As product and solutions lead at Nifty, as well as a consumer of other software, I have started to piece together how I think the Coronavirus and ensuing remote collaboration phase will affect product development and market positioning for months and years to come.
There will come a day where we won’t be lining up (six feet apart) outside of a grocery store at 8am waiting for a customer to exit so the next may enter. But as the general mood has it, no one really knows when this state of affairs will subside, and we can all agree that we won’t be returning to normal any time soon.
With everyone confined to quarters during this forced work-from-home stint – that for many probably feels like a “careful what you wish for” scenario – the average customer’s relationship with a product will inevitably change.
Product Depth Will be Tested
Many of us have a lot of time on our hands at the moment, so the average consumer has more time to dedicate to exploring and mastering a tool in their toolbox. Your experience will be pushed to the forefront as your product’s nuances are highlighted through extended daily use. The feature on your product’s roadmap that previously seemed niche suddenly has far wider adoption across many more use cases than anticipated.
Along with this comes your ability to explain and support your product. You can bet that every help article is being perused in hopes of unlocking the deep corners of your product’s functionality. At Nifty, we’ve seen a considerable uptick in Help Center messages, though some of them transition into something more like a conversation between two people looking for someone new to talk to.
Price Sensitivity is Here to Stay
It’s not just Main Street that is feeling the squeeze at the moment; everyone from freelancers to big banks is tumbling, and with it comes what we feel comfortable paying for, even if we value it.
This appears in several forms. We’ve already worked with large numbers of our mom-and-pop or small-agency customers who have seen their businesses falter due to being “non-essential” or have their lead pipelines flash-dry. Their requests for relief are rarely seeded in suddenly having a gripe with your product, rather their inability to justify investment in a tool when their business is in free fall.
Larger teams – even up to the enterprise – have tried to find solutions to reduce monthly expenses, and cutting or refitting their software toolkit seems to be a prevalent one that doesn’t have the ugly backlash of layoffs.
Collaboration and Cohesion Will be Emphasized
The first thought here probably goes without saying, but tools that are built around enriching multi-user experiences will triumph, not only because they solve a problem from a business standpoint, but because they unite us as a people in a way that many of us so desperately need. The poster child of COVID collaboration so far is Zoom, which has vaulted its way to undisputed leader of video chatting. Its use among our team is so prevalent now that we’ve integrated it natively into our own product.
But with collaboration comes heightened emphasis cohesion. This idea is certainly nothing new as integrations have been connecting our workflows for years, but compounding this idea with price sensitivity and sudden remoteness will test companies’ devotion to complicated and often expensive integrated multi-tool solutions. I expect this issue to flare up in the next couple months as synthesizing reports becomes more challenging when getting in touch with your co-workers relies on a combination of a chat message and a Zoom call.
You might be saying “but Sky, you already said product depth will be tested, now you’re saying products that can broaden their value horizontally will have growing appeal. Which is it?”
It’s both, really. So long as markets are in deadlock, I think tools that can do more for less and solve the most problems will outlast those that do one thing really well at a premium. Solving a problem will always be a core tenet for a product, but every product will increasingly have to answer for its value proposition until things get moving again.
A Return To New-Normal
Shooting for a return to the way things were six months ago has tremendous appeal, but it’s deeply unlikely. In the same way that we’ve all been asked to enter our cocoons for the time being, what product emerges as on the other side of COVID will be a mixture of ingenuity, sacrifice, and compromise. Products that survive – or better yet, thrive – during this time will be those that are able to communicate with and adapt to the rapidly-evolving needs of their users. And if you think about it, a “user base” has probably never been so homogeneous in our lifetime, as it is invariably someone stuck in their home looking forward to tomorrow.