Products are everywhere. Some are obvious, like the chair, phone, watch, coffee maker, or computer you interact with and rely on daily. Others are less apparent, but form the mesh between and around other products, enabling, altering, and enhancing our experiences along the way, often without us even noticing.
This new "Era of Productization” became increasingly apparent to me on my recent trip to Mobile World Congress. As I wheeled my suitcase past souvenir shops and duty free, I thought about how air travel almost imperceptibly weaves together hundreds — if not thousands — of products to give us a relatively seamless experience, from planning and booking our flight to picking our seat and ordering our in-flight meal. Each service you use, each touchpoint you connect with, is a product that has been purposely designed to support that experience.
For me, the process of buying my ticket started when I opened my computer and keyed in my search terms. Selecting my tickets through a third-party site, using my frequent flier rewards, entering my payment information, receiving my booking confirmation — each of these steps was actually a separate product integrated to create one experience: purchasing a ticket. Next, I used Tripit, a trip planning app, and then Slack to share my Tripit itinerary with my wider team; both products in-and-of themselves (nevermind the individual features within these platforms, from channels to emojis, those are products too).
Airlines, of course, have tapped into this mentality. Just look at how they’ve productized their seating, offering a packaged set of services in Business Class, like complementary assigned seating and dining options, now rarely available in Basic Economy. The in-flight menu, the entertainment system, the WiFi system: all products. By the time I collected my luggage, I’d come into contact with thousands of products and services between Vancouver and Barcelona.
Technology has not only led to the productization of every touchpoint and experience we have as consumers, it has also empowered product makers to rapidly build, test, and refine our offerings and formalize our approach to product development. More and more, businesses are considering user experience and design from day one, and establishing product teams to oversee their service offerings.
In turn, customer expectations are increasing, and the pressure to create products that provide seamless, exceptional experiences keeps growing. Gone are the days of steadfast brand loyalty; here instead is the era of customer choice, flexibility, and change.
So how do you stay ahead of the game? How do you ensure your product — especially if it was originally conceived of as a service — is successful in the long term?
Live by your value proposition. At the heart of every product is a well-defined value proposition — one that gets to the core of where the product fits into its users’ lives. You need to bring that value proposition to life by infusing it into every aspect of your offering.
Hire a qualified product owner. More and more, service offerings are hiring product owners to own the productization process. Work closely with your marketing team to establish an understanding of the value proposition, the product-market fit, and the product development.
Own your product journey. We must consider the interactions that are adjacent to our products — the ones our users may inadvertently associate with our service. This is where service design comes in. If, like in the air travel example, your customers come into contact with you alongside other third-party products, your value proposition should remain unwavering throughout their experience. You need to take ownership, as much as possible, over the whole journey.
While I was travelling, I was struck not only by how many products contributed to my trip, but also how interconnected a single brand experience can be with third-party products. Flying with a particular airline often feels like one consistent experience, even when we know it’s actually a combination of so many other products and services, each facilitated by various platforms and companies. How do you isolate a single user experience if all these products are contributing, often in unseen ways? And how, as businesses, do we intentionally craft that experience?
Your business may not be in control of the third-parties contributing to your offering, but you can choreograph these interactions to a certain degree by incorporating service design practices into your product design approach. Service design strives to understand how a person interacts. By observing how a series of interconnected products affect the overall experience and value proposition, your business can find its real differentiator in the market. A productized service evolves with and adapts to its users — even if that means formulating an optimal customer experience by absorbing the complexities of other, interrelated products.
An airline may have minimal influence on the ticketing service their customers use to book, but by paying attention to the way this can affect a customer’s overall experience, they can design their own product(s) to accommodate. It’s one reason why many airlines now have dedicated apps for checking-in, contacting customer service, and accessing inflight entertainment. It connects airlines to their customers earlier in their journey and strengthens their product’s value proposition.
When productization is done right, it’s so simple and seamless that it goes virtually unnoticed — the product “just works”. The best products are the ones that feel like they’ve always been there; they’re the ones we don’t notice until they’re gone.
In a time where every microinteraction has its own product, it’s easy for experiences to become disjointed and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At POWER SHIFTER, we focus on service design to harness productization practices into effective business models. We strive to make even the most complex products appear simple and harmonious to the user.
If your market competition is increasingly fast and frenzied, reimagining your service as a product that you can test, modify, grow, and refine is a great first step. Of course, there’s a product for that, too.
If you have thoughts on the “productization of all things” or want to learn more how to optimize the design your product experience, get in touch.