Mobile Opinion

What does it take to create products that customers love?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses in many ways, enabling brands to restructure systems and processes to explore new ways of increasing business and operational efficiency.  To manage the immediate impact of the crisis and lay a good foundation for the future, brands must relook at their most critical functions that can create positive customer experiences – product development being one such.

The relevance and value of great product managers cannot be undermined today, where the world is predominantly dependent on digital products and platforms to accomplish most of their needs. Such times call for a human-first approach while developing products that can touch millions of lives globally. In an earlier article, we explored the key characteristics and the core functions of great product managers that can have a profound impact on brand value, customer loyalty, and retention. In this article let’s examine the components required to craft such products and the role of product roadmaps in elevating positive customer experiences.

So, what does it take to create products that customers love?

To begin with, a project framework, the objectives it is meant to accomplish, the resources needed to execute the development, and a product manager who can translate the product vision aligned with that of the organization’s.

As per a Gartner survey, 82% of CEOs are aimed to transform their businesses to be more responsive and digital, and product managers have a huge role to play in accomplishing this vision. Innovation, agility, and speed, define the new turf for product managers. The end-results are sustainable business models and products that customers are in love with.

A product manager is integral in transforming the organizational vision into a user-friendly product right from scratch. From setting the product vision, defining a strategy, researching market conditions, identifying the right opportunity to developing a new product, profiling customer personas, defining the stages of product development, and communicating the vision to internal & external stakeholders. In addition to this, a product manager is also responsible for resource management, driving the execution, providing execution assistance, keeping a constant tab on the timelines, testing the product, refining the product features basis the testing, market positioning and charting a sales strategy, a product manager orchestrates all of these roles end-to-end. Neglecting any one of these attributes can incur heavy financial losses and put the brand reputation at stake. Proper planning and having a visionary product manager leading the product development phase can increase the probability of product success remarkably.

While a lot of the product management skill sets are learned and developed along the way, a product manager should be passionate and driven towards – Technology, Business & the User Experience. Broadly speaking a great product manager intersects at the conjunction of these three attributes.

Business — Product Management above all, is a business function that is focused on optimizing the business value of a product. Product Managers should thereby be obsessed with exploring ways in which product efficiency can help in accomplishing business & revenue goals while amplifying brand value and customer loyalty.

Technology — While product managers are not required to be Tech experts or to get involved in the development process, they must be aware of the Technology trends disrupting the industry globally. They should also be able to forecast trends and be aware of all the technologies that can add value to their product functioning and reception.

User Experience — The ultimate objective of any product is to ensure optimal user satisfaction. To think, feel, and empathize with the end-user and create products to address their requirements and create effortless experiences. To accomplish this, it is imperative to gather inputs from users through research, sampling, AB testing, one-on-one discussions, and get a first-hand feel of whether you’re on the right track, as great user experience is the ultimate goal of any product.

The key to integrating all these attributes into the product execution – a comprehensive product roadmap. It’s one of the most crucial functions of a product manager that brings all the key stakeholders together to commit to the product vision and chart an execution plan based on product priorities.

What are Product Roadmaps?

A great roadmap begins with a clear understanding of the product vision & strategy. Charting a product roadmap is the first crucial step in communicating how each phase of the product development cycle aligns with the long-term business vision. It is a framework that details the direction, execution, priorities, and progress to all key stakeholders. Product managers typically gather insights from cross-functional teams like sales, marketing, and engineering teams to ensure that it aligns with the product strategy and overall business goals. It ascertains the ‘why’ behind building the product and how it solves user challenges that can enhance the overall customer experience.

Here are a few techniques to create great product roadmaps

Tips to Create Great Product Roadmaps

Let’s examine each of these further:

Determine the Use case & Audience

What is the purpose & what are you trying to visualize with the roadmap?

Who is the audience it is intended for?

Beginning with the end objective & the audience it’s intended for, can have a lot of implications on the information & structure of the roadmap. For instance, while the marketing team would check if it aligns with their campaigns, the CFO would avoid getting into the product details & get a quick overview of the costs & how it aligns with the business vision.

Be Data-driven

Given that you as a product manager are a central hub connected with internal & external stakeholders, product engineers, analysts and various other members involved in the product development, it is important to gather user insights and business intelligence from each of these sources and use this as the foundation to create your product road map. Forrester reports that 70% of the projects fail due to a lack of user acceptance. This is why it’s crucial to gain user insights and identify what they truly prefer.

Align with Journey Maps

When product road maps are aligned with customer journey maps it can help in aligning the product features with user thoughts and emotions and guide the product’s design process. This can invariably maximize the product efficiency and customer experience to a whole new level. Here’s a reference for the customer journey map related to bill payments. By understanding the pain points of users, product roadmaps can be aligned to address the core user challenges and enhance the overall customer experience.

Customer journey map related to bill payments

Be Transparent about the Process

As a product manager, it is crucial to prioritize product features and be able to communicate this with the product team.  This is important as it helps in maintaining transparency and gaining team consensus on the priorities and decisions to ensure you’re driving the product vision collaboratively as a team and prevent knowledge silos that can hamper stakeholder relationships.


Every project must go through a prioritization process to include specific features, epics, and initiatives that will be included in the roadmap. Prioritize the roadmap based on – data, high-value initiatives, potential opportunities, stakeholder consensus and it’s alignment with business objectives.

Be Assertive

Product managers need to be assertive, more so in a creative process as it involves ideas and suggestions from other members involved in product development. For instance, a product engineer may endorse an idea or feature that is not documented as part of the product roadmap but how it can seamlessly accomplish the product vision or simply because it can save time on the next sprint. Such ideas have to be eliminated assertively while ensuring that it does not hurt any sentiments. Reason-out with evidence, to ensure that such suggestions do not undermine the product objectives.

