Product experience is fast becoming one of the most important things to consider when it comes to growing your SaaS company.
It has a direct impact on how users interact and engage with your company. It affects retention and churn, MRR and CLV. In short, it’s really important.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide.
We’re going to explain exactly what product experience means, why you need to start caring about it, and steps you can take to provide the best possible experience for your users.
We’ll also share real-world examples from leading SaaS products along the way, so you can learn from the best.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be on your way to crafting the perfect product experience, delighting your users, and taking the first steps towards serious scaling.
Let’s dive in…
(You can also jump to the relevant sections below)
- What is product experience?
- Why is product experience important? The shift from sales-led growth to product-led growth
- Who is responsible for product experience?
- How can you improve product experience?
- Bringing it all together
What is product experience?
User experience is one of the hottest buzzwords in the SaaS community. And for a very good reason – UX is often what makes or breaks your chance of converting a news user within seconds of when they signed up. That’s why at Userpilot good UX is something we focus on a lot.
But what actually is user experience? The term is a bit elusive: user experience refers to any experiences your users have when engaging with your brand.
That includes your site, your social media channels, your Sales team, your Support team, your knowledge base, your chatbot. Literally every touchpoint a user has with your company falls under user experience.
Product experience is effectively one of those touchpoints. It specifically refers to the experience people have when they use your product.
Every aspect of your product falls under the product experience bracket. Your product’s UI, user flows, onboarding, and even the login screen all have an effect.
And in today’s product-led SaaS climate, it’s become more important than ever before.
Why is product experience important? The shift from sales-led growth to product-led growth
The rise of SaaS brought with it a paradigm shift when it came to building software.
Previously, software companies would have a sales-centric mindset. This meant they focused on selling as much of their product as they could. Products in that ‘sales-led growth’ era were very expensive to build, and very expensive to buy. The on-prem software used to be selected by ICOs and execs based mostly on IT compatibility:
Hence: there were a lot fewer choices. Once a customer had purchased your (potentially expensive) software, they would have to put up with it, whether it provided a good product experience or not.
With the emergence of SaaS, the power started to shift towards the customers. The users were no longer locked into one product. They could easily switch to a competitor. And sure enough – more and more competitors started to enter the scene:
SaaS companies started to realize that simply selling their product wasn’t enough. They now had to keep their customers around if they wanted to grow.
Thus, the customer-centric mindset was born:
The product features (and how well they solve the pain-points of the end-user) drives growth – rather than sales and marketing.
This flipped the old way of doing things on its head. Now you would design and build software with your users in mind. User experience, and so product experience, became important drivers when it came to releasing your product.
Which brings us to today. Practically every SaaS company will have a number of competitors knocking at their door. If your tool is slow, buggy or the key features are hard to find or use, or is missing some industry-standard functionalities – your users will get frustrated and sooner or later look for a better alternative. Now they have a choice and want to get the best value for money. The current SaaS landscape is a buyer’s market resembling free economy more than anything else. The users can easily compare different products, try them out for free, and make really informed choices. The only way you can come out on top is by investing in product experience and ensuring your customers love your product so much they want to stick around for life – rather than shop for better alternatives.
Let’s see what great product experience can do for your SaaS, and how to improve it.
The benefits of product experience
So, what kind of benefits can you expect if you provide a great product experience?
1 — Reduce churn, increase retention
“Good Product Experience makes it easy for users to not only form habits and get value from the product, but also discover certain features. Secondary feature discovery is what moves the users from being activated users, to becoming power-users and brand-champions”
– Yazan Sehwail, CEO of Userpilot
As we mentioned earlier – great product experience helps users ‘stick’ to your product. If it’s easy and convenient to use – they are likely to use it more and more. And the more they use your product – the more it becomes a habit for them.
Eventually – they discover more and more features, and derive more and more value from your product.
Great product experience should make this secondary feature discovery easy and quick. And as your users get more value from your product – they are likely to stay with you for longer, i.e. less likely to churn. This, in turn, has a direct impact on your product’s bottom line. One of the key metrics for any SaaS company is customer-lifetime value (CLV). This is essentially the amount of money you can expect to receive from a customer throughout their whole lifespan.
