February 17, 2021

Want to Build Products Customers Love? Prioritize Iteration.

Continuous iteration will help you create products that people grow to love over time.

The best and most successful digital products go through a cycle of building, analysis and iteration over time to become what they are. Remember what Instagram was like when it first came out? Do you find the user experience to be significantly different now? Let’s hope so. That’s because Instagram’s product managers have continued to iterate over the years and delivered continuous value to users based on feedback, especially as their needs and desires for the product have transformed.

So why is iterating so beneficial? In a nutshell, continuous iteration gives product managers, solution owners and developers the ability to:

  1. Visualize, review, test and enhance.
  2. Pivot when necessary.
  3. Reprioritize quickly.

If you use any digital products or services regularly, you’re already keenly aware of the benefits to end-users.

To explain it in a little more detail, let’s look at the analogy of cooking. If you’ve ever cooked before, you know that the process goes somewhat like this:

  • You’re looking to solve a problem. You’re hungry (or are cooking for family or friends).
  • You look for potential solutions. You find a few recipes, ideally some with pictures.
  • You validate whether the solution is feasible and marketable. You check if you have all the ingredients (or if not, where and how you can get them). You also determine if you have enough time and get confirmation from “users” if they want it.
  • You conduct some tests. You will try the food while cooking to make sure it’s well seasoned. You may ask the “user” to taste test along the way.
  • You use feedback for enhancement. Based on feedback from the taste test, you adjust the seasoning or process as necessary.

Now let’s dive into the three stages of continuous iteration, and the benefits of each, when building products that customers will love.

1. VISUALIZE, REVIEW, TEST AND ENHANCE

Clearly, the process of making food isn’t very different from making digital products. You’re solving a problem for which you hypothesize some solutions, narrow down ones that you feel will be best, confirm with potential users and check technical feasibility. You share designs (or wireframes) to test and collect additional user feedback and enhance as necessary.

Unlike in cooking though, the key difference — and primary benefit — is that, once your product is built you can continue to iterate, quickly adapt to users’ needs and make it better. Once the product is out, unlike food, it’s not perishable. On the contrary, products that go through this process often become better over time.

One example of this is a product that’s gained adoption due to the pandemic: Miro. The virtual whiteboarding tool, which allows users to contribute and share notes in real time, has seen impressive uptake since people shifted to remote working and lacked in-person collaboration. According to a recent survey of 4,100 designers, Miro went from 5 percent to 33 percent usage from 2019 to 2020.

But if you used Miro a year or more ago, you might not even recognize it now. The company’s product teams are quick to continuously collect user feedback and test updated solutions in beta to monitor performance and feature adoption. As an active user of Miro over the last few months alone, I’ve seen the product evolve with new enhancements, which have made it easier for my team to collaborate actively on a number of different boards.

For instance, Miro’s use of a community of users to add newer templates for many different types of processes saves users the time required to create new frames for guided discussions. This shows how product managers can utilize direct (surveys, contact forms) and indirect feedback (social media, bounce rate), using tools like Pendo, Full Story or other product analytics solutions, to iterate on their product.

2. PIVOT WHEN NECESSARY

Airbnb started as a provider of housing during conferences so attendees could get cheaper accommodation. But the founders soon realized that the market wasn’t large enough and the business wasn’t sustainable. As they iterated through the product, they understood the real opportunity wasn’t in providing accommodation to conference attendees, but rather offering accommodation to travelers looking for a unique local experience.

The three founders of Airbnb never would’ve reached this conclusion and pivoted had they not started Airbnb as a platform for conference attendees. It was only after iterating through the product that they discovered the tech-enabled service that Airbnb has become today.

Iterating does not always lead to such drastic pivots. Smaller pivots, in terms of original features being researched and planned, are not uncommon. If users aren’t very receptive to the solution or indicate (directly or indirectly) the provided solution isn’t the best fit to solve the problem at hand, it gives the opportunity to businesses, and in particular to product managers, to rethink the solution. This saves valuable time, money and effort, which may have otherwise been wasted on building something that the customers won’t buy.

