Back to the drawing board – The Product Development Revolution

May 17, 2021

Article published in French news site by Arik Center, Corporate Innovation Director at Prodware

Consumer insight is an evolving theme within innovation and customer experience; it has become an essential part of ensuring organizations capture, understand and act on how their audiences interact with their brand.

The Rise of Intelligence into Consumer Usage

In her “Reaching New Understandings” article, my colleague Jennifer Rozin discussed the way in which customer feedback has developed as a technology and process so that it has now become more intrinsic and accessible. I wanted to take up the baton and delve deeper into how products themselves can more easily be adapted by manufacturers by the very way in which they are being used.

Indeed, in their “Industrial Manufacturing Trends 2020” report, PwC clearly identified an approach to product development held by “high-leverage innovators” in the sector, who “developed deep end user insight and rigorous portfolio management of their R&D effort.” These successful manufacturers could also show faster recovery in times of recession and even profit.

Think of the traditional route to market of a product (unfortunately coined as the “sell and forget” model). Focus groups might have had early access to prototypes to test the given product. They would then provide feedback for the R&D department to adjust the product accordingly. This may have taken weeks or even months before the product could be launched onto the market. Then there’d be number crunching based on sales/returns analysis and it’d be back to the drawing board with tweaks and adjustments to the product again.

Has the product hit the mark? Does it work? How are customers reacting? How are competitors reacting? What changes do we need to make in order to optimize commercial success and the customer experience?

In a nutshell, this approach is costly in time and money with a significant risk level being so exposed in the market.

As ever, with innovation; things can only get better (remember that 80s track by Howard Jones back in the day?). Agility and intelligence are our friends. By embedding technology into the products or even the user manuals, brands are getting instant and ongoing feedback into product consumption without having to ask for feedback as a separate exercise. I’ll give two examples.

Product Development Supported by Artificial Intelligence

As Jennifer already mentioned, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Product Insights is currently in preview and transitioning to become a capability of Customer Insights enabler no matter where it ends up; along with Customer Voice it is a clear signal of the importance to Microsoft and their users of intuitive and built-in intelligence along the customer journey.

Organizations achieve real-time visibility into their connected physical product and digital experiences by collecting signals and acquiring a live stream of data for analysis. The data gets processed and shared across the business with AI stepping in and suggesting areas worth exploring further. This isn’t just about predictive maintenance scenarios, but about providing deep analysis into the features and functions that are (and are not) being used by consumers. This not only leads to products being developed that really hit the mark, but also to additional support and services to offer customers to ensure they are getting the most out of your products.

Digital User Guides to Maximize User Adoption

One of the most common frustrations consumers experience when they buy a new product is figuring out how to make the best use of it, quickly and easily. This isn’t just confined to the do-it-yourself scenario (although it does highlight an easily identifiable challenge that we can all identify with, when faced with reams of paper-based instruction manuals) but to how we can personalize and make it our own post-purchase. Buyer’s remorse is real folks, and it’s not the consumer’s problem.

An innovation partner that I’ve had the pleasure of working with at Prodware (providing an integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement for service scenarios) is Makeree. Their platform provides the technology to help brands overcome this challenge, resulting in a positive customer experience, reducing returns and extending the lifetime value of their product.

Makeree technology provides the brand with feedback, valuable data and insights into how customers use the product and where they get stuck. Data analytics identify potential design issues and improve products. These signals can identify where the end user gets “stuck” so that customer service can add this challenge into their FAQ/KnowledgeBase to avoid this from happening in the future.

From an end user point of view, those hard to understand paper manuals are becoming a “thing of the past.” These digital, interactive, step-by-step guides can include short videos, still images, 3D models, text, clickable icons, popups, question pages and calls-to-action, all designed to help customers set up, use and maintain the products much more efficiently. What I wanted to illustrate from these two innovation examples, is that no matter where the consumer is in their customer journey with you, you no longer have to wait in order to gain insight or ask for feedback as a separate and disjointed exercise. I don’t need to remind anyone reading this of the need for speed in a fast-changing market regardless of industry sector. This is another useful tool to have in a manufacturer’s toolkit.