If you’ve read more than one of my posts, you’ll know that I’m an unashamed Chris Dixon fan, and seem to have trouble going more than a few weeks with linking to his blog. Well once again, Chris wrote a post on the The Experience Economy a few weeks ago that I highly encourage everyone reading. I was inspired by this thinking and what it means for product development in the future.
In the consumer world I grew up in, product positioning was driven by linear variables that made for easy comparison. Value propositions would espouse size or speed over the competiiton (now with 20% more!, more horsepower, cleans faster, etc.). Today there are very few products that I choose to buy based on linear metrics like size or speed. I’m also not a collector of goods. For example, I would prefer to buy a bottle of great wine than own a bigger television set. I think most people that I spend my time with would agree that experience is more important than specs in almost every product category. American consumerism seems to be moving from considering specification to considering integrated experience. We can observe this trend in the success of companies like Apple, Dyson, Sephora, Lululemon and Gilt. This tweak in consumer responsiveness has created opportunities across a number of consumer industries (it also means that disruptive advertising is going to continue to face challenges, but that’s probably another post).
This thinking also reinforces the notion that UX is truly king in the world of startups, and that the broadest definition of user experience should apply. Generally speaking, consumer-facing companies focused on end-to-end experiences will fare better than companies focused on doing ‘one thing better than everyone’, or those who pass their users off into a land they cannot control (I think airline booking engines struggle with this, as well as the AMEX platinums of the world). If you can figure out a way to walk a customer through every touch point in a transaction, you’re going to have a much easier time reataining them.
In terms of metrics, I would argue that retention analysis, as well as pass along are the only metrics that reflect a great experience - when experience is great, people come back and tell their friends.