If an average customer cost $200 to acquire and paid you $100 a month for two years, then your CLV would be $2400 – $200 = $2200.
It’s a fairly simple calculation, but it’s incredibly powerful.
One of the main factors that influence your CLV is your churn rate:
Churn is, unfortunately, part of the game. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to reduce it as much as possible.
As you can probably deduce from our analysis above – great product experience is one of the most effective ways of combating churn.
The more value your customers get from your product, the more value you get from your customers.
2 — Improve customer loyalty
The better experience your product provides, the more likely your customers are to use it. That’s a given. But keeping those customers around isn’t just great for your profits.
When it comes to SaaS, customer loyalty is crucial. Most SaaS companies will use a combination of Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) to measure it.
Net Promoter Score is a measure of how likely your users would be to recommend your product:
It’s calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors (people giving a score of 5 or below) from the ratio of ‘promoters’ (score 8 or above).
Read more about NPS here: Net Promoter Score (NPS): The Complete Guide for SaaS
Why does NPS matter in the product-led growth era?
Well – if your user sees themselves as ‘very likely to recommend your product to a friend’ – they will become the main growth engine for your SaaS.
That’s why building customer loyalty through great product experience is so important. Loyal customers will spread the word about your product. They’ll tell their colleagues, friends, and family. They’ll share your blog posts, interact on social media, and write glowing reviews.
Word of mouth is by far the most effective method of marketing. In fact, a Nielsen study found that 92% of consumers trust word of mouth over anything else. What’s more: 88% of UK customers will tell their friends about a positive brand experience they’ve had. So you want as many customer advocates as you can get.
But: provide bad product experience, and up to 46% of your users will post about it on social media.
Hence: improving your product experience is a surefire way of building solid relationships with your customers – and thus, promoting a healthy product-led growth driven by word-of-mouth.
3 — Marketing your product
Marketing a SaaS product is difficult, even more so when you consider that most prospects list previous experience with your product as a number one driver when making a choice.
That’s why free trials and freemium products have become so mainstream. It gives your users a chance to try your product for themselves and decide whether they want to buy it. In the era of product-led growth, SaaS companies should focus on these users – Product Qualified Leads – rather than MQLs and SQLs.
But offering a free version of your product can be risky. If your product doesn’t live up to expectations, or doesn’t provide value, then it’s actually working against you.
That’s why improving your product experience helps with marketing. If you can provide an incredible experience from the very first moment a prospect tries out your product, then they’re far more likely to end up buying it.
Selling your product is far easier when the product sells itself.
4 — Reduce onboarding time
Companies are using more and more SaaS products nowadays. That means a lot of different tools that employees need to understand.
Imagine hiring a new employee and then having to onboard them with ten different software products. It would be a massive time drain, and could risk confusing your new hire before they’ve even started working.
The easier your product is to use, and the better product experience you provide, the quicker it is to onboard new users.
This means they can start seeing value from your product quicker, and start providing value to their employers quicker too.
Who is responsible for product experience?
So, now you know that product experience is one of the most important areas to invest in. But who should be responsible for making those improvements?
An obvious choice would be your Product team, Product Manager, or Product Owner. They know the product inside-out, they know where to make improvements.
But while your Product team should play a key part in improving the experience, it’s important not to restrict the role that other teams can play.
The main teams you should be thinking about when it comes to product experience are:
- Customer Success
Let’s take each in turn…
Product team = The decision-makers
Your Product team are always your first port of call when it comes to improving your product experience.
Ultimately, any decisions should come through them. You might have a dozen customers wanting a certain feature, but it’s your Product team that realize adding that feature will break another one.
If you want your Product team to make the best decisions, you need to supply them with as much information as possible. Give them customer feedback, user research, and prospect demands. Then let them decide how to juggle all of the information and make the right choices.
Customer Success team = Helping your customers
Product experience isn’t just about how your product works, it’s about how your users interact with it.
Your Customer Success team have a huge role to play when it comes to educating your customers and making sure they understand what they need to do.
They’re often responsible for onboarding new customers and helping them get as much value from your product as possible. They essentially augment the product experience by providing advice and support.
