Your company is working on an innovation that you think will attract more customers—but have you asked yourself, how will customers experience the new product?
Before you assign company resources to testing and production, consider how well your company understands the entire customer experience surrounding that innovation. Here’s why.
The experience we are talking about here is the whole experience the customer will have when using your product.
Cultural context is king when it comes to the successful adoption of an innovation.
Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott, says in Fast Company, that innovations are coming along so quickly that new steps are needed to ensure that yours is not just a fad.
Wise suggests that companies begin “…crafting the entire customer experience—shaping, innovating, branding, and measuring it.” It is time for companies to take advantage of “‘experience innovation’ by going beyond the discrete product or service to reimagine the customer journey. The result yields new, unexpected, signature moments that delight customers and create significant opportunities for new growth."
Forbes reports that “An understanding of both the consumer AND the culture that informs his or her mindset is the essential starting point for designing an experience, and it’s the foundation on which we can build successful strategies and develop new products. Ignore this step and it won’t matter how beautiful or clever the design is.”
In an earlier post, Design Thinking in Inefficient Markets, I described how D-Rev designed medical equipment that met the real-life, daily conditions in developing countries—but didn’t consider their distribution systems (at first). They ended up redesigning procurement and distribution systems that enabled their product to get where it was needed. This is an example of experience innovation.
How do you learn about cultural context?
Do your homework. Forbes outlines the steps as concentric circles. However you view the steps, you need to research and understand the big picture in which your customer thrives (influences, cultural forces), and consumer trends, and then have direct communication with your customers.
An earlier post, What Was Your Product Hired To Do?, quotes disruption guru Clayton Christensen as detailing the need to understand the product through the eyes and experience of the customer. He frames the idea this way: “We actually hire products to do jobs for us.”
Asking the customer, what product would you hire to do that job for you? or, what product did you hire the last time you had to do that job? is a path to understanding the customer’s context and experience.
Then, as Rick Wise in Fast Company suggests, over time you can create “a bold, integrated vision for the future of your brand experience.” Start by asking the right questions: “Don’t ask customers what they need, but observe how they behave and what makes them happy or sad. Then assess what people could do.”
It is not just the product itself that must attract the customer—that could end up as a fad.
The extended research to understand the whole experience that the customer undergoes while using the new product will help ensure the sustainable success of an innovation—and your company.