In 2021, it is not the companies that shape customer experience - it is customer expectations from the digital product experience that affects companies’ everything. This creates the “innovate or die” situation, where digitally-centered companies get billions in revenue across all sectors, and those who can’t deliver the desired experience go out of business within months. This article will explore insights from the Harvard Business Review survey on how to transition to a digital-first business with customer product experience in mind.
The Customer Expectations: What Has Changed?
Companies have constantly been adapting to customer’s needs, putting those who did it faster and better on top of the game; there’s nothing new to that. What makes this time drastically different for businesses is the speed at which it happened. The turmoils of 2020 have changed customer behavior and, therefore, expectations in a matter of months, which is virtually overnight on the history scale.
According to the HBR survey respondents, the Covid 19 crisis has formed a lasting habit of using digital products, and there is no coming back from that. The adoption of digital products has accelerated to an extent where it progressed to being a new norm from being just an option. This shifts digital from being just another sales channel to the main source of clients for your business.
“We are living through a digital-product revenue revolution, centered around using digital products to completely redesign the value we create for customers,” says Jian Wei Hoh, head of business design at Ford.
It’s hard to pinpoint an economic sector that hasn’t witnessed at least a slight growth in customer reliance on digital technology. Finance and banking, retail, media, education, social, automotive - almost every industry now has a digital aspect, becoming a baseline of customer digital-centric expectations.
Here are the key changes in customer behavior and expectations:
- Ubiquitous growth in reliance on technology and its usage across most industries;
- Heightened expectations from the digital experience and, therefore, growing competition for user loyalty.
For companies who don’t want to lose all their customers to more digitally-centered competitors, this switches digital transformation from being a choice to being a survival necessity. And yet, while the competition for user loyalty has never been higher, the majority of executives see this situation as a unique (and urgent) opportunity for businesses to capitalize on this mass digital adoption.
User Retention Trumps New User Growth
As customer behavior has changed, so did the metrics companies use to analyze their results. According to the executives surveyed, with the rise of the Software-as-a-Service subscription-based model, the importance of acquiring new customers has taken a back seat, prioritizing user engagement, customer retention, and customer lifetime value instead.
It makes sense: regardless of what you sell, getting new people to use your product or services requires much more resources than keeping happy the ones you already have. More specifically, acquiring a new client can be anywhere from one to 25 times more expensive than retaining the existing one. If the customer stays with you and is engaged, it means they see value in your product or service and will likely stay with you, positively impacting your overall revenue.
But how do you fuel customer brand loyalty? The answer is easy: analyze the data. In this case, the behavioral data collected from your most engaged customers. Following the steps of your most engaged clients will help you to understand what they like, desire, or lack and, therefore, outline your future investments and product changes to better their user experience.
Here are the primary metrics the survey’s respondents think you should focus on to build a successful digitally-centered business:
- User engagement (e.g. daily active users, likes/comments/shares) - 58%
- Customer retention - 36%
- Customer lifetime value - 36%
- User behavior (bounce rate, task time) - 29%
- New user growth - 22%
- New paying customers - 30%
The main purpose here is not to tell you what metrics businesses should or should not pay attention to; after all, you know your business better than anyone else. But even if acquiring new clients is at the vanguard of your business model, you have to put resources into the research/discovery and create the best possible digital product experience. It will keep your clients fulfilled and loyal, drastically reducing the chances of leaving you for more digital-savvy competitors.
Data Analytics That Makes Difference
In the digital-first era, making any tactical and strategical decisions by blatantly relying on intuition and guessing is the worst thing you can do to your business. While some successful products have been created with pure gut instinct or experience, overlooking a clear advantage data science provides us with would be (and still is for some) a big mistake. Data-driven decisions make great digital business by giving you all the tools and insights you need to determine what and why to do next.
But not all numbers and values created equal, and not everything you see can fuel your business-critical (especially innovation-based) decisions equally well. Analytics is not a magical tool by default, and to make the most out of it, you need to know what to look at and how to interpret what you see.
Here are the main matrics respondents use to measure the impact of the digital product experience they build:
- Product analytics (usage and event tracking) - 58%
- Customer surveys - 50%
- Web analytics - 50%
- Custom-built analytics - 48%
- Business intelligence - 47%
- Customer journey analytics - 32%
Why those metrics particularly? The first - product usage tools - capture the what, when, who, and how about users’ interaction with your product on mobile, web, and connected devices. This data can be transformed into valuable insights for product managers, dev team leaders, UX designers, and marketers on what your customers like and dislike about your product. With this understanding, you can predict future changes and influence them.
There are a few main constituents and core metrics of product analytics. One of them is the user’s journey information - a series of interactions and paths the user has taken while using your product in a specified period. This information gives you a clear picture of steps the user took, in which order, their habits, and behaviors regarding the product. Similarly, user data analytics can show what features and pages the users are more engaged with and come back to over and over.
By using product analytics insights, you can find and fix errors in product design you didn’t know existed, readjusting the design according to what your customer expects.
Data Democratization as a Gateway to Digital-First Organization
Data democratization means that organization’s data should be accessible and understandable for everyone in this organization. This would expedite decision-making and uncover opportunities for an organization. Data democratization propels employees with different backgrounds and experiences to partake in data-based decisions that can be extremely useful for the company in the data-driven culture.
Previously, the main chunk of data was centralized and “owned” by product development teams (IT), making other units go through them to obtain a piece of them. It is understandable: there was (and still is) a concern of data misinterpretation and misuse by non-technical employees, as well as data security and integrity questions.
But the price companies need to pay for this centralized data ownership is too high now. This approach creates bottlenecks for innovation and makes other parties uninvolved in the decision-making process, slowing down the progress in the company.
Now more than ever, you need to use the knowledge and experience of your employees to uncover useful insights about your customers or business processes. And while it’s still too early to see the full impact of data democratization across all enterprises, we can already see how it revolutionizes our business decision-making by allowing employees at all levels to gain access to and insights from the data their organizations collect.
To become a successful digital-first business, you need to drive growth through a better digital customer experience. This requires creating digital technology that helps you understand the customer experience, empathize with their needs, and measure how your product impacts their experience. The starting point will be embedding the right technologies into processes and structures to build a digital-first data-driven business. Digital transformation offers organizations an opportunity to engage modern buyers, and deliver on their expectations of a seamless customer experience regardless of channel or place. Get our free whitepaper on Digitalization and start your journey!
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