How to Design a Customer-First Product Experience
So you’ve identified a need a group of people have and developed a product concept that fulfills that need. Now what do you need to do to effectively launch a product experience your target customers are going to use and rave about to their friends?
Building an engaging customer experience requires diligent research, customer integration into the product development process, and organized product management. Most products are not completely new ideas. This can be a significant advantage if you follow these steps and pay close attention to detail as you move through the product development lifecycle.
Understand the goals of your product
What is your product delivering to your target consumers? It is important to identify and prioritize the needs your product addresses and the value the product brings to your buyers. Create a “Driving Goals” list and put that list up wherever you and your team work on furthering product development; a constant reminder of what you’re trying to deliver. This list is going to prove very valuable when you have to prioritize features for your MVP (minimum viable product).
Assess the competitive landscape
After you’ve identified your concept and have some napkin sketches you can show to friends and contacts, it’s time to dive into research. Too often we see product teams dive into a project and start building off of their own ideas without understanding what’s on the market already.
- Find out what companies address the needs of your target audience (or the ones that are trying to) and create a “Competitive Assessment” spreadsheet where you can track products, offerings, features, metrics, and any other valuable data you can collect as you familiarize yourself with the landscape.
- Learn how your target customers feel about existing solutions that aim to address their need that you think you can solve by reading product reviews and testing competitor products yourself. This process also gives you insight into features and functions your target customers are asking for that they don’t feel are available.
- Identify emerging industry growth opportunities and areas where you can differentiate your product from the competition by researching articles, talks, and other media that discuss your product’s sector and future opportunities.
Interview industry experts
Regardless of how long you have been in the sector your product fits into, there is always room for more knowledge. Set up informational interviews with industry experts to present your concept and discuss their reactions based on their experience. This is an integral step in building an effective product.
*Pro Tip: If your project involves intellectual property or information you want kept under wraps, you can request people sign an NDA before speaking with them (this will decrease how many people are willing to talk to you, however). Assess how well you know the person and how much you want to reveal when you meet with them. Sometimes a good-faith handshake still works in keeping your ideas in a closed circle.
*Brand Tip: These conversations can also help build brand recognition and loyalty early on in the product lifecycle. People (generally) love being able to talk about how they were involved in or helped support the creation of a cool idea. This can go a long way when you’re ready to deliver your product to market.
Put your prototype in the hands of your customers
A human-centered approach to product design is the most effective way to ensure your customers are going to be happy with the end result. You should engage your target consumers throughout the entire product lifecycle; from ideation to prototyping to launch. This engagement allows you to learn how the customer thinks, what’s important to them, and how to shape an experience they’ll remember.
- Don’t go to the same individuals over and over again. It is important to diversify the people you go to for feedback as you move through the product development lifecycle. Even if they fit your target persona perfectly, adding more individuals helps keep a fresh set of eyes on the evolution of your project.
- Identify the different experience areas you want to test. If you’re building a connected IoT product, there are many “experience points” that need to be tested. From packaging, to product look and feel, and intuitive app UI, there are a lot of areas where a sub-par experience can make or break a product’s success.
- Don’t overwhelm the people you bring in to test your product experience. Develop short, but thorough test cases and break them up into experience categories such as “unboxing”, “app signup & product pairing”, and “product usability”. This will keep your product testers comfortable with the tasks they have been assigned and opens up more opportunity for deeper discussion about a specific experience area.
- Create a mechanism for prioritizing feedback. While a human-centered approach is the best way to create the strongest product brands, it is a lot of work. There is a lot of data and information that needs to be tracked and managed - most of it is qualitative. It is important for your team to understand how to prioritize feedback based on the importance to a successful product launch that is feasible within the timeline. Remember; customer adoption is a driving goal for any product release.
Origin Consulting is an experience design and brand strategy consulting studio that helps clients deliver products and services using customer-engagement, experience design strategy, and innovative ideas development and implementation. To work with Origin, give us a shout.
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