3. REPRIORITIZE QUICKLY

I previously worked on delivering 3G mobile internet products for the second-largest mobile phone service provider in Bangladesh, Robi Axiata Limited. Prepaid subscribers would type a short code to activate a mobile internet pack (thereby allocating some megabytes of data to their cell phone account). We were delivering products to the market that hit different price points and hypothesized that the majority of our subscribers were digitally immature. Therefore, we gave them cheaper products, lowering the barriers to entry.

After seeing quick success with a portion of the subscriber base, the growth rate declined due to a lack of education. A significant number of subscribers were unaware of the uses of the internet, how to access content on the internet or even just how to activate a mobile internet pack.

But that was just a secondary problem. The primary issue was making subscribers realize the value the internet adds like the different types of content available to subscribers and the ability to use internet-enabled mobile solutions to solve problems like access to different local and international news sources.

In response, we reprioritized our roadmap to deliver more relevant content in addition to low-cost mobile internet packs. At the time, Facebook was trying to get a foothold in the Bangladeshi market. So we partnered with Facebook, which offered content and mobile applications based on user feeds, to release products that focused on the use of its mobile app on Robi’s network.

One such product was a Facebook pack. It allowed users to access the Facebook app free of charge, removing some user fears around getting charged due to an action they could take without understanding it. When the user realized that, with products like the Facebook internet pack, they were not going to lose money from their prepaid account, they were more willing to experiment and learn.

This, along with releasing retail products, allowed the growth rate to increase again. The use of rural retailers to sell products was important for product strategy because these retailers could educate users about how to activate a mobile internet product.

Because we had broken down aspects of our entire solution, we were able to shift from what we originally thought would be a priority (lower-priced internet packs) to becoming more reactive to user needs (education on digital products). It was therefore through iterations that we attained necessary feedback, by putting the product in front of the customers quickly and seeing the results through adoption numbers.

KEEPING THE USER EXPERIENCE AT THE HEART OF ALL OPERATIONS

Product managers don’t normally have revolutionary ideas straight out of the gate. Instead, we break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable ones and find simpler and executable solutions to those specific challenges. Throughout the process, we iterate to better understand problems, enhance solutions, discover new issues and improve the user’s experience. That is why the best and most successful digital products go through that cycle of building, analysis and iteration.

This article was originally published on BuiltIn.com

February 11, 2021

The Fourth Law of Customer Retention

Cross-Channel Messages are the Attraction Forces That Influence Organic Product, Service Discovery & Repeat Customer Visits

In the first two laws of customer retention, we focused on determining the probability of retaining a customer and the retention pulse of an experience to enable us to easily monitor its health. In the third law of customer retention, we explored the influence that retained customers have on the organic growth of new customers and a method to measure the level of its influence.

In the fourth law of customer retention, we will expand our focus to encompass the effects of a business’s cross-channel engagement messages on the level of retention seen inside a customer experience. Whether the effects turn out to be positive or negative is determined by the offer presented to said customer and the path the message sends the person down. If a business sends out unengaging or irrelevant offers to their customer base, we could expect to see a low number of visits generated by these customers from the messages received. Further, if the experience the person has to go through after clicking an engagement message is cumbersome and friction-filled, you might also see a low percentage of customers taking action.

Both the visit (or session in the context of a digital product experience) and any value actions (ad view, transaction or productivity workflow in the context of a digital product experience) are important aspects to monitor when determining the effectiveness of cross-channel messaging campaigns.

In order to do this, we will need to keep track of all messages sent and the corresponding activity and actions that they generate. As you might know, this is only possible to track for those who have revealed themselves to a business by signing up for a free account or by previously making a purchase, for example. In practice, this typically requires special analytics tools to do this at scale. Let’s assume for now we do have this data available to us for analysis purposes.

If we began to look at slices of this data over defined time periods (daily, weekly or monthly for example – or even longer for certain experiences that have infrequent customer visits by nature such as car shopping), we can start to see how enticing the offers are in your cross-channel messages. By gathering this information, it will offer us the insight we need to make the inferences and conclusions that can help drive our decision making in the future. Let’s break this down.

