Optimize for an Experience not a Platform "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 26 January 2018 True alexa, Apple Watch, customer experience, Google Home, platform product management, Product Design, Product Management Role, Skills, Virtual Reality, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 819 Product Management 3.276

Optimize for an Experience not a Platform

The pace at which new platforms are introduced is increasing rapidly. This means that our customers are always looking for the next opportunity to get their hands on new technology and use it in complex, exciting ways.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality are the buzzwords we can’t seem to escape or get enough of. Last year brought the release of the iPhone X’s ARKit and hundreds of trendy pop-up VR arcades. Even products like the Apple Watch, Roku TV, Google Home and Amazon Alexa have us thinking about what big change we’ll have to optimize for next.

As innovators and, yes, tech geeks, it sometimes becomes our impulse to rebuild our products to accommodate for every single new platform. It makes sense, right? If our customers are buzzing about a new platform, wouldn’t it make sense for us to be right there to be consumed in tandem?

VR Banking? No one Takes Their Chequing Account That Seriously

Take banking for example. Banks have faced serious pressure over the last couple years to make the move to mobile, since that’s where their customers live. On-the-go is when customers truly need access to their bank accounts, so mobile apps and cheque scanners make sense.

Fine. However, when it comes to the other new platforms that are frequently popping up, banks have to look objectively at where there is actual value for clients. The VR experience is a good example – customers probably aren’t going to leverage VR for their banking. They would look, and feel, pretty ridiculous. The Apple Watch is another great example – banks felt the pressure to build an Apple Watch app, however they soon realized that banking just doesn’t make sense on an Apple Watch, at least not in its current state.

When a shiny new platform comes into the picture, I think we can be blinded from taking a reality check. You need to consider what your customer actually needs from your product independent of how they’re going to consume it.

Separate the Experience from the Platform it’s Consumed on

It’s all about the customer’s experience. You need to look back to the experience objectively and ask: “Can I make this experience better with this new platform that is suddenly available?”

It’s this type of thinking that will help you to build products that harness the power of new technology properly. What’s great is that these platforms can help differentiate you, if that differentiation is positive.  A VR experience might not work for a bank, but there are absolutely other industries where it would be a good fit.

It’s not Just a Matter of Resources

Technically these days, you can have everything. But even if you had all the time, money and talent in the world, that doesn’t mean you should. You wouldn’t want to confuse users or dilute your current experience by shifting your priorities.

The chances are that the time and money that you could spend on rebuilding your product to fit a new platform would be spent way more effectively improving or adding functionality to enhance your existing customer experience.

Another way to think about this is to assess the trade off between acquisition and retention. When you build on a new platform, it’s in the hope of acquiring more customers. But if all of your money is being invested into the new platform to acquire new customers…how does that affect your retention? Trade offs need to be considered, but in my experience, they are usually ignored.

How do you Decide What you Really Need?

Instead of tying a platform to the discussion about what an experience should be, I think you need to think about them separately so that your vision isn’t clouded.

What you’re working with is really a banking or gaming or communication experience that has a mobile or AI or VR skin on it. I’ve found that the best way to think about this is outwards in from two perspectives – from the customer’s experience and the new platform that you’d like to adopt.

Where do platform and experience considerations overlap?

If you analyze the platform and experience separately and find that there is an overlap, you will be able to:

1. Harness the power and immediacy of the trendy platform skin

2. Preserve the original intent of the experience you are providing your user with

We all build products in order to give customers something they need. Being able to distinguish a want from a need can be difficult as a consumer with a keen eye for the trendiest technology, so it’s your job as the product owner to make that distinction. Sure, we all want to play with the latest trendy gadgets, but that cannot be at the cost of the customer’s experience and the goals they’re trying to accomplish.

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