What are Product Experiences? The Essential Guide to Product Experience

What are Product Experiences? The Essential Guide to Product Experience

It’s in the interest of every SaaS team to ensure that any customer using their product experiences as much value as possible.

Whether good, bad, or something in between, the sum total of the interactions a customer has with a product can be described as their “product experience.”

The term “product experience” is itself a bit jargon-y, and it’s not immediately clear how companies should monitor or improve it.

So we drew on our discussions with hundreds of SaaS companies that care about product experience to put together this guide for you.

TL;DR

  • The term “product experience” (PX) relates to the part of the overall user experience that takes place inside your product.
  • It’s the shared responsibility of multiple SaaS departments, notably product and customer service.
  • For most products, customers will rate the experience positively if it’s easy to use and tailored to their specific needs.
  • Big-picture strategies for improving product experience include looking at analytics, selecting the right metrics, and committing to evergreen onboarding practices.
  • At the product level, tactics to optimize PX include checklists, walkthroughs, tooltips, resource center widgets, and microsurveys.
  • Userpilot will allow you to execute all the above tactics and strategies, and more, all at a reasonable price point.

What is product experience?

Product experience (or PX for short) is a subcategory within the overall user experience.

What is Product Experience - Userpilot

If the term “user experience” covers the entire user journey, then “product experience” refers to the part that takes place within the product itself.

For SaaS products, that’s everything that happens between when the customer first logs in and the final time they log out.

A subjective concept that changes over time

Product experience is something that every user sees differently.

In other words, it’s subjective, rather than objective (although this hasn’t stopped companies trying to quantify it with metrics like NPS!).

It’s a measure of how a given customer perceives your product based on all the interactions they have with it.

As an emotional barometer of the quality of your product, PX is subject to change over time:

  • It can improve. Think of a product you used once despite initial skepticism, but then over time came to love.
  • Or it can deteriorate. This article contains a cautionary tale of someone who was really excited to use a new product, but whose hopes were sadly dashed.

Who is responsible for product experience?

If you were to give one corporate department sole ownership of PX, that group of people would probably wither underneath the amount of responsibility that would entail!

So the burden of PX has to be shared over multiple departments. Here is a selection of those who feel that responsibility the most keenly:

Product

Product teams are responsible for designing and building a product that offers users value and is easy to use.

Under that umbrella, you have:

  • Engineering as the people who physically write the code for the product.
  • Product marketers who listen to in-app customer feedback and ensure that the product is responsive to users’ needs.
  • Product management acting as the gatekeepers to the whole product process and strategy.

Customer-facing roles

Customer support is the primary source of direct product feedback from customers in most companies. It’s support’s responsibility to stand by the user as they learn how to get the most out of the product.

The role of customer success is a little different: it’s about learning the goals a particular customer has from using your product and then ensuring they’re met.

Honorable mentions

Sales are in a unique position to listen to input from prospects and new customers, and then funnel that feedback to the product team.

Marketing is responsible for communicating the product’s value at every stage in the customer journey.

What makes a good product experience?

To a certain extent, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As we said above, PX is subjective, so no two customers will have the same answer to this question, regardless of what your business model is.

That being said, there are some general principles that hold true the majority of the time.

Focus on the needs of the individual

You don’t want a generic product experience that tries to be all things to all people. This is the fastest way to turn customers off in two seconds flat.

Instead, a good product experience is as tailored to the needs of the individual customer as possible.

segmentation
Source: Amplitude

To achieve this, SaaS companies will need to segment users into distinct groups, each with their own product objectives (sometimes called “Jobs to be Done,” or JTBD for short).

Once segmented, users can then be given a product experience that only focuses on what they find valuable for their specific use case.

For example, social media scheduling app Kontentino have learned that their users tend to fall into two segments:

  1. Brands that post content on their own behalf.
  2. Agencies that post content on behalf of multiple brands.
kontentino segments

It wouldn’t do much for customer satisfaction to offer brands a feature that allows them to post on behalf of multiple websites at once.

So Kontentino can save such features for agency customers only.

Easy to use

You don’t want to create customer experiences where people have to search around for 10 minutes before they can work out how to use the feature they want.

That’s a recipe for churn.

So a good product experience combines intuitive design with product walkthroughs, tours, and tooltips so that it’s 100% clear to the user what they need to do.

Again, the example of Kontentino is instructive here.

In order to activate, users of Kontentino need to complete the following two steps:

  1. Connect a social media account
  2. Make a post

Kontentino uses tooltips to make these two steps as straightforward for new users as possible.

So here’s the tooltip showing users how to connect an account:

kontentino tooltip 1

And here’s the next one showing how to create a post for the first time:

kontentino tooltip 2

Simple, as you can see.

Why a good product experience matters

If all this attention on making things easy and convenient for the individual seems excessive to you, consider the following:

  • We live in an age where SaaS companies compete globally. If you can’t give a customer what they want, it’s never been easier for them to find an alternative online, even if that alternative is on the other side of the world.
  • The freemium business model is increasingly popular. So customers expect to be able to try before they buy, and if your product experience isn’t up to scratch, you simply won’t get the sale.

So if you don’t take the time to optimize your product experience, you probably won’t be in business very long.

That raises the question:

How can you improve your product experience?

Allow me to suggest three main strategies that you can use.

#1 – Analyze user behavior

Goals

Look, intuition will always have a place in business decision-making, no question.

But after your SaaS business exceeds a certain size, it’s not good enough anymore to solely rely on intuition to analyze user behavior. It’s just not practical to keep tons of customer data from hundreds of businesses in your head at once.