Specifically, let’s compare the ratio of visits and value actions (ad view, transaction or productivity workflow) that started as a direct response to an engagement message (more than likely from a link inside an email, SMS, push or QR code) to the total messages viewed from the same body of people over the same time period. The attraction force present inside a business’s cross-channel engagement messaging can be described as follows:

Also, remember to exclude visits and value actions that might have been influenced by an engagement message, but not as a direct response from a message. This will help to remove subjectivity from the analysis. Clearly this will make it harder to score “great” on the evaluation spectrum. But don’t be too concerned with getting a perfect score of one as it is highly unlikely it will occur. Further, average and good on this spectrum will be heavily dependent on industry and customer segments. Social media apps might expect to see scores greater than 0.5 while a QSR app might be lucky to get north of 0.25 on average.

However, regardless of what industry you are in, this can serve as a solid and consistent benchmark to monitor the health of your cross-channel engagement messages and evaluate if a change you made was positive or negative.

Let’s assume for a minute we are managing a digital product in the social media space, which on average sees attraction forces north of 0.5 and currently our factors are at the following levels:

Now, let’s assume that we took action and made changes to our cross-channel engagement messaging and the resulting factors are now as follows:

It becomes quite clear how one can use these factors to monitor and improve cross-channel engagement messaging to drive higher retention outcomes. Visits are the leading indicator to a potential repeat customer and value actions are the retention gateway in the customer retention lifecycle customers must go through in order to become a retained customer per the second law of customer retention.

In summary, cross-channel engagement messages are the attractive forces that drive repeat visits and value actions within a business’s customer experience. This influence can be measured by looking at the number of visits and value actions that were started as a direct response to a received message as compared to the total number of messages viewed by the same body of customers. The two resulting factors will be a value that falls between zero and one; with one being the highest score and zero being the lowest. Finally, teams can use these factors and industry averages to determine where they stand on the spectrum and how any shifts can increase or decrease retention levels.

February 4, 2021

New Class of Online Grocery Shoppers Brings Fresh Industry Demands

No industry has remained untouched by the digital transformation induced by lockdown restrictions, with the grocery market, in particular, witnessing an accelerated online shift. Grocers are in a prime position to capitalize on the changes in purchasing behavior, as Americans dine out less and cook more meals at home — experiencing a 10% rise in revenue last year as a result. More than a fifth (23%) of U.S. consumers are ordering more groceries online for home delivery now than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sector, however, could experience a downfall as quick as its rise if a vaccine becomes readily available and consumers swarm back to restaurants. Consulting firm Bain & Co. suggests revenue rates may shrink to 2-5% this year — or could even drop by as much as 7%. It's costly to fulfill e-commerce orders, and the loss of in-store impulse buying could be one of the most damaging effects to profit margins. 

How well grocers cultivate customer loyalty with creative digital strategies will determine their market positioning in the unpredictable year ahead. To build a robust customer experience strategy, three components are taking center stage.

Mobile Ordering

There is an ongoing race in the retail food industry for companies to implement innovative technologies to bolster the customer experience. Inmar Intelligence found 68% of shoppers use a grocers’ mobile app while shopping, with 71% interested in using it to help locate desired items within the store, and 78% to find deals and promotions. The rise in the adoption of mobile platforms in the sector presents brands opportunities to introduce greater variety into the digital store whilst boosting customer engagement without a huge marketing budget.

This can include sending push notifications to customers that particular goods are back in stock or suggesting complementary items and recipe videos based on purchase history, and building household profiles so essentials don’t get missed from shopping lists. These data-driven experiences prompt the shopper to make an order; it elevates the mobile ordering experience by offering features that can’t be replicated in-store. 

Efficient Delivery

Convenient delivery experiences have reigned supreme since the onset of the crisis, with 43% of U.S. internet users trying curbside pick-up for the first time last year. Scheduled pick-up services have made consumers’ lives both easier and safer amidst the chaos, offering hesitant shoppers — not wanting to pay hefty delivery fees — a middle ground. 

To keep up with the surge in demand, grocers will need to do more to resolve kinks and speed up their online delivery services. Brands are adopting innovative solutions to handle the last-mile, reimagine distribution and optimize inventory management, but customers also want to feel reassured that they won’t need to wait at home for their delivery. Some may also struggle with organizing a home delivery for the first time. Instacart offers a great example of how the process can be streamlined and how users’ efforts can be minimized. Customers can now choose a ‘Fast & Flexible’ option, using intelligent technology to match customer orders with real-time shopper availability and deliver orders faster. There’s no need for users to check back for updated delivery slots, instead they can “set it and forget it” and receive a notification when goods are scheduled to arrive, making life that bit easier for shoppers. 

