The seminal article “Positioning is a game individuals play in today’s me-too market place,” written by renowned marketing experts Al Ries and Jack Trout in 1969, was so groundbreaking that it was subsequently developed into the best-selling book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”. This was revolutionary in many ways; most notably, it marked the first time that the term “positioning” had been used to describe the process of firmly establishing a brand in the minds of its target audience.
The book provided many invaluable pieces of advice, however one marketing principle that particularly resonated was the notion that “the simplest way to enter into a person’s head is to be first.” This concept was expanded upon in the book by Al Ries and Jack Trout, with the goal of helping marketers to avoid the common mistake of failing to take into consideration the broader context of this statement.
Many corporate leaders have had a long-held belief that launching products quickly and at all costs is the key to success in the eyes of customers. This has been epitomized by the Facebook mantra “move quickly and break stuff”. This is further driven by the ever-increasing pace of modern life, with technology being a particular area of focus. As a result, the competition to be the first to cross the finish line has become an all-important factor.
It is undoubtedly beneficial to be quick and efficient, however, this should never be the primary focus. By prioritizing being the first to launch a product (or “first in the customers’ eyes”), more important aspects such as strong features, smooth performance and user-friendliness were neglected. Unfortunately, the consequences of such a reckless approach were not desirable.
At the beginning, we became accustomed to accepting flaws in our work, understanding that they could be rectified in the future. In order to meet tight deadlines, the time required to develop software was reduced and plans were implemented hastily. There was a big emphasis on obtaining the newest and most advanced technology as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we erroneously assumed this kind of behavior was essential to promote innovation. How wrong we were.
An outdated model in the era of user experience
Investing in ‘innovation’ without taking into account how it would improve customers’ experiences is a strategy doomed to fail. This is already evident in the video game industry, which has a history of releasing unfinished products in order to maximize financial gains. Although this approach may have been successful in the past, eventually customers stopped buying them, demonstrating that this strategy is ultimately unsustainable.
In today’s market, customers are increasingly conscious of the influence they can have as consumers. If a product or service does not meet customer expectations, they are likely to look for alternatives. Being the first to market is no longer a guarantee for customer satisfaction; what matters is the quality of the user experience, rather than the fact that it was the first.
A recent poll conducted by the Gartner Group has emphasized the importance of customer service as a key competitive differentiator; it revealed that 80% of businesses consider it to be a vital factor in their success. This is a trend that is becoming increasingly apparent in the present day. If a business wishes to attract and retain its target demographic, then it is essential that they reconsider their approach and realize that a fast product rollout is acceptable, as long as the product’s quality is not compromised.
Friction, or the art of innovating at a snail’s pace
Following the emergence of various trends, a few years ago Facebook revised its founding principles. Through this process, it became apparent that the barriers to innovation were not accidental, but rather purposeful. In order to ensure customer satisfaction, the company decided to take its time in perfecting its products and services before introducing them to the public.
It is certainly understandable why it is necessary to take the necessary amount of time to allow for innovation, the generation of new ideas and the improvement of existing ones. Friction associated with this waiting period is an essential component of the process.
Growth-hawks would be understandably incensed by a situation where friction is not kept to a minimum. The most pressing matter is to ensure the product is released into the market; any bugs or additional features can be addressed in subsequent updates. However, this strategy does not eliminate friction; rather, it transfers the burden to the customer who may experience frustration and annoyance due to a faulty product or an incomplete service.
It is evident that consumer dissatisfaction does not benefit businesses. As companies strive to outdo each other by providing an improved customer experience, marketers are beginning to understand the importance of creating an effortless product in order to succeed. If this is not feasible, then the product or service must have a lower degree of difficulty than their competitors.
It is evident that in order to enhance the customer experience, it is essential to shift any impediments that may arise as a result of rapid development. Therefore, it is necessary to be creative and consider various approaches that can be implemented in order to achieve this. Here are three potential solutions that could be implemented:
- There needs to be more money allocated to study and strategic investigation. The enormous investments in research and development that large corporations such as Amazon and Microsoft spend is a notable amount, amounting to billions of dollars. This is a well-calculated move, as they need to remain competitive and are willing to bear the costs associated with innovation. So, what can be achieved with such a large sum of money? Fundamentally, a successful corporate strategy is built on research into different markets, trends, industries and consumer behavior. By conducting market research, corporations can develop improved products and services, resulting in a better user experience.
- More time should be allotted for the first phases of growth: It is clear that resolving a problem takes more than just financial resources; it also requires considerable time and effort. This is why we cannot rush the process of study, exploration and discovery. In this situation, the difficulty is increased due to the need for a more thorough research phase, in which innovation-led organisations can analyse their assumptions in comparison to the market. Dismantling these preconceived ideas allows product teams to identify unanticipated opportunities, and to develop new ways of delivering value to customers.
- There Should Be More User Testing: Despite the extra time and resources involved, user testing should not be overlooked when planning sprints for product or service development. This method of discovering issues before the product or service is released to market can help to reduce any difficulties in transitioning from the consumer phase to the development phase. This is because user testing enables any potential issues to be identified and remedied before they become a problem. It is understandable why some businesses in the industry may be hesitant to include user testing in their plans due to the extra time it takes and the additional costs involved, but it can be beneficial in the long run and can ultimately help to prevent customers from being put off from purchasing the product or service.
It is evident that friction is unavoidable; the challenge is to identify where businesses must accept it. It is essential for the success of the product and, if it is not taken into account, the final version will be full of friction which will negatively affect the user experience, ultimately resulting in the product’s failure, even if it was the first to hit the market. Companies may opt to get their customers to pay for it during the development phase if they wish to avoid it.
It is clear that introducing user testing into the development process would inevitably lead to a delay, as well as an additional cost. Notwithstanding this, providing a greater level of service and an improved customer experience is an essential element in the modern commercial environment, and one which allows a brand to remain at the forefront of customer thinking. As marketing authorities such as Al Ries and Jack Trout have stated, businesses must be willing to accept a degree of resistance to innovation in order to achieve their goals.