So you’ll need product analytics software to do the heavy lifting for you. Features I would recommend looking for include:

  • A/B testing: Try out two product hypotheses and use data to prove which works better.
  • Paths: Map out all the possible routes into and out of a particular product feature.
  • Goals: Set up funnels to direct user behavior and track how many users make it from step to step.
  • Heatmapping: Determine which features are most popular and where users most often get stuck.

#2 – Keep an eye on the right metrics

metrics

The word “right” is the most important thing to focus on here.

Technically, there are hundreds of metrics you could track. But the opportunity cost of wading through that much data each month doesn’t justify the value you would gain from doing that.

Instead, take a leaf out of the essentialist playbook, and focus on fewer metrics, but better ones. Here are my top 3:

  1. Optimize for Activation: How many new customers understand the basics of your product and end up adopting the most important features for their particular needs?
  2. Maximize Customer Retention: What percentage of user each month is retained from the previous month, as opposed to being new users?
  3. Increase Customer Lifetime Value: How can you maximize the amount of money that you earn from each customer over the time they work with you?

#3 – Never stop onboarding users

Too many SaaS products lack formal user onboarding as part of their product adoption cycle.

Those that do include onboarding often attempt to educate customers about all their features at once (cue feelings of overwhelm!).

Alternatively, they onboard users into their features in a random order. In a recent newsletter, our Head of Marketing, Emilia Korczynska, termed this approach “Onboarding YOLO.”

newsletter

Neither of these solutions is as effective as a structured onboarding system that educates users throughout the product lifecycle.

If you genuinely adopt a customer-centric mindset, you will see that onboarding is really just synonymous with education. And that’s something that should never end.

All the following examples are great times for some onboarding:

  • When a new user signs up for your product and you want them to activate.
  • When you release new features geared at a particular segment.
  • When your analytics show that an important secondary feature is being underutilized.

So analytics, metrics, and onboarding are the main strategic tools for optimizing product experience, but what if we look at the problem on a more tactical level?

In-app tools for improving product experiences

All of these ideas are UI patterns that can sit inside your product and make it more pleasant to use. Pretty neat, huh?

Microsurveys

As the name suggests, these are small surveys that you can send to your customer in-app to solicit user feedback.

They can be quantitative, like an NPS survey:

microsurvey nps

Or they can be qualitative, which is great when you want to find out more about WHY a particular user perceives your product in a certain way:

qualitative survey

I would suggest using a combination of both.

Product walkthroughs

These are great for getting new users to activate.

But a word of caution. You don’t want to walk your customers through every product feature under the sun all at once.

That’s a linear product tour, and users hate them:

product tour hate

Instead, you should segment new customers, figure out what their segment needs in order to activate, and then teach them those features only.

Checklists

checklist

I find that checklists are especially useful for keeping your product top of mind with the customer.

To create a good checklist, follow these best practices:

  • Tick off the first item in the checklist automatically to make the customer feel good without needing to do anything
  • Include a progress bar so the user can visualize how much more they have to do
  • Use gamification elements such as badges whenever you can
  • Keep your copywriting simple, concise, and focused on action

Tooltips

tooltip

This is a small paragraph of text which is attached to one UI element.

When you hover over the element, the text appears and shows the customer how to use the element in question.

Resource center widget

resource center

Most SaaS companies will be familiar with the idea of a knowledge base, which is a repository of help articles that resides on a specific sub-section of your website.

A resource center allows your customers to access that in-app, without having to search for the knowledge base manually.

And if you create a resource center widget, your customers will be able to click on the little icon at the bottom right of the screen whenever they get stuck while using your product.

So how do you build all these UI patterns?

The right software for excellent product experiences

The good news is that Userpilot will let you build all of these tactical options for your product — and without needing to code anything from scratch!

Userpilot new Chrome Extension

With Userpilot, you can create intricate product walkthroughs consisting of multiple tooltips, hotspots, and driven actions.

Userpilot screenshot

Your walkthroughs will be responsive to the behavior of your customer, so they won’t be served with one onboarding step until they’ve completed the previous one.

To avoid making a generic, linear product tour, Userpilot lets you segment your users and then give each cohort its own individual walkthrough based on a custom checklist.

Here’s a screenshot showing some of the factors you can segment by:

Userpilot segmentation

To help you understand your customers’ needs better, Userpilot also comes with a dedicated analytics suite.

This includes an A/B testing feature, so you’ll be able to run product experiments to your heart’s content.

And there’s also a Goals feature, which will let you specify funnels for your users and then monitor how successfully they proceed through the steps you laid out for them.

Userpilot Goals

Unlike other product experience software, which doesn’t let you talk to customers directly, Userpilot even comes with the ability to send both qualitative and quantitative microsurveys.

You’ll be able to do this in-app, so as to prevent users from getting distracted by their email inbox.

If your users run into any issues that you haven’t already solved with intelligent onboarding, they’ll also be able to consult a help widget that you can build with Userpilot.

And all this functionality comes for a reasonable price tag of $249 for 2500 MAUs.

Book a demo to see for yourself!

Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be able to understand:

  • What product experience is and why it matters
  • Who owns PX in SaaS companies
  • What makes a good product experience
  • Strategies and tactics to improve your users’ product experiences

If you’re looking for software to bolster your customers’ experience of your product, we hope that you’ll consider Userpilot.

It offers a wide range of valuable features at a very competitive price.

And you can try all those features out in a free trial. Sign up today!

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