A lot of your customer success teams’ work can be automated these days with interactive, contextual product tours – triggering the right experiences to the right user, at the right time. Check out our earlier post about it or let’s jump on a quick call so we can show you how to create them code-free.
Sales team = Setting expectations
Though it might seem like your Sales team have done their job as soon as a customer starts using your product, it’s not as clear cut as that.
The conversations your Sales team have with your leads and prospects will frame your product, and prime how they’ll use it.
In order to provide new customers with the best possible product experience, your Sales team need to set healthy expectations. That means they should never oversell what your product can do.
They also need to start sharing best practices from the very first conversations they have with prospects.
If your Sales team can set your customers up for success, then they’ll have a much better product experience.
Support team = Managing bugs and issues
One thing that is bound to create a negative product experience is when something goes wrong. A bug or error, or an unclear UI, has the potential to ruin the entire experience.
Of course, things are bound to go wrong. No product is perfect. The key is how you deal with it. When a customer comes to your Support team with an issue, how they manage that issue will ultimately determine the product experience.
Generally, customers expect your product to have the odd issue. That’s just part of software. They’ll be less forgiving, however, if your Support team doesn’t deal with it competently.
Your Support team is there to make sure the product experience runs as smoothly as possible.
How can you improve product experience?
Now we’re on to the good bit. How exactly can you improve your product experience and start reaping the rewards?
As we’re sure you’re aware, there’s a lot that goes into building a great product. You can say the same about your product experience.
We’re going to look at the three key steps you can take right now to improve your product experience:
- Improve your onboarding
- Manage your feedback
- Monitor your customers
Improve your product experience by improving your onboarding
First impressions matter. A lot. According to Retently, 23% of customers that churn will cite poor onboarding as the reason.
Even if you have the simplest product in the world, a good onboarding flow can take your product experience to a whole new level.
Your product’s onboarding has two key aims:
1 — To direct your user towards the Aha! Moment
2 — To educate users and set them up for success
It does this by showing new users how the product works, and directing them towards completing specific actions.
We’ve written enough onboarding advice to fill a book, and a big book at that. But we thought we’d share our top tips to improve your onboarding.
Early onboarding flows often consisted of a simple product tour. A series of modals or tooltips would point out various features. Then the user would be left to their own devices.
Nowadays, we recommend a more nuanced approach, with onboarding tailored to each user. We call it contextual onboarding.
Imagine that you have a Feature B. You can’t use Feature B until you use Feature A. In that case, it doesn’t make sense to show the user Feature B until they’ve used Feature A.
That’s contextual onboarding. It’s showing the right message to the right user at the right time.
Here’s another real-world example:
Here, Hubspot has noticed that a user has tried to copy and paste an email. They then handily show this modal that explains about the template feature.
They show the right message to the right user at the right time.
Userpilot actually makes it really easy to add contextual onboarding to your product.
You can simply navigate to the relevant page, and then add a trigger. That trigger could be a mouse click, or a hover, or maybe a certain distance scrolled. When a user activates the trigger, you can then provide them with an onboarding element.
There’s no coding involved, and you can create the exact onboarding sequence you want.
Learn by doing
The most effective way of teaching a user how to use your product is by having them actually do the task. Learning through experience is one of Malcolm Knowles’ four principles of adult learning.
That’s what makes interactive walkthroughs so useful when it comes to improving your onboarding and overall product experience.
Here’s an example to illustrate what we mean:
When you first sign up to Grammarly, you’re presented with a demo document. This document is full of errors and room for improvement. But that’s exactly the point.
It then shows you the various ways in which Grammarly can help improve your writing. You edit this demo document as you go along, learning all you need to know about editing your work.
It also means you see instant value. You immediately understand what makes Grammarly so valuable.
Rather than simply showing users what to do, consider letting them actually do it. They’ll learn much better, and actually achieve something at the same time.
Add a checklist
Checklists are an amazing way of improving your onboarding flow. Sked Social, a Userpilot customer, actually tripled their conversion rate by adding a checklist.
As you can see, this is a perfect onboarding checklist. It includes a progress bar, so that users know how long they have left. It also has the first item ticked off from the start, so that users feel like they’re already making progress.
The items on the checklist should focus on your product’s Aha! Moment. The idea is that completing these tasks will move users towards getting value from your product as quickly as possible.
