Whether you’re just starting out or have been in the field awhile, it is easy to forget that your product is familiar only to you. In an effort to make it a wholesome experience, many have made the mistake of creating an all-inclusive monster. The intricate picture that you see of your business is not that which should be displayed. If it is, what people ultimately see is clutter.
“It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.” The elegant solution that Steve Jobs talks about here is the final image of your product or service – what you ultimately sell.
Here are some insights on why you should and how you could achieve that.
How simple or complex your product is affects how your customers perceive your brand. If an e-commerce startup were to have a complex service, it would extend its sales cycle unnecessarily. A sales cycle is the series of steps that a customer takes before deciding to buy a service – a purchase path. If a customer is bombarded with too much information, or has to go through too many clicks, chances are they will never reach the final step of buying – discouragement and frustration are your enemies here.
If a business relies heavily on a customer’s interaction with its interface, simplicity should be its mantra. Color, a mobile social startup, was an app that allowed its users to share a common photo-stream based on location and interactions. Although soon after its launch, Color had over a million users. This number soon dwindled. The reason – its interface wasn’t user-friendly. In addition to this, users weren’t satisfied with its privacy options. Color had impressive funding but took a hit because it lost its most important resource – its users.
If catching the con artist means to think like one, then to keep your customers you will need to think like them. Asking questions like “What would I want if I were using this product?” or “What is the feature that’s difficult to use?” is a good way of putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. Understanding and prioritising their needs is the only way to build a product or service that is an exemplar of simplicity.
There are two ways in which you can know what your customers are thinking.
Amazon’s customer service has been commendable only because its Founder, Jeff Bezos, has made it his priority. But Amazon’s good customer service is not the topic of discussion. What we’re interested in is its Founder’s methods of achieving this. Bezos ensures all his employees, no matter their position, spends time at the call center interacting with customers. This way, everyone in the company – including himself – understands the needs and the value of its customers.
In an interview with Inc., business strategist Eric Ries talks about the need to test a product. “The fundamental idea is to treat everything a start-up does as an experiment. Everything a start-up does should be a test – a hypothesis. You really want to organize your company so that it's built to learn.” The key is to strategise a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that is the “simplest version of your product” and send it out into the world of your customers for reception.
Zappos, the online shoe and clothing store, created an MVP before building a large shipping and distribution center for their products. What did their MVP look like? Photographs of their shoes – in retail stores – on their website. Zappos, then at an early stage, needed to know if people would be interested in buying, before setting up the necessary processes. Once it received a promising response, Zappos stopped mailing their shoes individually to each customer and moved into large scale distribution.
Whatever may be your product or service, making it easily accessible to your customers is the key to keep the business going. Creating a simple product will take more than a little effort, but the benefits it reaps will also be more than just a little.