Why product and experience are no longer separable

12 February 2018
Kieron McCann
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Today’s successful businesses are those that put customer experience at the heart of their business strategy. For platform centric companies whose product is the experience, this is second nature. But for traditional companies who have for years created physical products, the focus is still often on product design and development, at the expense of the experience. So what do companies need to do in order to create the mindset shift (not to mention, the investment shift) to become experience businesses fit for the digital age?


In March I will be speaking at InTech 2018 on the subject of how digital transformation is impacting product design. As someone who has worked across both marketing and product design I know that product managers are always keen on finding new technology to make their product or service better. Such new innovations form a natural part of product management and are integrated incrementally, not necessarily as part of a wholesale digital transformation project.


The market moves so quickly that often there just isn’t time to wait for new capabilities to be built centrally or in-house so new product features are outsourced to smaller, agile partners and suppliers to fulfill. As a result, product experience can race ahead of the capability of the rest of the organisation leading to a proliferation of channels, technologies and sticking plaster fixes rather than a consistent approach. However, product managers have, on the whole, focused on what happens within the product domain, not what happens either side.


Align product and experience

In an age of mass personalisation, driven by digital innovation, customers expect and demand a good experience across the entire journey. And a poor experience at any touchpoint devalues the whole journey. This requires product to be aligned with experience, the collation of the right data to drive the insight and the identification of opportunities for innovation. Digital products are about evolution, agility and continuous improvement. As digital becomes an ever increasing component of the product offerings, product managers will need to adopt this agile mindset and work collaboratively with marketing and colleagues across the organisation.


What organisations need is a longitudinal view of the customer journey as a single end-to-end experience from awareness, through to consideration, purchase, in-life and renewal. This needs to be done for every single customer and not an aggregate made up for various slices of organisational silos. Overcoming this challenge is what digital transformation can help with. It’s also what it can bring to product management and innovations.


Think differently

Today, product and experience cannot be separated. Experience IS the product. Digital tools can help track across multiple channels and dynamically personalise along the way but technology alone can’t provide the answers. It needs to be used to free you to work smarter and think differently. It needs to be more than the sum of its parts. If technology alone drives your innovation you may well end up with a load of cool features, but these won’t necessarily add up to a great experience for your customer.


A personalised experience that meets the needs of each customer requires a huge amount of data to get right. Quite simply, it is the fuel that powers customer experience and the product manager will need a plan for how to collect and use this data and understand what additional sources might be mashed up with it.


Work smarter

A good example of the kind of organisational change required can be seen in vehicle manufacturing, where once, car companies focused their efforts on manufacturing cars, getting people into the showroom and making a sale. Once the purchase was made, aside from maintenance and services, it was really just a question of hoping they returned when it was time for a replacement. Even though, the driving part of the (literal) customer journey was the most critical, it was a black hole so far as interaction was concerned. Today, connected vehicles are able to provide a constant stream of data on how customers are using vehicles in their everyday lives. This, combined with features like smart device integration, means that the focus has shifted from the product (car) to the individual consumer (driver) opening up opportunities to connect and engage between purchase. In this scenario, even one of the biggest physical products a consumer is likely to buy, begins to have a digital aspect.


Connect the journey

As product managers start to evolve into “journey managers”, or “offering managers”, the process of delivering customer experience will need to involve people from across the organisation. This means multidisciplinary teams, working together to deliver change in an agile manner. So, digital transformation will impact significantly on product innovation and management. But, the secret isn’t the technology itself but how businesses structure themselves to best leverage it to continuously improve the customer experience.


InTech is the biggest and single most influential B2B tech marketers’ event of its kind in the UK. I’ll be shedding more light on how product managers can use technology to enhance the entire customer experience on 14th March. Hope to see you there!