Look around you. How many people are on their computer? Their cell phone? We’re surrounded by digital experiences, both at work and at home. Whether you’re a SaaS or cloud business, or if a digital experience is just one facet of your offerings, it’s imperative that you deliver an amazing product experience.
As a product leader, this weight of this responsibility falls on your shoulders and if you want to create competitive products, you need to develop a customer-centric mindset. Understanding product experiences inside and out will benefit your customers and your career. We’re no longer transitioning to a new era of business, we’re deep in it, and if you want to keep up, you need to be in tune with your customers and deliver continuous intrinsic value. Otherwise, you’ll be obsolete before you can say, “Blockbuster.”
In this ebook you will learn the value of a great product experience, the components necessary to deliver it, and best practices to align your company around the customer.
What is Product Experience (PX)?
Your product is the vehicle to deliver intrinsic value to customers and increase customer lifetime value (CLTV). Product experience is the perception of a company’s product based on all touchpoints, interactions, and engagements. PX drives differentiation and accelerates growth.
1.1 Product Experience as a Growth Driver
According to a 2018 study by TrustRadius, directly experiencing your product increases a buyer’s trust.
When it comes to information sources buyers trust most, having prior firsthand experience in the product ranks number one, followed closely by the opportunity to engage in a free trial/account. There is no better way to establish trust with your prospective buyer than to let them see your product up close and personal. A product-led growth go-to-market strategy is key to unlocking a flywheel of growth across new customers, repeat customers and referrals.
Consistently providing value through your product will open doors for current customers to expand to upgraded features or offerings. A product experience strategy that emphasizes customer needs will create vast opportunities to scale.
Why is Product Experience Important?
2.1 The Product Experience Imperative
The customer hasn’t always been the driving force behind company decisions. Before digital transformation began and the age of the customer emerged, it was a volume game. Companies operated with a product-centric mindset. “How much can we sell and how quickly can we sell it?” was the question fueling businesses of all shapes and sizes. Consumers had fewer choices, so businesses had the power.
With the shift to a digital model, now the customer gets all the power. It’s easier than ever to create digital experiences. Apple’s App Store has over 2 million available apps—and they’re the second-largest app store. (Mind you, we didn’t say good digital experiences). If you offer a digital product, you have way more competitors than before and that means that a customer has the power to grow with you and shrink with you. The power to stay with you or leave. The power to tell their friends about you or not. You need them more than they need you.
2.2 New Market = New Product Expectations
Once upon a time, the goal for businesses was simply to sell as much product as possible. Now, it’s become much more complicated. We’ve identified three significant changes in market dynamics that have contributed to the evolution of our product expectations.
Subscription models have changed the metrics we use to determine success. It’s not just about revenue anymore, now we measure customer acquisition, adoption, retention, expansion, and advocacy. Product teams are responsible for playing their part in attributing to these metrics.
Competition is getting greater and more specialized. There’s a lower barrier to entry, but our B2C experiences have given consumers of today high expectations from the products they use. Fierce competition in the cloud demands that products deliver value with superior experiences.
Access to Data
Gut-feel decisions don’t carry as much weight anymore in our connected SaaS world. We had way less customer data to go on before. You were blind because you had no other choice—your product was sold through partners or installed on customer servers. Today’s market requires you to pressure-test ideas before you make big bets. If you’re not making decisions driven by deep insights, you’re falling behind.
2.3 Product Teams Need to Adapt…or Face the Consequences
“Over the next three to five years, we see the product-management role continuing to evolve toward a deeper focus on data (without losing empathy for users) and a greater influence on non-product decisions” – McKinsey & Company”
These new product expectations have fundamentally changed the product role. The power shift to consumers has put the onus of delivering value on the vendor. Before, if you bought a piece of hardware, a car, or a movie, it was up to you whether you used the hardware, drove the car, or watched the movie. Now it’s up to your entire company to lead users and customers to value.
In order to stay competitive, product teams face ever-increasing pressure to deliver winning products and exceptional experiences. When you’re offering a digital experience, so much of the interaction between your customers and your company is happening within the product. As a product leader, you’re expected to drive product usage and feature adoption, but lack control over the channels through which users can be engaged. Meanwhile, executives expect to see the correlation between product investments and business results, but the data is spread across the company. In order to deliver exceptional experiences, product teams must master these three skills:
Make data-driven product decisions by leveraging analytics to make informed, compelling roadmap decisions.
Accelerate onboarding and adoption with the use of in-product engagements that guide each user to have the optimal experience.
Demonstrate the impact of product investments by correlating new feature adoption with retention, trial conversion, and expansion.
A study by Pragmatic Institute found that 52% of users said a bad product experience made them less likely to engage with a company. These bad product experiences have a bigger impact in the Age of the Customer because once a user is unhappy, they will find another solution out there to replace yours—no matter how irreplaceable you think your product is.
Who Owns Product Experience?
There’s no denying that core product functionality, UX, and design are created and owned by product, engineering, and design teams. But mastering product experience requires you to go beyond functionality and include all types of interactions that happen within your product. To do this effectively, you need a clearly defined ownership and alignment across departments.
It might be your first instinct to place ownership of product experience on product teams—after all, it’s in the name. But it’s not that simple. Product experience requires efforts from both product teams and customer-facing teams, which makes since when you think of how they’re bound by similar goals: incentivize customers to use their new features so they continue to return and get value.
Driving product engagement and adoption shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of one team. Product and customer success teams each play a vital part.
You release a new feature. Product attempts to increase awareness of this capability through feature notes. This has a broad reach but doesn’t target specific users that might find immediate value from this new development. Instead, it goes to people that don’t find it relevant and the announcement falls on deaf ears.
