Preventing Obsolescence

Welcome to the final instalment in our blog series on how the product design journey works from end to end. We hope that by now we’ve provided you with some useful tips and insights on how you can ensure your product design journey runs as smoothly as possible, from start to finish.

This final article focuses on how to ensure that your product remains a market leader and make sure you keep your audience hooked. A product will usually follow the framework shown below, however, while your product is riding the wave of success, you need to be immersing your team in what happens next in order that you meet the future demands of your audience. You do not want your product to go into decline!

This framework from b2bframeworks.com is an adaptation of the Product Life Cycle timeline; note how they have annotated the original model to include a phase for ‘Product Rejuvenation’ – this is where you will take time to review the success of the product, gleaning feedback from your customer base on how the product could be improved, what they would like to see next, or what would complement the product.

Image Credit: b2bframeworks.com

Before you get started you need to understand what it is you want to find out, so it’s important to outline a set of clear questions. You might want to consider the following examples:

  • What did the user enjoy the most about the product?
  • What elements did the user find difficult to use?
  • What functionality would the user like integrated to make the product even more useful?
  • Does the user feel the product represents good value for money?
  • Would they buy the product again?

There are a number of approaches to learning more about your customers and what they really do want to see next.  Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Focus Groups – this is where you invite a number of customers to attend a focus group to discuss and review the product. You usually reward them for their time by either paying a nominal fee or offering something of value, such as a gift voucher or similar. This session will act as a forum for you to speak directly to your customers to understand what they need.
  • Social Media Poll – If you have a strong social media audience you can use the poll tool within the platform to ask a direct question to your audience. You can also work with a number of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to push a poll out beyond your audience. Whilst this comes at a cost, this is a great way to reach those who have not yet become a customer, to help you better understand how your brand is being understood and received, beyond your fans and followers.
  • 3rd Party Review Tools – If you are an online-savvy business you might consider integrating a tool such as Trustpilot or Feefo. These third-party platforms are used to instil a sense of trust in your audience. You can utilise this in a couple of ways; you can send your customer a prompt to complete a question about the level of service they received once they have made a purchase. They will be directed to the third-party website to leave their feedback there. The feedback is then published on your brand page on the third-party website and fed to the integrated banner on your website. Once your customer has had time to use your product, you can send them a prompt to answer a product-based question. This gives both your business and your prospective customers a really rounded feel of the full user experience.
  • Analytics – If you have launched a technical product you will be able to use any analytics gathered from the user experience. This will give you insights into user behaviour.
  • User Forums – Setting up a user forum which self-manages is a great way to support your product, but to also better understand your audience. Many businesses will have ‘fan groups’ across online communities, where people might sell your product second hand, or ask other product fans about their experience of your product. In this instance you’ll find your customers become the experts on your behalf and answer other users’ questions for you. In this environment you’ll be able to glean insights into what your customers like and dislike about your product, as well as what else they would like to see. It’s important this remains a genuine and safe environment for the users to speak freely, so it’s critical to observe rather than ‘defend’ or make ‘proactive’ responses to problems.

Once you’ve carried out your studies, you’ll be able to amalgamate the data and draw some meaningful conclusions in order to understand what your customers would like to see in the future. The next step is to revisit your feasibility studies and understand which areas of feedback are realistic to integrate to your product. You’ll want to consider what can be updated remotely as added value post-sale, what could be retro-fitted or sold as an add-on accessory, what could become part of an accessories range, or which elements might simply need to be integrated into the next iteration of your product.

This whole section is considered the ‘continuous feedback loop’, because you should always be trying to better understand your audience in order to provide them with the very best product and experience possible. By taking these proactive measures, you will be more likely to head off the competition and retain your customer base.

If you’ve started at the end of this journey, don’t worry – you haven’t missed out! Please feel free to take a look back through our previous articles. As this series draws to a close we’ve covered all aspects of the product design journey, from sourcing a product design consultancy, to budgeting, briefing, marketing, managing IP and beyond.

If you enjoyed this feature, we’d love you to share it amongst your network. Our team of product design engineers are always on hand for any advice on getting your product design journey started. Please feel welcome to drop us a line here or give us a call on 01962 454474.

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