Practice Evidence-based Decision-making

To be accepted as a great team player and gain team consensus it’s important to justify your stand with evidence-based communication and decision making. User insights based on research can aid the decision-making process, scale efficiency, and work as an excellent source of business intelligence that can guide the product roadmap process. To accelerate product efficiency, many enterprises have begun to revisit their product roadmaps – crafting the right product vision aligned with key user goals and evolving as per their needs. The ultimate goal of a product roadmap is to communicate the strategy & ensure successful product execution.

With customer experience and digital transformation at the forefront for most organizations today, the role and importance of great product managers cannot be undermined. While a few core characteristics and skill-sets are integral to the organization and product success, enterprises have to hire product visionaries with the right attitude. The role requires a lot more ownership beyond what is fixed as the KRA’s, and a passion above all to solve the most pressing customer concerns.

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Mobile Opinion

Of microservice architecture and digital enterprises in the experience economy

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to impact the world like never before. A key transformation is underway in pushing all of us to embrace change in the way we live and work. Old norms and ways of working will give way to a new normal. It is clear that digital will be at the core of the social distancing era. Digital solutions and platforms will be the key enablers of business continuity helping enterprises in adapting to the rapidly changing needs of their customers, while they focus on mitigating business and operational challenges.

Once the threat of the epidemic has passed, businesses will have to look at innovative ways to address the change in customer behavior and the impact of design and technology in shaping and enhancing customer experiences. To rise above these challenges, enterprises must rethink their digital strategy on multiple dimensions.

Focus on customer acquisition, servicing, retention, and lifetime value with a personalized and human approach, keeping customer behavior and aspirations in mind. The emphasis will be on adding value and not merely push products or services.

  1. Make the services available anytime & anywhere to the customer’s preferred digital device or channel. Avoid offering unsecured and non-reliable services to customers.
  2. Digital experiences build an emotional connection by understanding the digital body language. While the design is important, focusing on the human-connect is the key.
  3. Invest in a future-ready digital platform that aggregates digital assets in the organization to accrue savings over time. Do not pile up applications in silos that are hard to change or maintain.
  4. Simplify the maintenance of digital assets and improve enterprise productivity via automation of customer interaction and operational processes via DevOps, AI/ML, and RPA. Do not think of maintenance merely as a fraction of the solution cost but as a way to build and foster relationships.
  5. Gather actionable insights from every conversation, transaction, relationship, complaints, and social sharing to infer customer value and sentiment analysis. Do not view these merely as reports but action points to enhance performance efficiency.

The natural question then is: how do we realize these goals? The answer broadly speaking, is in thinking big and building strategically. Let’s look at some of the steps:

  1. To begin with, separate Digital from Core via API mediation and think service monetization.
  2. Embrace open-source technologies and leverage new-age architectures on the cloud.
  3. Integrate the functions of CDO-CIO-CTO under a unified vision, budget, and success criteria.
  4. View business applications as a collection of reusable digital assets mashed up to form specific solutions for varied customer segments, business partners, and employees.

Digital shall never be architected in silos as we transition from an industrial economy to the services economy and now towards an experience-driven economy. We are simplifying lives of millions of customers and amplifying business efficiency by moving from physical-only channels like retail, distribution, marketing, support to digital-enabled channels like Web, Social, TV, App, Wearable, bots to conversational multi-modal experiences of blending chat, voice, touch, gesture, vision, augmented reality, gamification at the right moment. Multiexperience is how Gartner describes it urging us to not think about channels, but touchpoints and modalities.

In other words, we should no longer think products, platforms & services, but think about customer needs, customer lifetime value, and customers as brand ambassadors.

The innovation lifecycle shall focus on Product Vision to User Journey Mapping to Micro Interactions to Data-Driven Designs to Microservices to Domain Models to Service Mediation.

To understand what it takes to be a full-service digital enterprise, it is also crucial to understand the role of technology and how modern applications can aid this journey while optimizing performance efficiency and results.

Traditional Software Products vs Modern Applications

There is a paradigm shift when comparing modern applications with traditional software products. Modern applications demonstrate many advanced characteristics that are driven by the user journey and help in addressing the user needs.

Traditional Software Products vs Modern Applications

While enterprises need to focus on deriving more value from the existing applications, they should also be open to embracing modern applications like microservices that focus on business capabilities, lower complexity, and handle continuous change efficiently.

Key components & benefits with the microservices architecture

Microservices by definition are a set of technology-agnostic services with simplicity, efficiency, maintainability, re-use, separation of concerns, loose coupling, service autonomy, statelessness, and service composability. Unlike the monolithic architecture which is a single-tiered software application, the microservices architecture is based on a collection of interconnected services. They are easier to build and maintain, and focus on business capabilities while enhancing productivity, speed, and scalability.

Key components & benefits with the microservices architecture

A fine-grained list of Functional Microservices for an enterprise would encompass:

A fine-grained list of Functional Microservices for an enterprise would encompass:

A fine-grained list of Technical Microservices for an enterprise would encompass:

A fine-grained list of Technical Microservices for an enterprise would encompass:

Microservices architectural patterns address API Patterns, Discovery Patterns, Registration Patterns, Instantiation Patterns, and Systems Patterns, which helps in the realization of API proxy, client and server-side discovery, service and self-service registry, single or multiple service instance per host, virtual machine or container, and message brokering.

