Your Favorite Product Management Resources

Instagram Proves Product Experience Is Customer Experience

All innovation requires some amount of risk.

Whether you’re releasing your product for the first time or adding new features to an established favorite, introducing something new leaves room for major misunderstandings.

If you happened to miss last week’s news cycle, Instagram released a new user interface that included full-screen photos and videos, similar to what you might see while using TikTok. The update also heavily favored suggested posts from the Instagram algorithm rather than posts from the people that users choose to follow. 

If you evaluate the product features themselves, the update wasn’t bad. In fact, it looked good. The problem was users don’t think about the value of a product strictly in terms of features. “Make Instagram Instagram again” memes flooded both Instagram and other social media platforms. Users made it clear that they use Instagram as a photo-sharing platform. Additional features that made it harder to see and share photos not only didn’t add value but they also made the experience of using Instagram worse. 

To their credit, Instagram worked swiftly to address the feedback and roll back changes. Most accounts saw the older version of the Instagram interface within a few days. The internal team lost weeks of work, but mostly all was well, with Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, saying, “I’m glad we took a risk—if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough. 

Product experience drives customer experience

Mosseri’s perspective on failure is the right one—one that will certainly lead to more success for the future of Instagram. But, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can make big, bold choices with your product without risking the trust and loyalty of your user base. The trick is to create a customer experience that matches the product experience in terms of value and relevancy.

Remember that your product experience is the journey your customer goes through within your product. The customer experience includes the product experience, plus any engagements they have with your company, including conversations with team members, advocates, detractors, owned or earned media, and more. The customer experience includes interactions pre-purchase and post-purchase. 

 Here’s how you can create a data-driven product experience that improves the customer experience:

1. Build a data-driven roadmap based on customers’ behavior

Determining your product roadmap requires balancing the needs of several, often conflicting, stakeholders. In the case of Instagram, we can assume the overwhelming popularity of TikTok influenced their roadmap decisions. It appears that the internal team lost focus on what their unique value proposition was. They tried to keep pace with the competition and forgot that they provided an entirely different value for users that didn’t include these new upgrades. 

While it’s important to listen to the perspectives of your stakeholders and understand new trends in your industry, you should never prioritize outside forces over the information your customers are providing. The features they use daily, the feedback they provide in surveys and directly to your Customer Success team, and the features they abandon should all be the highest priority for your team during roadmapping sessions.

2. Identify potential user frictions and strategies to overcome them

Any changes made to your product will elicit feedback. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. However, you can improve your product launches by focusing on an exceptional customer experience. 

Use data from previous product launches to identify potential obstacles such as: 

  • Which step in onboarding may cause customers to abandon the process
  • Which customers prefer self-service training to personalized training
  • How to communicate the unique value for each customer segment

Developing engagement strategies that address each potential obstacle ensures that your customers understand why your team prioritized this release and how it will help them reach their specific goals. Remember, the quality of your product depends on the customer’s experience of your product. If your customers are confused by your product, it won’t matter how powerful it is. They won’t be logged on to see it.

3. Identify the right bold choices

The competition is too strong for companies to ignore all bold choices. Just as the wrong features can lead to churn, a stagnant product that doesn’t evolve with the needs of its customers can also lead to a dwindling customer base. But with the right data and an open feedback loop between your product team and your customers, the right risks will reveal themselves. 

Identify the right innovations for your team and test them on a pilot group. Keep an open feedback loop with your customers so you always know exactly what makes people click and the reasons they keep logging on to your product.