Design your checklist to keep users on track and make sure they complete their onboarding.
Again, you can easily add a checklist to your product with Userpilot, no coding required.
Improve your product experience by managing your feedback
While your Product team will have a fairly good idea of how to improve the product experience, there’s a group of people who may know even better: Your customers.
Your should design your product experience with your users in mind, and so it’s important to actually pay attention to what they say.
If 70% of your customers think that adding a certain feature will give them more value from your product, then it’s definitely worth bearing that in mind.
It’s helpful to break this down into three simple stages:
1 — Listening
2 — Deciding
3 — Acting
You can’t use feedback to improve your product experience unless you start listening to it.
The best way to do this is to set up a feedback channel. There are plenty of tools you can use to do this, such as Canny or Upvoty.
But you can even get started with a simple survey built on Typeform.
You should always be collecting feedback from customers. If possible, provide a self-service portal for them to access whenever they want. You’ll get better feedback that way.
Failing that, routinely have your Customer Success team reach out to your users asking for feedback.
Now that you have a load of feedback coming in, you need to gather it all in one place and analyze it.
Start by breaking the feedback down into themes. Themes might include UI, onboarding, specific features or functionality. You get the idea.
Once you have these themes mapped out with relevant feedback, it’s time to figure out which areas you want to focus on. This is usually the Product team’s domain.
Take a look at your product strategy and decide which feedback topics align with your current vision and goals.
Then you can work through and prioritize which bits of feedback to work on. You should focus on the lowest-effort but highest-value feedback.
You now know exactly what you need to do if you want to improve your product experience. All that’s left is to actually implement those improvements and act on your feedback.
It’s also worth reaching out to customers once you’ve acted on their feedback. This strengthens their relationship with you, and improves their product experience even more.
Improve your product experience by monitoring your customers
Actions speak louder than words. That’s why it’s important not to always take feedback at face value. Sometimes it’s far better to monitor what your users are actually doing in your product.
You can use product usage analytics to figure out where your product falls short. You can then reach out to those customers if they need educating, or you can use the data to inform product decisions.
First, you need to choose a tool. There are plenty of great product analytics tools out there. We’re big fans of Heap, and Mixpanel is another great one.
When it comes to analyzing your onboarding, you can use Userpilot to see which stages of your onboarding aren’t activated. This suggests holes in your onboarding flow that you need to fix. Wanna see how it works yourself? Book a demo with us below:
Once you’re collecting your product usage analytics, you should focus on your churning users. These are the ones who aren’t satisfied with your product experience.
It’s useful to see which areas of the product they used, and which they didn’t. Perhaps they missed out on a key area of your product? If that’s the case, what can you do differently to ensure future users don’t miss out?
Product usage analytics shows you the gaps in your product. Fixing these will definitely improve your product experience.
Bringing it all together
We’ve covered a lot in this product experience guide, so let’s go back over the key takeaways and bring it all together.
What is product experience?
- Product experience is a subcategory of your overall user experience.
- It includes every part of your product, including onboarding, UI, and login screens.
Why is product experience important?
- If you want to beat your competitors, you need to adopt a customer-centric mindset. This means providing the best product experience.
- Improving your product experience leads to increased retention, greater customer loyalty, and helps to market your product.
Who is responsible for product experience?
- Product teams will generally own the product experience, but other teams play a part.
- Customer Success teams are there to ensure users get the most value from your product.
- Sales teams can help by setting the right expectations from the start.
- Support teams can quickly deal with any bugs or issues, so that users can carry on using the product.
How can you improve product experience?
- One way is to improve your onboarding. Use contextual onboarding, interactive elements, and checklists to reduce time-to-value and educate your users.
- Another way is to manage customer feedback. Set up a feedback portal, separate the feedback into different themes, and then prioritize areas of your product to improve.
- You can also monitor how your customers use your product. Set up a product analytics tool and use it to identify the gaps in your product. Then fill them.
Hopefully now you have a much better idea of what product experience is, why you should care about it, and what you can do to improve it.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
About the Author
Joe is a UX and content writer, with several years of experience working with SaaS startups. He’s been working with SaaS startups that are focused towards product management and customer success for the past couple of years.