And there are various frameworks and tools to choose from:

  • Spring Reactor, NGINX, Vertx, Netty, JBOSS Undertow
  • Maven 3, Eclipse Luna, Gradle, Grunt
  • Docker Hub / Compose
  • Nagios, Promithius
  • Kong API Gateway
  • Memcached, Redis
  • Jaeger, OpenShift, Kubernetes, Kafka
  • StatsD, Code Hale, Kibana, Graphite, Banana, Datalog
  • JSON Web Tokens, API Keys, Oauth, 2FA, NPM

Each microservice is a self-contained entity with distributed architecture, disparate technologies, independent deployment, versioning, and roadmap. The new digital middleware of microservices shall serve a dual purpose. It can merely act as a relay server with optimal business logic and unifies all transactions and service requests to the host system or be the non-core system with all the business logic implemented. The API gateway enables security, identity, monitoring, and traffic management.

Alongside microservices, enterprises must think about micro-interactions with triggers, events, control, state, rules, sequence, feedback, and metadata. Micro-interactions are a combination of actions (like verbs in a sentence) and objects (nouns that operate on verbs), and they must either deliver a signature moment to customers or must satisfy rapid execution of a task or a step in the business process (e.g. user registration, login, product search, payment, feedback).

In 2017, Gartner introduced MASA (Mesh App and Service Architecture) as an architectural model and defined thus:

“Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences. Application teams must create new modern architectures to deliver agile, flexible, and dynamic cloud-based applications with agile, flexible, and dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.”

A conceptual architecture of a full-service digital enterprise may look like this

A conceptual architecture of a full-service digital enterprise may look like this

Aside from technologies, the concept and role of design has had a makeover too. Design is not merely about the look and feel anymore. Design is more about a human-centered problem-solving-approach approach that addresses key customer pain-points that has a profound impact on enhancing positive customer experiences.

Designers, consultants, data scientists, and full-stack domain architects must thereby collaborate to understand user behavior and implement this to increase product efficiency. Conduct quantitative testing by comparing multiple customer experiences to actual users and measuring objectively via A/B testing and accurate data collection to gain insights on user needs, behaviors, optimize the experience, and ROI. It improves collaboration within teams and between enterprises with an evidence-based decision-making approach as opposed to a vendor vs customer relationship approach that focuses on the scope and transaction.

In summary, the competitive differentiation of enterprises depends on being customer-focused, data-driven, and measuring critical moments of interaction to add value to the customer.

Enterprises need to invest in future-proof platforms and innovate incrementally. Collaboration with a reliable and agile partner who can connect the dots, and give strategic advice on the digital roadmap, design a human interface across the business of apps, engineer a scalable solution, and launch timely updates & upgrades will also be critical. Remember, in today’s age, a customer can never be taken for granted. Enterprises can retain them by providing contextual, digital-enabled, self-service products, and conversational experience and embrace the new digital world via the platform of apps. Is your enterprise ready for the experience economy?

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Mobile Opinion

Core Functions & Attributes of a Great Product Manager

The role and significance of a product manager is expanding due to the growing importance of digital platforms & integrated experiences, the need for product innovation & differentiation, increased personalization, and design focus. Product managers influence every aspect of the product lifecycle and perform core functions including that of a mini-CEO, fire-fighter, and an orchestra conductor– bringing alive the product vision & executing the day to day operations of product development. It is believed that developing the right skills as a product manager can help one transition into a C-suite professional as it is a good training ground for CEOs.

A great product manager ensures that all team members work harmoniously towards achieving the product vision. The key responsibilities include setting the long term vision and strategy, ensuring user engagement, satisfaction, and monetization. However, these may vary depending on the nature of the industry & enterprise and their views about the project manager’s responsibilities. While a few might be involved in documenting product roadmaps, conceptualizing, analyzing data, supervising the development & production process, conducting market & user research, sampling, testing, and forecasting, others might be involved in the promotion, distribution, sales, and marketing functions especially when the product is already in place.

Here’s an overview of the key phases of the product development cycle.

Product Development Cycle

There are 5 key functions of a Product Manager: Setting the Product Vision, Strategy Development, Product Development, Execution & Testing, and Marketing & Sales. Let’s look at each of those:

Setting the Product Vision

Setting the product vision is the significant first step towards product development. It defines the vision and the broad journey towards accomplishing goals. This is based on the ideas and inputs from the team involved in developing the product. Setting specific goals, product specifications and envisioning the customer personas the product is meant for, ensuring if it solves the core challenges of the user, help in accomplishing their goals, and includes all the measures to assess the success of the product from time to time that is a part of the product development cycle.

Strategy Development

While setting the strategy two aspects have to be kept in mind:

  • Who is the product intended for (Target customer/segment/market)
  • What differentiates it from the competition

Once the vision is narrowed in, the steps to achieve it, i.e. the strategy must be defined. While the vision defines the product goals, the strategy defines the milestones and methods to achieve them.  The strategy should be clear and realistic to ensure that the execution plan can be well distributed among the development team. This ensures that each member understands their role, KPI’s, and the interdependencies that lead to goal accomplishment.

The strategy is derived with insights from market & user research, which includes various quantitative and qualitative methods. It involves understanding the customer personas, their challenges, requirements, attitudes, and behaviors. Incorporating user research as part of the product development process will ensure that the product is custom-built to meet user expectations while ensuring a greater competitive advantage.

Product Development

The development phase begins with crafting a product roadmap that outlines the framework, specific actions, responsibilities, timelines, priorities, and sequence of product implementation.

It starts with defining technical specifications, making prototypes, and mockup designs. While these activities are normally covered by the UX team, a product manager can be involved in writing technical specifications like the PRD (Product Requirement Document) and FSD (Functional Specifications Document), defining the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and to ensure it serves its purpose and alter product requirements based on the user inputs. The product manager’s main goal is to identify what the users want and communicate this information to the development team and project managers. They collaborate with the UX specialists to define the testing scenario, track results, and communicate revisions to the project manager.