Data-Driven Moments

With shoppers buying more goods online, but less frequently, grocers should use purchase history and preference data to make tailored product suggestions, to boost cart size. By tapping into data analytics, brands can deliver highly-targeted marketing campaigns across channels, and aim to drive more regular purchases and better profit margins in the long-run. Masses of purchase data can inform intelligent, geo-based push notifications and encourage more impulse buys. 

Brands should be aiming to continuously create value-add experiences by promoting relevant offerings, seasonal re-stocks of rotational items, or even meal bundles to make the customer feel like they’re not just a regular customer. Retailers will witness increased frequency, and value, of purchase if they can keep connected with customers — especially without requiring them to open the app. 

Competition amongst grocery brands is increasing as retailers invest in digital strategies to enhance discoverability and lock in customer loyalty. With consumer behavior radically evolving, companies are turning to data-driven tools and applications to create new levels of convenience for customers while recreating the fun aspects of in-store shopping. Finding new, inventive ways to make the shopper’s life easier will help safeguard brands against wavering demand once restaurants reopen their doors. 

This article was originally published on SupplyChainBrain.com

January 28, 2021

13 Smart Home Tech Features To Anticipate In The Next Decade

Smart home tech has made life a lot easier for many homeowners. Voice assistants like Alexa are among the most popular and well-known of the bunch, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as far as home tech is concerned.

Over the next 10 years, we're likely to see a revolution in how electronic devices interact with each other and impact our lives. New innovations like internet-of-things (IoT) devices that can transform regular homes into smart homes are already becoming more affordable. Below, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council discuss some of the smart innovations and key features of home tech they expect to see become commonplace within the next decade.

1. Seamless Integrations

I expect to see seamless integrations in the next few years. We can already integrate home assistants with the rest of the home ecosystem — streaming services, HVAC, security, alarms, etc. But let’s get real — integration is often clunky, burdensome and it takes multiple hurdles to get it done. Imagine walking into your home and announcing to Alexa, "I have a new device. Connect it with…" - David Moise, Decide Consulting

2. Fully Integrated Security

Fully integrated security systems will become the norm over the next decade, combining physical security for the home and cybersecurity for digital devices. Today, cybersecurity for the home is actually pretty lax, especially in terms of Wi-Fi networks that are vulnerable to hacking. Expect smart home providers to add cybersecurity measures to their suite of services. - John Shin, RSI Security

3. More AI And ML Integration

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will become more commonplace as integrations with smart devices. Think smart reordering of home supplies and consumables or monitoring of behaviors like electricity usage and home comfort systems to optimize cost and environmental experience. Currently we can tell devices like Alexa to do these things, but in the coming years, it will be done for us. - Mike Frey, Yellow Basket, LLC

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

January 22, 2021

15 Digital Payment Upgrades That Would Improve The Customer Experience

Digital payment methods have seen increasing use in the past few years, and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumer adoption has skyrocketed. In addition to convenience, digital payments offer contactless transactions—a safety feature many consumers are looking for.

With most purchases still happening online and more physical stores adding digital payment options, it’s a system that’s here to stay. Below, 15 tech experts from Forbes Technology Council look at the ways digital payment technology can be improved to cement its usage and improve the customer experience.

1. Standardize and secure payment options across the globe.

Digital payments need to be more secure and more widespread. In rich Western countries, digital payment solutions are common, but the potential for fraud is still high. In other countries, digital payment solutions are not available, so we need to improve the adoption of standard payments worldwide. - Gabriel Cian, Prestaleads

2. Make them easier to use.

Just as the best shoes are those you don’t feel when you’re wearing them, the best payment technology is invisible. The digital payment experience should be optimized by minimizing the effort needed to use the technology. A good example is the one-click purchase introduced by Amazon. It’s so crucial that the company tried to patent the technology. - Dmitri Lisitski, Influ2

3. Add more payment options to ‘unlock’ access to capital.

Increasing the number of payment options available and including alternatives such as loyalty points are two essential steps. This has the benefit of decreasing friction, increasing convenience and boosting the level of consumer engagement. Providing alternative payment options gives consumers access to capital that would otherwise have been “locked,” thus improving CX and increasing usage. - Len Covello, Engage People Inc.

