's unique value to customers. It also gives your team and stakeholders the context they need to understand how their tasks contribute to this goal. That's why it's important to include positioning in your product strategy as well.
Let's say your new product is meant to increase overall engagement with new customers and open up the top of the sales funnel. Including the metrics you want to track, such as customer acquisition costs (CAC) or net new monthly recurring revenue (MRR), will help ground the positioning process in customer data.
When you define these metrics, you also show the team that you have a concrete goal in mind for how the product will make an impact on your company's bottom line.
3. Keep Customer Feedback Loops Small
Talking to customers is one of the best ways to learn more about their needs, expectations, and friction points. While product analytics will help you track trends and patterns, connection with your customers on a one-to-one basis will ground the metrics you track in the real-world problems people face every day.
Start by identifying key points along the customer journey to understand the user's experience with your product in the real world. Then, ask targeted questions to learn more about how you can make that experience more valuable. Let's say you've found that certain customers stop engaging with your product once they've finished your onboarding flow. Some example questions might be:
- What stops you from using the product at this point?
- Was there anything you wish you'd learned at the start of using our product?
- What kind of things would make it easier to continue using our product?
- How do you think we could prepare you better in the future?
These user research questions are a powerful tool for learning more about the overall product experience, so it's important that you get them right.
Try using live chat to maintain connections with customers via your sales and customer support teams as well. These relationships are the key to getting open and honest feedback from users and a great way to decrease the difficulty of reaching out for a call.
Just keep in mind that when you receive customer feedback, you need to document and share it with your team as soon as possible. Every member of your team will bring a different perspective to the data, which helps you understand the product experience through a wider lens.
4. Create Well-Defined Roles for Your Team
Moving efficiently through the product development lifecycle requires a clear understanding of each team member's responsibilities, as well as a high-level view of the project as a whole. Defining what each person is accountable for helps make it easier to move through their work autonomously, from your product leader to your engineers and designers.
Start by documenting your role structure in a product or team charter to make sure everyone knows who can answer questions about different types of information. Use the RACI model to clearly define what is required from each member of your team:
- Responsible: The person who is responsible for executing the work
- Accountable: The person who is accountable for whether or not the work is completed
- Consulted: The person who needs to be consulted before the project is complete
- Informed: The person who needs to be kept in the loop about the process
Here's an example of what that might look like for your project:
RACI matrix via CIO
Each member of the team can easily understand how their role fits into the organization at a glance. Increasing visibility into everyone's contributions in this way cuts down on confusion and makes executing individual responsibilities simpler, even as your company scales.
Another way to increase visibility into each person's work is to use product management tools like Jira, Asana, or Trello. These tracking platforms provide a clear picture of how work is progressing and help identify any potential bottlenecks before they can negatively impact the product experience and user journey.
5. Build Out a Concrete Product Development Process
The workflows you use throughout the product development process make executing tasks easier for your team. By defining a concrete process for your team, you provide clarity into how each piece of the work adds value to your finished product.
Start by mapping out the product development process for your team. Then, document what happens at each stage. This makes moving through projects as seamless as possible and cuts down on potential conflicts and confusion in the future.
Stages of Product Development
- Ideation: Coming up with ideas for new products
- Validation: Validating those product ideas with customer data for your product roadmap
- Planning: Organizing all the work required to build your product
- Active development: Executing on the work to build your product
- User testing: Sourcing feedback from a small group of target users before release
- Product release: Launching the product to your entire market
- Analysis: Looking at the impact of your product release
When you map out the product development process and revisit these processes on an ongoing basis, it's easier to tie every task or action back to your overall strategy or a specific customer need. Much of the product experience depends on whether you deliver the value customers expect from your product. It's crucial to understand how that value grows and evolves before it ever reaches the customer.
Setting a defined product development process ensures you don't spend a lot of time executing ideas that customers won't engage with upon release.
6. Make User Onboarding a Positive Experience
Onboarding goes a long way toward creating product loyalty and increasing product adoption. Start by personalizing your onboarding process — in real-time, if possible. Ask questions in your onboarding flow that help customize the product for your user's needs to get them started. Keep it simple.
Find opportunities for product-led onboarding by looking at the product from your customer's point of view. What type of organization is the user doing work for? What are their goals? How can you meet those needs with your product during the onboarding process?
For a social media marketing platform, their core customer might be a small business owner who is trying to improve their social media presence. Onboarding should point them to an in-product tutorial on how to use the platform to create a social media editorial calendar. You can pre-populate tutorials for them and provide a product tour, or you can offer a video tutorial.
Kick off your onboarding by helping users complete one task or reach one goal before giving them more to consider. It's easy for people using a new tool to become overwhelmed by all of its capabilities, so helping them feel successful right away will keep them motivated to learn additional product features.
Make it easy for users to find the resources they need to learn more about your product and increase feature adoption. Offer in-app tutorials on each page, a community space where they can talk to other users, and product training in multiple formats, like video and text.
Use the analytics from your onboarding flow to continuously improve. Are new users commonly getting stuck or leaving when they reach a certain activity? If you can, find out why with a quick pop-up survey or suggest they start a chat. Test out new flows to improve retention.
7. Foster a Culture That Values Experimentation
Customers aren't static; their needs and expectations change regularly. Consistent testing and experimentation from your team will deliver continual value even as the goalposts move. Helping your team feel comfortable with this experimentation requires a company culture of trust and open communication as well as a clear sense of the product development process.
One of the best ways to experiment with the product experience is to add value to existing products as well as new ones. Run A/B tests to make small changes and learn more about what kind of digital experiences are truly engaging for your target customer and promote usability. These tests also help validate your hypotheses about customer needs and desired outcomes by making it easy to track how engagement changes with each release.
A phased testing methodology can be one way to execute these tests:
Phased Testing Methodology via Taplytics
This four-step process helps your team structure experiments to learn as much as possible about the customer with every test.
If you're worried about the time and resources it takes to run these kinds of tests, try a lean approach to product development. This approach helps you maximize the impact of your actions by streamlining the work your development team does while also keeping them engaged with products you've previously released.
Throughout these tests, look for ways to foster open and honest collaboration within your team. Keeping communication open not only makes it easier to surface important insights but also ensures that every member of the team feels like their contributions add value to the project.
When your team is engaged with their work on a more fundamental level, they become invested in experimenting to make it better. That helps them stay laser-focused on the customer's needs and makes building a winning product experience much easier to accomplish.
A Great Product Experience Is Your Competitive Advantage
Provide continual value with each product release to set your company apart from the competition. Use each touchpoint with users as a way to offer added value or request feedback, and always look for ways to improve your users' experience.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, video and web conferencing platform Zoom was uniquely positioned to overtake a market already filled with known options like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Teams.
Zoom's ease of use and willingness to make quick changes to its product experience helped the startup capture more customers than any of its competitors. When modern consumers have so many options to choose from, delivering a particular kind of value can be what sets your product apart.
If you want to make the most of your team's time and expertise while making improvements to your product, consider using API and SDK integrations to incorporate features like chat and activity feeds. You can even try it out for free.
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