Execution & Testing

During this stage, the team begins the product development as per the priorities set in the roadmap. They add new features to the existing product or work on building a new product, where the product manager guides and controls the execution process with the product roadmap.

To ensure successful usability testing, the product manager collaborates with potential customers to analyze user reactions & feedback and conveys these to the development team and project managers to make revisions basis their feedback.

Marketing & Sales

Once the product is completed, the product manager also plans the product positioning, launch, distribution, operating plans, and constantly tracks the growth and revenue graph of the product.

While these are functional attributes, let’s briefly look at the personal attributes that define great product managers.

Core Attributes of a Great Product Manager

Self Management

A product manager must be self-aware and avoid prioritizing product features based on any personal preferences. Lack of self-awareness might derail the execution process from the product roadmap and hamper key stakeholder relationships. It is thereby crucial to be aware and conscious and be able to demarcate between personal and user preferences and always prioritize the later. Being a product manager can be extremely stressful as you are dealing with key stakeholders within the organization and each of them has an opinion about the feature priorities. Managing deadlines, market demands, prioritization conflicts, resource constraints, and revenue targets all at once, and keeping emotions in check is not for the faint-hearted. Maintaining a good balance of product execution and managing stress levels is a must-have attribute for product managers.

Relationship Management

One of the key attributes of this role is efficient stakeholder management. A product manager is often the link between internal and external stakeholders. By developing trustworthy connections, product managers can facilitate harmony and help people in achieving their full potential by minimizing conflicts and maximizing collaboration which ultimately impacts product success.  This can be especially challenging when tasked with balancing the customer demands well within the timelines alongside a resource crunch. Imagine being able to request the engineer to include a bug fix in the next sprint. Such requests can often be executed on the basis of the trust and relationship you’ve developed as a product manager.

Effective Communication

Being a product manager requires communicating with various stakeholders. Breaking down technical information and communicating this with the customers and vice versa to ensure transparency and consensus on likely reiterations, timeline extensions, and additional requirements that have not been accounted for. Timely and open communication can help avoid interpersonal conflicts across the entire stakeholder ecosystem and foster a positive and productive atmosphere throughout the product development process.


The ability to own the product, regardless of its performance and revenue forecasts, reiterating the product as you go, looking at how the users will respond to the product, going over and above to conduct usability testing, sampling, AB testing to ensure its performance, and ensuring that it solves the right challenge. To live, breathe, and be so passionate about it that you ensure its successful execution regardless of all the hurdles and obstacles that come your way, and believe in its purpose, and role in simplifying the lives of millions of users globally. All of this and more defines the product manager’s passion for the product.


One of the most appreciated traits of a product manager is empathy and it is essential at every stage of the product lifecycle. Right from when user research is conducted, to empathize with the pain points of the users, their likes, dislikes, and priorities and with internal stakeholders to empathize with the team and understand their challenges and communicate in a way to address each of their concerns and have a profound impact on all the stakeholders.

Design Sensitivity

Understanding how the design can contribute to the product performance and understanding the core attributes of the UI/UX Design can help product managers convert the product vision into reality. This also facilitates greater collaboration with the UI/UX experts to deliver precisely what the customer is looking for. Design-centric product managers are ultimately more user-centric. Additionally, a fair knowledge of the analytical tools to assess and analyze product and performance-related concepts and examine the features that can be optimized is crucial.


Adopting an agile methodology while crafting a product roadmap is the key to creating products that customers love. A rigid roadmap that fails to adapt to flexible timelines and reiterations as per the dynamic market conditions and evolving user demands cannot scale its performance. Imagine having real-time data that highlights a key user trend that your product feature doesn’t include. While it’s important to stick to the product roadmap, being able to adapt and include user needs is the key to enhance product efficiency.


A big part of the product management success is being able to execute all the ideas and concepts into a working prototype. This requires communicating, negotiating, persuasion, and motivating the team all along to ensure the product launch. Product managers should be able to inspire and orchestrate the engineering, legal, design, and customer support teams to execute as per the product road maps.


Thinking strategically and always working with the big picture in mind are important qualities to be a successful product manager. Being clear on the product’s value proposition, target market, key features, and business goals; being able to forecast how the product will evolve in the future, constantly measure its performance against market trends and developments and paying attention to all details and carrying out all tactical work will guide the product strategy.

Product Management: it’s all about teamwork

Not much can be achieved without team collaboration. Your role as a product manager is to collaborate with the team to help you build, market, and sell the product. Appreciate their ideas and knowledge and inspire collaboration. Call for review meetings often, actively participate, listen, and seek consensus on important decisions. Share constructive feedback and acknowledge accomplishments. Keep away from bias; be open to ideas based on its relevance and alignment towards accomplishing the product vision, show how each idea matters, irrespective of where it comes from.

While there are a lot of critical attributes that contribute to the scope & success of an enterprise, product managers are at the core, creating products that customers love. They build products that influence positive customer experiences which help in accomplishing critical business and customer goals. A great product manager is a visionary who is passionate about solving user challenges and builds products that are embedded in empathy, trust, and transparency. While technical training and upskilling are equally important,  product managers hone their skills on the job, that comes along with gathering valuable intelligence from various stakeholders and years of shipping great products. The more ownership they take up and the knowledge they gather of a particular industry and the customers within, the greater chances of leading the product towards success. Ultimately their passion and role as a product evangelist will be integral to their success and that of the product.

