It’s All About the Experience

This is something that keeps coming to mind, so I figured it is high-time that I wrote about it.

With a product, it’s all about the entire experience – not just the product.  By making the experience of finding, purchasing, and using a product as positive as possible, a customer is much more likely to A) pay more or B) make a repeat purchase.  This is something that some companies understand, and that others are completely oblivious to.  You’d think that given companies are in the business of making money, that they’d have figured this out by now.  Why do so many struggle with it?  I don’t know.

Is finding the product a positive experience?

There’s a lot to “the experience”.  It first begins by the customer finding the product.  Was it easy or was it difficult to find?  For some things, this can really go either way.  Take, for example, a restaurant.  There’s definitely a difference between finding a burger joint at the next exit on the highway and finding a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  In almost every case, you want to make your product as accessible as possible.  

Here’s a related example.  A few months back I needed to purchase a new bike tire.  I asked a friend (who is into cycling) where I should buy one.  He replied with the name of a local store, and told me to explicitly ask about the cheaper tires they had in the back of the store.  Sure enough, I went to the store and saw what they had displayed.  The only tires they had displayed were quite expensive – at least double what I was willing to pay.  I found an employee, and asked them about the tires they had in the back.  They took me into the back, and showed me the selection they had.  The tire I ended up purchasing was less than half the cost of the ones I had seen earlier.  Had I not asked, I would have seen only the expensive tires, and walked out without making a sale.  In this case, the experience of finding what I was looking for wasn’t necessarily a positive one.  Maybe they were trying to get people to buy the more expensive tires, but either way, I bet they had a number of customers walk back out the door because what they saw was too expensive.  

Once a customer has found the product, does the product appear appealing?  

Here’s another example: Another thing I’ve been looking for is a set of tires for my car.  I’ve looked through a lot of online postings, and it’s interesting to note how certain people attempt to sell things.  Some people post blurry pictures of a set of dirty tires taken in a dark corner of a garage.  Even if the tires are in good condition, and it’s a good deal, I’m a lot less likely to give the person a call.  Really, for the 20 minutes of work it would take to hall them outside, hose them off, and take a decent picture, it’d be worth doing so.  If the product looks unappealing, the customer is less likely to buy it.   

Once the customer makes the purchase, is the experience of opening the packaging a positive one?

Just the other day, my wife and I had to buy some new light bulbs – not the standard Compact Florescent or 60 watt bulbs, but some sort of special halogen bulbs.  One, in particular, was packaged in that evil sort of clear plastic packaging – the kind that, when cut, becomes sharper than the scissors that cut it.  The same kind that is also incredibly difficult to cut, and is sealed the entire way around the package.  (Now maybe they use this kind of packaging because they are so dang expensive, and so that people won’t open the package in the store and steal them, but still!).  I think I counted no less than 17 bits of plastic and cardboard left over after hacking the package open.  The experience of bringing the product home and opening it up was not a positive one.  I’m much less inclined to buy such a product again.  (Of course, if I had my own way, we’d be using LED or Compact Florescent bulbs, but we rent, so the choice in light fixtures isn’t exactly ours).  

Does the product provide a positive experience when being used?

Here’s something that has me a bit baffled lately.  I’m a Windows guy.  I’ve been developing software for various Microsoft platforms for years.  There are things with Windows that annoy the living heck out of me.  They make me want to switch to something else.  I’m sure the alternatives also have problems, but there’s some things that Microsoft still hasn’t gotten right.  Take for example, plugging in a USB memory stick or SD card into a laptop.  Even with Windows 8, there’s a little pop-up that comes up indicating that your device is ready to be used.  OK.  Sometimes there’s also an accompanying dialog with a progress bar that pops up.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s letting me know that the computer has detected a new device, and it’s trying to set it up.  Fine.  But when I go to eject the device, and pull it out, another pop-up comes up indicating that the device can now safely be removed.  This pop-up stays up… even long after the device has been removed.  It’s like “Hey Windows, thanks for letting me know that I can safely remove that SD card… that I removed an hour ago.”.  If the device has been removed, why on earth is it necessary that the pop-up stays there?  As a programmer, I understand why.  They are using built-in mechanisms for displaying pop-up (system tray) notifications.  That’s fine.  But the end result is an experience which isn’t positive.  Yes, it’s a completely trivial thing, but it shows that not a lot of thought went into crafting the experience of using the operating system.

To make a long story short: If your customers aren’t having a good experience – from start to finish, they are a lot less likely to give you money.  

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