Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Innovators will win with seamless experiences

I've written before, both on this blog and on the blog I share with Paul Hobcraft about platforms and ecosystems about the need for seamless experiences.  Innovators often create technologies or products, which have interesting capabilities or features, but rarely do they think through the actual use of the products and understand how they fit in with other products, services, infrastructure, channels and data that exist in a customer's life.  These new products are often interesting but not "seamless" - customers encounter challenges when attempting to use these new solutions in their everyday settings.

It's our stipulation that the future is about seamless experiences.  Will you be willing to adopt a flashy new technology or product if it causes you to have to figure out how to make it work with your other products and services?  If history is any guide, this description - willing to make a new technology work when it is possibly incomplete or ignores the existing infrastructure - is the definition of an early adopter.  Geoffrey Moore and others noted that less than 5% of the market are early adopters, so the vast majority of us will wait until products and services are more seamless.  As we gather more and more technologies and products around us, with many different capabilities and standards, the likelihood of new products and technologies working together seamlessly approaches zero.  That's a huge problem and an opportunity for innovators.

Enter Amazon

It should come as no surprise that Amazon has identified this issue and is working on potential solutions.  Amazon's approach is to "reduce friction" to make products more seamless.

Amazon describes this as:
  • Removing friction due to unfamiliarity
  • Removing friction due to design 
  • Removing friction due to misalignment with human behavior
Amazon gets the issue of seamless experience but is primarily responding to the need in the virtual world - online, through Alexa and other Amazon online services.

These issues are just as real and just as important in the physical world, where tangible products must integrate with a user's life and experiences.  Reducing hassles and improving seamless experience requires a deep understanding of customer context.

A real world example
For example, for a medical products company we worked with, we discovered that while the product itself worked very well, people struggled with the packaging.  The packaging was difficult to open, for a number of reasons, and was bulky and difficult to dispose of.  Engineers believed they'd done their jobs well because the product did its job well.  Marketers and salespeople recognized a problem when there weren't a lot of follow on purchases and only learned about the friction caused by the packaging much later.

The most important role - Experience Manager

While most companies are very familiar with the idea of a product manager or service manager who defines the features and benefits of key deliverables, few companies are really adept at understanding the use of those new products and services in the larger customer context.  Increasingly, what will be important and will drive adoption of new products and services are the insights of what I'll call experience managers - people who truly understand the customer's context, the existing products and services that surround the new solution and the vibrant ecosystem of products, services and channels in which the new solution must exist.  Understanding this, removing friction and solving for a seamless experience is what will make a winning solution.

And, if you are wondering if anyone is writing or thinking about this topic, you can see some brilliant commentary on experience managers here.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:43 AM


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