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Mobile Opinion

Facilitating Remote Design Thinking – Webinar Overview

As enterprises rightly focus on health & safety in these challenging times, employees are trying to utilize this period to upskill. In a bid to turn the lock-down period into opportunities for collaborative learning, we at Robosoft Technologies are organizing a series of webinars. Pooja Bal, our Head of Digital Advisory Practice and Priyanka Shroff our Associate Director – Design Strategy, successfully conducted the first webinar on Facilitating Remote Design Thinking.

Remote working and Design Thinking are often viewed as two separate entities that cannot be integrated together to drive-in measurable results. Through this webinar we’ve attempted to bust this myth and talk about how their common value systems can maximize product efficiency & growth.

Here are a few common value systems of remote working & design thinking:

  • Bring-in better results when the teams are multidisciplinary
  • Better visualization to share collective knowledge
  • Increase team motivation and collaboration
  • Optimize operational efficiency across industries & diverse geographies

The 3 phases of the remote design thinking process are commencement, co-creation and consolidation. To ensure successful product execution and seamless transitioning of these processes, it is important to gain insights on the functionalities of the top tools and best practices that can facilitate this journey.

An Overview of all the Design Thinking Stages & Tools:

An Overview of all the Design Thinking Stages & Tools

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to remote design thinking that is product or industry-specific, selecting the most appropriate tools and techniques depends on the customer goals you wish to accomplish. It is recommended that one conducts a few mock sessions to get started with a hands-on approach. This exercise will help in gauging the experience with these tools and give you the flexibility to mold these tools to elevate your team participation and the end–outcomes.

Here’s the webinar video for more insights into the tools and best practices that can help you accelerate your journey into the remote design thinking realm.

If you’d like to know more about how to drive the remote design thinking process at your enterprise, please feel free to drop me an email at [email protected].

I hope you found this webinar overview useful and look forward to joining us in our future webinars on other topics pertaining to Design Thinking and specific domains.

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Mobile Opinion

Customer experience in the age of uncertainty

The ongoing global crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll in many ways – thousands of lives have been lost and the world has been disrupted like never before.  Enterprises have been forced to adapt to new ways of functioning and employees are also discovering the pressures of working under severe constraints. Several industries like travel, traditional retail, hotels, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) and more are affected adversely. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says the world economy will go into recession this year with a predicted loss of global income in trillions of dollars.

Clearly, we are heading into an age of uncertainty on many fronts. Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, which I hope is sooner than later, the impact of the crisis on our mindset and behavior will be long-lasting. In the coming months, focusing on customer experience will be even more critical for enterprises.

Empathy: the need now – more than ever

Over the last few years, experience with digital channels reveals how critical understanding user behavior has become. Consumers have faced anxiety over e-commerce deliveries, availability of products on retail shelves, health care services and more. In many parts of the world, consumers have become more frugal towards spending. Such behavioral changes will have an impact even after the crisis. It is critical for enterprises to gauge consumer mood by displaying empathy – a key trait of the Design Thinking process. How does it feel to be in the shoes of a restaurant-goer or an airline traveler when such services resume? What will be their pain points and how can enterprises address them?

Remote-working is also expected to change the way we work in the near future. Lack of shared physical space and human interaction while working from home has its downsides too. Digital-only interactions in a non-working environment where distractions are possible can lead to poor attention spans and even create mistrust (as not all activities are monitored physically). Such subtle mindset changes can affect collaborative environments later. As work & personal life can get an overlap while working from home, employees are conscious of the need to demarcate them and find time for personal hobbies like reading. When they get back to things as they were, they may resent it if work eats into their personal lives.

On social media, we see posts about how the lockdowns have triggered a behavioral change. Binge-watching streaming services, playing more games on the mobile phone or a digital detox through voracious reading, pursuing hobbies like singing or playing musical instruments are some of the ways in which people are coping with the change. It remains to be seen how ‘back to normal’ will affect mindsets and behaviors.

The impact on key domains and CX

Fintech: the crisis triggered by COVID-19 had a big impact on share markets and thus, investors. It is a grim reminder of the unpredictable nature of our lives which is likely to impact those who interact with banks & fintech products through digital products. They might seek more transparency and re-assurance from fintech brands with regards to their money being safe.

Travel, hospitality & tourism: many countries have banned domestic flights, trains, and buses. Brands in the industry face a huge decline in revenues. When lockdowns are lifted and the industry is open for business, brands may need to provide incentives for consumers to travel without fear. Consumers may have planned for trips which may have led to the cancellation. Creative incentive schemes to defer their plans and not cancel them may have to be devised and communicated. Hotels may have to stress upon hygiene factors to reassure guests. The booking experience and notifications may have to be thought of afresh given the above.

Healthcare & wellness: telemedicine is being adopted aggressively by hospitals for doctor consultation in the age of social distancing. Phone, text and video consultation is already available on apps such as MDLive, Lemonaid in the US and DocsApp in India have made the concept familiar to many. But as many new patients come into this fold, especially the senior citizens, they may need to be educated on how to use the platform well. This will have an impact on on-boarding, walk-throughs and the user interface of the app itself.  Mental wellness has also gained focus as people struggle to cope up with the stress of possible health issues, isolation, and fear of job loss. In the months to come, consumers may have to be encouraged to continue with the habit of using apps & other digital experiences to help calm nerves down.

E-commerce and Supply Chain: As the world increasingly adopts to shopping, food & grocery delivery through native apps, the impact is not just on robust engineering which can take on huge surges in demand but also on intelligent, empathetic UI and a whole new opportunity in communication.

“While it was said that the 3 most important criteria for success in traditional retail were ‘location, location and location’ in the era of social distancing, it could very well be ‘supply chain, supply chain, and supply chain”.