CS teams have a deeper level of insight, on a granular level. They work directly with customers every day and know which ones will directly benefit from your new development. However, it can be harder to get the word out because they need to wait for the next 1:1 conversation with each relevant customer.
Marketing, customer success, support, product—each team plays a critical role. However, each department has a different motivation stemming from its own functional responsibilities and resources. While we do adhere to the belief that delivering exceptional experiences is a company-wide initiative, who takes the lead when it comes to product experience?
Saying that product experience is a team effort is one thing, executing on that claim is another. Scalable, effective product experience execution requires alignment across roles with metrics that hold each stakeholder accountable.
The responsibilities and metrics in a holistic PX strategy might look like this:
Product: Manages a product development strategy and vision and creates enticing GTM strategies to drive feature adoption. Success is measured in MAU, DAU, or CLV.
Customer Success: Onboards, trains, upsells, and renews customers while developing workflows that constantly re-engage existing customers. Success is measured in renewal rate, NPS, CLV, or retention rate.
Sales: Conducts demos and qualification calls that help and guide users to move down the funnel. Success is measured in CLV or conversion rates (MQL to SQL, SQL to closed won, etc.).
Marketing: Generates content, campaigns, and ads that drive awareness of product value and supports newsworthy feature releases. Success is measured in CAC, CLV, and trial signups.
Creating Exceptional Product Experiences
To facilitate product-led growth and deliver consistent value to your users and company alike, you need analytics, engagement, and feedback. These three components are essential to a complete PX strategy. Here’s how they can be used to optimize your product experience.
Without data, you’re at the mercy of your loudest stakeholders and this could mean risking a lot of precious time and resources. With the right data, you’ll be able to confidently deliver a better product experience that’s backed by your insights. Use the following types of analyses you to gain deeper user insights.
Show you how well your product retains its users and establish a baseline to measure overtime
Uncover the window of time you have to guide users to value
Validate hypotheses on product features that drive retention and growth
Visualize user activity and surface unexpected user flows
Track user activity to learn how users arrived at new features
Shed light on the adoption path for new users
Identify where users fall off from completing critical tasks in your product
Understand feature adoption and revenue attribution of features
Identify upsell opportunities based on adoption depth and breath
Not every user that visits your product will stay for the long run. This requires reactivation and engagement efforts. Reaching out at the following key touchpoints with the right types of engagements can increase adoption and reduce churn.
Use in-app guides, messages, and hotspots to lead user through workflows.
Segment your onboarding engagements to provide a personalized experience.
New Feature Activation
Raise awareness of new features/developments with in-app notifications.
Increase stickiness with guides that show how users can futher develop their skills.
Bring inactive users back to your product with usage-driven email engagements.
Going beyond in-app engagements increase chance of users reengaging.
“One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static—they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way… You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.” – Jeff Bezos”
Segment your surveys so you can learn what matters most to different types of users
Triggering based on context (i.e. when they’ve finished using a new feature) can increase response rate
Use CES and ratings on core features to better plan your roadmap
Use NPS to gather overall sentiment and user health
Leverage Your Customer-Facing Teams
Because Customer Success team converse regularly with customers they’re a great source of anecdotal data
Customer Success platforms have hard data on facets of the customer you might not have access to (i.e. account health scores, renewal dates, overall NPS, etc.)
Scaling with Technology
To create exceptional product experiences, you need technology that will empower your team and grow with your company. On a most basic level, you need to capture usage analytics, have engagements inside and out of your product to impact usage, and consistently ask for feedback to iterate your product. The right tool for you should fulfill each of these areas. It also needs to:
Scale with your product
As you roll out new developments and add more features, you’ll need to be able to slice and dice your product with more granularity. Product mapping is a key component to delivering successful product experiences but can be overlooked if you’re in the early stages. A well-organized feature hierarchy will give you deeper insights and save a lot of time that could be spent in the backend of your product experience solution.
Promote product-led growth
Your product can drive growth at both ends of the funnel—or helix, as we like to call it. Your chosen technology should help you sell more to your existing customers, develop users into advocates, and drive new growth. According to Marketing Metrics, you’re 80% more likely to sell to an existing customer than a prospective customer. Your chosen solution should not just capture data, but use it in ways to drive upsell, advocacy, or net new customers. For example, Gainsight PX impacts growth by measuring product usage that you can then use to target customers with relevant upsell or cross-sell offers directly within your product.
Align your company around the customer
When it comes to the direction of your product, everyone has an opinion. Sales wants this feature, customer success wants another—having the right data to justify your developments will not only help prioritize developments but get buy-in from these stakeholders. One of the biggest challenges product leaders face is showing the direct impact of their product on company success. A robust set of analytics, and an agreed upon North Star Metric, make it easier to demonstrate the impact of product investments across the board.
The scary truth? Users are in your product right now, basing their perceptions of your company on their experience. Whether you’re investing in it or not, you’re providing a product experience. It just takes one bad experience to set a user down a path of unhappiness and frustration. The good news is that you can get ahead of it with the processes in this guide and powerful tools like Gainsight PX.
Focusing on customer needs is not just a trend, it’s a business imperative. It’s a mindset that makes products, companies, and yourself more competitive and successful.
Think of it this way, you are a user of tons of products at work and at home. You know which ones have experiences that make you want to use the product, and the ones that never fail to frustrate you. Those products might even use some of the processes mentioned in this guide. But the thing that separates the good products from the bad is taking action with analytics, engagements, and feedback.
Start investing in your product experience today. Gainsight PX is a complete platform that doesn’t just collect usage and behavioral data but helps you act on it, so you can build a product your customers love.