Just a couple weeks back Apple launched iPad2, the newer version of their tablet. No, I am not going to review and list out the good and bad things of iPad2 in this blog post. Rather, its about what’s keeping this company going…hardly a week after the iPad2 launch, there had been news abuzz that iPhone5 is being launched soon and some sites already got their hands dirty and published some screenshots of how the iPhone5 looks like and the features it will have. Its this ability of Apple inc., that surprises me every time they come up with a new product or enhancement of an existing product. I can see Apple as having perfected the art of ‘wowing’ users. In this post, I touch upon some takeaways from this spirited organization and their products, and also look at my own experiences with others.
Keep them guessing
Keep your users guessing, yes, very well! But, keep them guessing not about how to use your product in the first place, but about what your product can do for them. Keep them and also your other stakeholders, guessing on what’s the next set of offerings and value proposition you are going to serve them with. Apple keeps its users and the entire world guessing about the next big launch, notwithstanding some companies and sites who rake in the moolah by leaking news about these soon to-be-launched products. Its about how you keep your customers, users and stakeholders on their toes about your soon-to-be launched products.
Not just before release, but after launch and the purchase, users are indeed surprised with the experience they derive from Apple’s products. Let us not look at the value-for-money aspect of Apple’s products, which is a completely different topic altogether. Apple has always been a game changer and led the pack, little wonder then that they always enjoy the first-mover advantage and so the premium pricing. Whether its the Macintosh computer way back in the 80s, or the iMac in the 90s and iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad in the early parts of the 21st century, Apple always has been successful in keeping their users, stakeholders (and competitors too) pleasantly surprised, time and again!
‘Wow!’ – the element of surprise!
Whether its computers,music players, mobile phones and tablets, Apple’s core delivery seems to be…’Wow experiences!’ Taking a cue from this company, its quite obvious that organizations in any industry need to keep their customers and users amazed and amused. Some companies and products do resort to this in the form offering coupons, gifts, scratch cards, discount codes, freebies, BOGOFFs (Buy-one-get-one-for-free) etc. But do you think users are going to be really ‘surprised’ and ‘wow’ed by offering these surprise elements? You are right, they are least bit impressed, leave alone surprised by these itsy-bitsy extras.
When I say ‘surprise’, I refer to it in the context of the relationship you develop with your users. Its not about giving value in small packets, but to make your users genuinely fall in love with you, your products and your brand! Its about how enchanted and charmed they are with your products, not about those little extras that they are getting from your products. If you genuinely want to ‘wow’ them, don’t just look at the product alone. Focus on the holistic experience surrounding your product, services associated with it, your brand, communications.
Keep it simple
It might be as simple as changing a few elements of your product, on and off, a la’ Google. How much we all love the ever-refreshing ‘Google doodle’! Google changes their logo every often to celebrate or commemorate a leader, an occasion or a festival, worldwide. Note that they don’t change it too drastically to move out of their original corporate branding, nor so often that users get irritated. There is a season and reason for change and that’s one small way in which Google surprises their users in a small but significant way. Google does this brilliantly well in a simple and subtle way, take for instance the ‘I am feeling lucky’ button right below the Search bar.
Of all the chocolates and sweetmeats available in the market, my 4-year old daughter loves one thing the most, Kinder Joy. I noticed this not just with my kid, but with most others as well. I tried it myself and found it pretty amusing and amazing too why kids love this particular chocolate so much. This chocolate comes in an egg-shaped attractively colored package. When you open it, two parts – the first is of course, a chocolate and the other one a ‘surprise’ gift. This you can only see after opening that small container. Another interesting thing is that you also get a human-shaped spoon that comes along the pack so that you can eat the chocolate with that.
Analyze this…is it the chocolate that is doing the magic? it could be one reason, but not entirely. Then is it the attractive packaging? perhaps, yes. Or could it be the handy spoon that comes along to eat the chocolate with ease? Could be true. Is it the ‘surprise gift’ that keeps the kids guessing what could be inside and tickles their inquisitive brains-the small toys they are going to get in addition to the chocolate? Yes! That’s one major factor because the so called surprise-gift is not something you take out of the box and start playing. It needs to be built, assembled, joined, glued or worked upon. That’s the icing on the cake. Keep your users guessing and keep them, engaged not just with your product but with all associated services and activities. Note that its the entire experience of all the above elements that is adding up to the ‘wow’ factor.
Engage your users and build a relationship
Any relationship will turn sour if you don’t have an element of surprise. The relationship between product owner and user is no different. Spice up the relationship with a release now and then. You need to build a cult-like following amongst your customers and users. An example of a terrific relationship between an organization and its customers is Harley-Davidson. The proud owners of Harley do not just ride the motor cycles, but live their passion, joining clubs, and organizing and participating in fun events, social activities etc., which revolve not around the motor cycles, but also beyond them. It is an ‘experience’, a culture created around the relationship between you as an organization and your user community.
Relationships remain healthy and happy if the involved parties are engaged and are committed to each other. Same holds good for you and your users. Often, this commitment is driven by your users’ passion for your products and their expectations for your new products, which are built around the experiences from existing products.
Do you do OOBE (Out Of the Box Experience)?
Keep in mind that you need to address the needs and wants of not just the existing customers or user-base, but also prospective customers and potential users-to-be. Also, this needs to be done at various stages of the customer and user engagement with you. You need to ensure that the element of surprise and ‘wow’ factors are built right from the pre-launch phase through to the launch phase. Not only that, it needs to be sustained for every prospective customer and user from pre-purchase, through to the purchase a.k.a point-of-sale to the post-purchase experiences.
Here is how to ‘wow’ your users
Here are some tips and tricks on how you can inject a bit of ‘surprise’ into your product development and release approaches.
- First, release your site with bare minimum features. Add a ‘Beta’ to your site
- Go agile – release often, release little
- Keep releasing /launching on a continual basis, newer features and functionality
- Build up an active user community
- Spread the good news about your newer products, versions, enhancements
- Give only so much info that your users are excited and your competitors, scared
- Manage a few pre-launch sneak-peeks a.k.a leaks of your product
- Focus not just on the product, but the entire experience surrounding the pre-purchase, purchase/point-of-sale, post-purchase
For your benefit, I gave below the images of the above mentioned products and examples.Have fun, browsing through this interactive feature. Until next post, ciao!