Supply Chain and its impact on customer experience will play a big role in the days to come. Enterprises would need to set up systems that can provide real-time actionable insights, analytics, and reports, all through a single, intuitive dashboard. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence will play a role in demand forecasting, production planning and order fulfillment – which eventually matters most to the end consumer.

Industries such as entertainment, OTT will also be well advised to adopt design thinking practices to understand the evolving consumer needs and tailor-make a customer experience.

Customer experience

Digital experiences as a competitive edge

Digital channels, over the last few years, have overcome the trust deficit and emerged as a secure and reliable way of transacting. The ongoing global crisis arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has got industries to lean further on these channels. Social distancing norms have dented approaches that depended on person-to-person interactions and necessitated leanings towards digital. And the race to acquire more customers via this channel and to subsequently, retain them, is on.

At the same time, consumers are getting choosy and lack patience.  Loyalty is becoming difficult to earn. Self-discovery is emerging as a clear preference among the millennials.  Hence, providing a superior experience that hand-holds consumers to achieve precisely their intended purpose quickly, in the simplest manner, is becoming the keystone of the digital journey.

Clearly, we are heading into an age of uncertainty on many fronts. Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, which I hope is sooner than later, the impact of the crisis on the economy and  how we interact with stakeholders will be long-lasting. In the coming months, focusing on customer experience will be even more critical for enterprises.

The current times call for brands to shift focus from individual transactions to building customer relationships grounded in empathy, collaboration, transparency, trust, and care. With the world inclining towards digital, enterprises across industries need to rethink their digital strategies that can have a profound impact on the customer experience. Acknowledging changing customer behaviors and being able to ease their fears, instill confidence by prioritizing customer experiences that are embedded in empathy is the way forward.

Such scenarios across diverse industries present unique challenges in understanding consumer mindset and how it affects their interactions and behavior toward brands. Enterprises may well be advised to invest more in design thinking processes in the coming months. While none of us can predict what the world beyond COVID-19 is going to look like, customer experience will clearly be one of the key differentiators for brands looking to garner customer loyalty.

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Mobile Opinion

Apps within an App: Welcome to the World of Micro Apps

A mobile app’s main purpose has always been to provide consumers with a richer, quicker, and simpler experience on mobile devices for which they don’t have to access websites, desktop apps or online services. However, to stay ahead of the competition, businesses today tend to develop an all-rounder app of sorts, loaded with features that might not add value or be of any help to the user with a crisp & focused solution. A mobile app that is loaded with unnecessary features imposes several challenges.

Functionality Concerns

Most businesses continue to add more functionalities to their mobile apps, making them massive in size, sluggish to load and difficult to use. Today, in most cases, mobile apps are nothing more than a condensed replica of an existing website, online service or desktop application. This results in a large, complex application that occupies a lot of storage space in devices and is eventually uninstalled from the device after just a day or two.

Lack of a Seamless User Experience

The main reason why users install mobile apps is to save time from a website performing the same function. They are in a hurry and thereby want the app to resolve their issues quickly. Unfortunately, due to being loaded with several unnecessary features, mobile apps struggle to provide users with a simple user experience and pose numerous challenges such as, difficult to access features, prolonged load time & process-driven registration and performance issues.

Soaring App Development Costs

Due to the feature and functionalities overload, the app development costs soar high due to which most companies are unable to stick to the assigned budget. Consequently, in the production phase, many apps are abandoned, and never reach the app store.

Fail to Run on All Devices

Users today expect more due to highly flexible, dynamic and disruptive technology. Within a span of 10 minutes, the user may need to access his/her smartphone, tablet & laptop. This makes it imperative for apps to function seamlessly across all devices.

To address these challenges and in the pursuit of creating enriching app experiences the technology world is exploring a brand new phenomenon in the business and mobile app development space: micro apps. Micro apps are tailor-made applications based on HTML which aim to reach a specific goal. They are compact, highly focused on the target audience, and extremely user friendly. Though relatively new entrants in the technology space, these compact tools have gained immense popularity among users, developers and companies alike.

Facebook announced in May 2019 that it would blend the Facebook app, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram functions to create a super app. Around the same time, Google said its micro apps feature was tested in the Search and Google Assistant apps.

Google is now experimenting with a solution that offers some of an app’s best features without taking over all of its phone storage. According to VentureBeat, the concept called micro apps is a new feature of Google Search and Google Assistant.

Micro apps essentially aim at distilling the best of the regular app’s experience while getting rid of the worst — one of them being the trouble of visiting app stores and waiting for apps to be downloaded.

Micro programs are small applications running in a super app. These micro programs operate essentially as a separate mobile app; except that they work alongside another larger app.

Principles behind the Microservices Architecture

Microservices have been around for several years, and many organizations are beginning to benefit from these small, autonomous, independently deployable and easy to maintain code blocks. Even the front-end development can also benefit from building them into independently deployable blocks of code, rather than a single monolithic app.

It’s relatively simple – by emulating the microservices approach and applying it to a frontend application and thereby splitting the frontend monolith into many different apps. They are also organized around specific business capabilities that make them a perfect candidate to work with micro apps, something that we will explore further in this article.

A micro app is just like any other application on your mobile device, except that it is far more focused and efficient in performing a given task. In software terms, we often think of the principle of single responsibility, which means to perform only one function, and do it well. Micro apps take this single responsibility principle and apply it to the creation of mobile experiences.

The value to the consumer is obvious. We can focus on delivering exactly what the consumer needs, without the unnecessary overheads.

Solution overview:

Micro App

What is a Micro app?

A micro app is an HTML-based, small in size and customer-oriented, built to perform, specific functionality with a simple user interface. Unlike a feature-rich mobile application, the micro apps have limited functionality and let users interact, perform the specific task and leave the app with maximum efficiency.

