Crisis and Opportunity - A Product Mini-Case Study
The company's situation appeared good on the surface. Their product had been in the marketplace for several years, and the top line sales numbers looked solid with continued growth.
Underneath the surface, however, it was a different story. The initial indication of this was data showing an uptick in support calls. Further investigation revealed that these calls were from a new customer cohort having difficulty using the product.
Delving further into the data, it was clear that a seismic shift was happening with the customer base bifurcating into two groups. The first group was historical customers who were technology savvy but whose sales were flat to declining. The second group was new customers that were more operationally focused, had less IT knowledge, and were in a fast-growing market. The growth of the second group was offsetting the decline of the first group - which is why the top line numbers still appeared good.
In interviews with this second group, it was evident that while their goals were similar to the first, they were operations-focused versus IT-focused and had a less technical background. They were using the company's product because it was the closest thing to what they needed, but their experience using it was far from ideal. The existing product was very flexible by design, allowing for use in many different environments. This flexibility, however, came at the cost of complexity in setup and use. That complexity was the root of the challenges for the new group of customers. The product's strength for the historic customers was a weakness for the new ones.
So, to summarize, the situation for this company was a mix of threats and opportunities. The threats were that the existing customer base was declining, and the new group of customers had a less-than-ideal experience using the product. So much so that, if there were a viable alternative, they would leave for a competitor in a heartbeat. The opportunity was that there were customers in a fast-growing market adopting the product, despite their real difficulties in product use. By correcting the user experience, the company could retain and grow the new customer base, capture a share of a fast-growing market, and position itself for a trajectory of long-term growth.
The company, in response, implemented the recommended plan to develop a next-generation product built upon the current product technology, albeit with the technology hidden as much as possible and an entirely reworked user interface and experience - from onboarding to setup, operational use, and ongoing support. The approach was to launch as a minimum viable product developed through working closely with customers to ensure it met their needs and provided an optimal user experience. Additional customer and market feedback would drive future product enhancements.
The company's next-generation product was well-received by customers. It has garnered industry recognition, achieved significant market adoption, and is well-positioned for long-term growth.
A couple of important takeaways.
Your data is a goldmine. Ignore it at your peril. Analyzing the mix of quantitative and qualitative data enabled the identification of the threats to the company and the opportunities for it.
Technology was not the savior. Yes, the technology provided a solution for historic and new customers. But the underlying technology remained almost entirely the same for the next-generation product. The reworked and enhanced user experience was the key to meeting the needs of the new customer cohort.
Originally published on Medium.