The Pivotal Role of Product Experience in Customer Experience Delivery What is product experience? And how can it help businesses succeed in their efforts to provide their customers with a remarkable customer experience? In 2016, the buzzword in retail circles, “omnichannel”, reached its peak. It dominated conversations at every turn as decision-makers scrambled to find solutions that would enable them to blend all their online and offline touch points, creating a unified and seamless customer experience. Fast-forward to the present, as more and more companies reach their digital transformation maturity, the conversations are now circling around “on-demand” in which experiences, not channels, reign supreme. There are, understandably, a lot of theories and strategies out there on how to best provide customers with the best experiences, as there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but there’s one often neglected customer experience component that businesses should start taking advantage of should they want to standout and eventually gain customer loyalty: product experience. What is Product Experience? “Product experience”, from the customers’ point-of-view, according to IGI Global, is “the entire set of effects that is elicited by the interaction between a user and a product, including: (1) The degree to which all our senses are gratified (aesthetic experience); (2) The meanings we attach to the product (experience of meaning); (3) The feelings and emotions that are elicited (emotional experience).” One global brand that deeply understands the importance of product experience in the grand scheme of customer experience delivery is Coca-Cola. See, the entry of generations Y and Z in the market posted an existential threat to a brand that’s selling an unhealthy product. If they’re not able to effectively market to these huge demographics, a.k.a. their future customers, their product is going to go down. But it looks like Coke isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, because as of 2018, it’s still one of the world’s most loved and valued brands at $79.96 billion USD. Their secret? Smart positioning. Coca-Cola simply stopped selling Coke as a product, but instead repositioned it as a creator of positive experiences in their advertising campaigns. This viral video from their “Happiness Machine” campaign is just an example of how Coke is using product experience to support their overall customer experience activities: But what does product experience mean in digitally-enabled touchpoints? Let’s take an example from e-commerce. When it comes to browsing or shopping online, a positive product experience (from the customer’s point-of-view) may begin with seeing accurate, consistent and complete product information on their screens. Say, there’s a customer that wanted to purchase the latest TV model and thought of browsing online for options. Note that customers, on average, visit three to five websites before contacting a sales representative to get more information or make a purchase. Their journey went something like this: They visited five sites on their laptop and discovered that only three of these sites have complete, accurate, and consistent product information on their product. They eliminated two and are now down to three prospects. They forwarded the information from these three sites to their partner’s mobile for them to check out in store. Upon arrival to the store, the partner was greeted with conflicting information. One of the brand’s online information is inconsistent with the one in store. It could be the price, feature, promo, etc., but the point is the customer was presented with inaccurate information. The customer eliminated two more prospects and is now left with one brand; the one that took the time out to get all its facts right and available in a consistent manner, online and offline. The customer makes the purchase. Because the brand took the time out to give their prospective customers a nice product experience, not only were they able to close the sale, but they’ve also most likely won an advocate. That diligent brand would definitely be top of mind when someone else asks for their recommended TV brand. But that’s an ideal scenario. In the real world, what commonly happens is a customer makes a purchase online to take advantage of a sale or a discount, for example, only to find out that they were debited the regular amount. Here, regardless of the price, the customer would immediately feel that they were wronged and instantly tag the e-commerce site as unreliable and untrustworthy. What could’ve likely caused the discrepancy? It could be that the information displayed on the e-commerce site was out-dated. That the sale or promo was only good for a limited time, and customers would be charged the regular price when the period lapsed. Now, whether or not the customer was given a refund, after, isn’t the main issue. The issue is they’ve just been treated to a regrettably negative experience, which not only means no repeat business, but a tarnished reputation. What’s more is this irate customer would definitely tell their community about their bad experience. Can disastrous outcomes like this be prevented? 4 Product Experience Must-Haves The product experience arena is winnable. In today’s business landscape, companies who are serious in their customer experience efforts can no longer afford to overlook excellence in product experience, because failure at it could end the customer journey. So, what are the essentials of a great product experience delivery? Accuracy – The provision of correct product information is the cornerstone of digital retail, because, simply put, inaccuracy turns customers off, drives businesses away and wastes a lot of money. The true cost of incorrect product information may be unknown, but Americans in 2016 returned $260 billion worth of goods bought online. Although the returns were due to various reasons, one of those reasons could be incorrect or lack of product information. Consistency – A standard is essential in creating awareness as well as building trust and loyalty. That’s why brands need consistency in messaging, imaging and so on. The same is true with product experience delivery in e-commerce. If a company, for example, has multiple suppliers for a single item and receives information and images in different formats, then a single format must be set and implemented across the board, so what the customer sees is uniformity, not chaos. Completeness – There is no doubt that customers today are savvy shoppers. They research and line up choices before zeroing in on a product or service. A smart business would provide them with all the information they need in one place and not shy away from letting them know of their offering’s limitations. Businesses need to even go as far as give recommendations or provide education, in the name of great customer service. Relevance – If customers don’t see exactly what they’re looking for upon landing on a page, they will quickly switch to another. Relevance, here, is a matter of getting straight to the point and not wasting people’s time. Another function of relevance is upselling. By providing customers with suggestions relevant to their search, businesses have a golden opportunity to create awareness and perhaps even close out a (larger) sale.