Micro apps help consumers in providing precise features and make it very convenient to accomplish the task. Also, they adopt the specific user interface for the particular use case. This means that the user interface is based on the specific need of the user.

In order to build the micro app ecosystem, we first need to build a single container super app that can host a myriad of micro apps. The super app provides the native experience for both iOS and Android users which is the face of the company/enterprise. The consumers of a particular company can avail a myriad of services through micro apps using the super app.

Here is the high-level architecture of the Micro app:

Here is the high-level architecture of the Micro App

For example, a typical personal banking mobile app contains several features, like:

  • View the current balance
  • Get mini statement
  • Change the ATM pin
  • Transfer money
  • Show the last 5 transactions

However, if we build a micro app for those features, it will perform only one specific task, like getting the current balance or changing the ATM pin.

Existing Players:

WeChat has more than 1 million mini-programs covering 200 categories and has come to be a part of everyone’s day-to-day life in China, from ordering goods to booking tickets, covering a wide range of services used by millions of users every day. Various businesses are adapting mini-programs for getting access and visibility to their customers.

Ant Financial’s Alipay is WeChat’s closest competitor, boasting over 120,000 mini programs as of January 2019. Other successful super apps in China using the mini program model include Baidu, Meituan Dianping and Taobao’s Tmall.

Indonesia’s GO-JEK and Singapore’s Grab — the biggest super apps in Southeast Asia — follow this model of developing their services in-house and packaging all of them in one app.

India is another hot spot for super apps, with companies such as Paytm and Flipkart dominating the scene. Reliance Jio, the disruptive mobile operator that redefined India’s mobile landscape through its 4G offerings, is also set to launch its own super app with over 100 services.

Micro apps

1. Agile Development: Developing a feature-rich mobile app is always a time-consuming task, however micro apps can be developed and deployed quickly because they are specific to a particular task. The feedback loop is also quick which can be considered for improvement.

2. Adaptability: The adaptability of a general mobile app w.r.t device, types of users, workflow and use cases are very limited. However micro apps can solve this problem quickly by ensuring that developers can modify, upgrade, adapt and move the user interface considering a variety of parameters.

3. Solving Technical Challenges: A traditional mobile app contains loads of features that users may not use. These unnecessary features cause performance issues such as high load times, sluggish performance, complex navigation and so on. Having a single functionality in a micro app seems to address these issues resulting in a seamless user experience, navigation, and better performance.

4. Faster and Easier Development: As micro apps focus on a particular task, it is easier and faster to build and deploy them independently. Also, teams working on such apps can work independently without the need to integrate multiple features. This saves a lot of developer time, money and resources.

5. Independent of Other Apps: As micro apps ensure the popular and unique micro services architecture, they can work independently. This results in a decentralized approach in terms of app development and deployment.

To sum it all, micro apps are a relatively new format of mobile applications that have been popular over the last few years. It is a hybrid solution that is based on web technologies (HTML/CSS/Java scripts) but can also integrate with native apps/capabilities. Depending on the nature of the business and use cases, enterprises could opt for micro apps based solutions to realize various benefits and fill the gap between the web and native.

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Mobile Opinion

Elements of a True Omnichannel Customer Experience

Enterprises across consumer goods, B2C and B2B believe that customer experience can be an edge to attract and retain customers. While a digital medium is a key element of CX, customers decide when and on which channel they want to contact a brand, for what type of information, during which stage of the sales cycle and so on. Brands may be under pressure to be present across channels (which may not be required) and also orchestrate a positive and cohesive omnichannel experience.

What is Omnichannel Customer Experience?

At its core, the omnichannel promise is simple; it means supporting customers effectively and cohesively across all digital channels, and all the different ways in which customers and organizations can interact with each other. The overarching goal is to ensure that the product or service being offered makes the best use of the channel and helps in fostering a consistent, positive customer experience.

Omnichannel CX can thereby be summed as the cumulative effect of the strategically planned user experiences that extend across all channels, devices, and incorporates the brand’s tonality across all designs and messaging seamlessly and consistently.

Omnichannel CX success, however, is not merely limited to the number of channels integrated as part of the customer communication cycle. There’s a lot more to an Omnichannel CX strategy.

The CX vision of your brand is exclusive to the experiences you wish you create. It is about the larger purpose you wish to accomplish and the feeling you would like to invoke in your customers. Brands should thereby formulate their exclusive omnichannel definition to create a strategy for managing omnichannel experiences efficiently.

Why do brands struggle with Omnichannel CX Transformation?

One of the most common reasons brands struggle in this area is because they are channel-aligned rather than customer-aligned. Also given the surge in customer touchpoints, enterprises are overwhelmed and tempted to be present across platforms in the hope to garner a competitive advantage.  The key, however, is to identify what works, carefully plan and execute a strategy that resonates with your brand and customer vision.

Brands with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain over 89% of their customers on an average. Tapping into the right combination of omnichannel and customer experience trends will be the key to success for enterprises, business leaders, marketers and CX professionals in 2020.

Is Multichannel and Omnichannel experience the same thing?

In multichannel communications, the ‘brand’ remains the focus through which businesses engage consumers by sharing relevant content across multiple touch-points. Most brands often apply multi-channel marketing methods as it seems quick and easy to implement. As the nature of multichannel communications is fragmented, the messaging is not necessarily seamless or consistent across channels. This approach does not focus on creating a unified voice by optimizing the customer experience across channels.

On the contrary, omnichannel experience focuses on creating a unified customer experience from the first to the last point of contact, gathering customer insights and data along the journey to provide relevant and integrated messaging throughout – the ‘customer’ being the point of focus.