4. Ensure compatibility across devices.

Payment technology can be improved by adding compatibility across devices. People use different brands of smartphones, computers and tablets to make payments. This can create complications when certain websites and apps work better on iPhones versus Androids or the Google Pixel. See what you can do to reduce potential barriers so that more customers will use the specific technology. - Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

5. Allow consumers to set transaction amount limits.

One way digital payment technology could be improved is by allowing consumers to set transaction limits per vendor. To combat online fraud or unauthorized use of a digital payment platform, it would be advantageous for a consumer to be able to specify the maximum amount a specific merchant can charge their account—with the option of increasing the limit as needed. - Bob Fabien ZingaDirectly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

6. Leverage QR codes.

QR codes have been facilitating new ways of “touchless” digital payments, thus minimizing the spread of viruses such as Covid-19. Offered by leading payment companies like PayPal and Stripe, QR codes are expected to be adopted further as they improve the user experience while also providing a safer way of in-person payments at any point of sale. - Ahmad (Al) Fares, Celitech - Cellular Data Platform

7. Prioritize customer safety.

Ensure proper security measures are in place to prevent security threats. Anticipating potential data breaches and prioritizing the safety of customers making purchases across e-commerce and mobile applications ensure a positive customer experience. It saves them the headache of worrying about their data being stolen. - Joseph Feiman, WhiteHat Security

8. Enable biometric authentication.

Customers want secure payment processing, and business owners need to protect sensitive customer data. Biometric authentication addresses both concerns through fingerprint scans, facial recognition, iris recognition and heartbeat analysis. Biometric authentication prevents identity theft and fraud, which can increase consumer confidence and lead to greater digital payment usage over time. - Roland Icard, Simply iCard Consulting Inc.

9. Adopt remote, video-based authentication.

Banks, insurance agencies and governments cannot conduct significant operations with just passwords or digital signatures. Widespread adaptation of reliable remote, video-based authentication of the person involved will be needed to avoid fraud. - Tsvi Lev, NEC Corporation

10. Provide passwordless authentication.

Over 30% of online shopping carts are abandoned due to lost or forgotten passwords. This is a huge problem for the e-commerce industry, particularly during Covid-19. The adoption of passwordless authentication would aid in a more secure and frictionless process for customers and therefore, more sales for merchants. It’s a win-win. - Arshad Noor, StrongKey

11. Implement one-time passcodes.

As people are starting to prefer making digital payments over handling cash, consider the role that mobile plays in your plan. When consumers make digital payments with their mobile devices, one-time passcodes can easily be delivered for an additional layer of security. This protects companies and consumers’ information and leads to secure transactions and increased customer trust. - Andrea Giacomini, Mitto

12. Incorporate automation.

One way to enhance the customer experience is to incorporate automation so that the process is completely touchless from end to end. If we’ve learned anything from our new remote environment, it’s that reliance on paper-based processes is not sustainable. Even complex invoices such as utility bills should be captured and paid fully electronically without introducing friction. - Sanjoy Malik, Urjanet

13. Adopt native methods for each platform.

By adopting the native method for each platform, you lower the friction for the user. Shopping online through Safari should use Apple Pay, but within Chrome adopt Google Pay or the credit card saved to the Chrome profile. In stores, support the native device mobile payments. Once these new habits are built up, users will prefer them because they’re quicker than digging out a credit card. - Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

14. Integrate proactive cybersecurity features.

Digital payments have exploded during the pandemic, and so has the fraud targeting the channel. Digital payment providers and banks that have mobile apps that initiate transfers should invest in machine learning, risk analytics, authentication and orchestration platforms that work in the background to monitor activity in real time and stop fraud attempts by cybercriminals before they occur. - Will LaSala, OneSpan

15. Build technology that can be read everywhere, automatically.

Digital payment technology can be improved through the use of mobile or wearable devices. If we can bypass the bridge of security and allow this technology to be read everywhere—at gas stations, grocery stores or even automatically as we shop—we will have almost fully optimized the shopping experience and digital payment methods. - WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer

This article was originally published on Forbes.com

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