Brands embarking on an omnichannel transformation must thereby ensure that all channels are optimized for each customer interaction. And to be able to achieve this, they must seek to understand what customers truly care about at a granular level.

So what do customers truly care about?

  1. Speed and flexibility
  2. Reliability and transparency
  3. Simplicity and clarity
  4. Proactive outreach and timely communication
  5. Empathy and care

That said, not all customer expectations can be categorized into specific segments. Brands should explore ways to gather direct feedback and insights from customers to understand what matters most to them and why. Additionally, not all these factors can impact the overall experience. It could be a combination of these at varying degrees and more that can contribute to the overall experience. It’s thereby critical to analyze the factors that can make all the difference. While speed might be the top priority for one brand, timely customer communication might be the key to another.

Let’s explore the essential components for brands to consider while crafting an exclusive omnichannel experience.

Key Components of Successful Omnichannel Strategies

Begin with User Research

User research is the foundation for creating a successful product or service. It lays the user at the center of the experience and helps in crafting offerings that align with the user’s needs. It’s essential to align your omnichannel strategy with a scientific technique like user research to gauge and assess what users say vs what they do, which could often be remarkably different. The insights with user research can be integral in creating a befitting omnichannel strategy and help in understanding the key triggers that influence a positive customer experience across channels.

Craft Design Principles based on the Omnichannel Strategy

Considering the surge in digital platforms and technologies, the way ahead for brands to differentiate and garner a competitive advantage is to create offerings embedded in an intuitive design interface that is custom built to match the customer persona. Design principles that align with the omnichannel strategy can help in influencing the customer communication process with insights about the most receptive channels that can increase engagement and elevate the customer experience to a whole new level.

Prioritize Customer Touchpoints

Not all touchpoints are significant for every business. Even within a brand, the touchpoint that works for one service might not be apt for another. Prioritize customer touchpoints in the context of the business and focus on the ones that can have the most significant impact on the overall customer experience.

Design Customer Journeys to ensure they meet all Customer Requirements

Cluster customer segments by determining where their buyer journey begins and identifying all the touchpoints they prefer & the triggers that lead to desired outcomes. By identifying what leads to cart abandonment, retail brands can modify the customer journey and enhance the shopping experience across channels. By mapping customer journeys and beginning with the end objective in mind can help brands in setting goals, prioritizing the most important journey; analyzing the complexity involved in enhancing the journey and what this means to the customer.

Balance between Automation and Human Interaction

While customers expect brands to understand their preferences with intelligent technology they also expect empathetic human interactions depending on where they are in the journey. Maintaining a fine balance of both into the overall customer experience can be the real differentiator for brands. By understanding when a conversation needs to switch from a bot to an agent especially when a customer has a specific or unique request can bring in a remarkable difference to the customer experience.

Have an IT Structure that supports a Seamless Omnichannel Experience

Seamless user experiences are close to impossible without the right technology in place. The changing consumer preferences, the convergence of technology and the dynamic business environment are opening doors for new opportunities.

To succeed and capitalize on these opportunities, enterprises will have to adopt an agile, design-led, customer-first development process that views the IT & design structure as an ongoing process with openness towards continual redesign that evolves alongside the customer journeys. With new technologies and applications on an all-time rise; brands will be more open about experimenting and implementing an IT backbone for their omnichannel experience.

Brands that have Scaled with Omnichannel Customer Experiences


To be able to begin where you last left, regardless of the channel being used is one of the factors that make omnichannel experiences most desirable to customers and brands. True to its mission, the ‘digital-only’ company nailed its data unification process through its customer accounts, a space where they’ve been gaining a competitive edge with relevant promotions, personalized recommendations; enabling users to review, screen and order effortlessly. Its omnichannel strategy allows shoppers to switch between the app and website without losing track of any of their activities. Additionally, the prime account enables access to the e-commerce platform, video content and also enables integration with Alexa and Kindle. This gets a boost further where customers with Prime Subscriptions can use the same account across different countries. It also manages third-party vendors who can communicate via Amazon’s channels and enable a seamless experience with the same speed and efficiency.  Amazon is truly one of those rare brands that are infinite with its reach, making it one of the brands that master the omnichannel strategy remarkably.

Image source

Bank of America

With the need for personalization & seamless experiences at an all-time high, Fintech terms are no exception. Banking service providers must thereby leverage data and insights collected throughout their customer journeys and use these insights to build customer value & trust, improve satisfaction and reduce operational costs. Whether an in-person or online transaction or an ATM visit, banks need to ensure a seamless omnichannel experience to their customers. Bank of America, one of the biggest brands in the industry, takes its omnichannel development seriously. They are raising the bar for creating dynamic experiences that allow cheque deposits, appointment scheduling and paying monthly bills from desktop and mobile apps to ensuring it creates a hassle-free experience for users. The virtual bank visits enable customers to access Free Wi-Fi and continue bank transactions during their wait period and also offer tablets at their kiosks. Taking the omnichannel experience one notch higher they formulated the ‘Robo-branch’ initiative where customers can manage conversations and grievances online without having to wait for a teller, perfectly blending digital with personalized financial planning.

Image source


Another brand that has an impeccable omnichannel strategy is Disney. It has every detail carefully planned and seamlessly executed. The My Disney Experience tool is available for both desktop and mobile devices and enables guests to plan their entire vacation. From purchasing Fast passes, park tickets, viewing showtimes, making dining reservations, checking transportation and also purchasing merchandise,  all of this can be managed from within the tool.  Besides, Disney’s Magic wristbands connect guests with predetermined My Disney Experience choices that help guests enter parks, unlock hotel room doors, get photos, check-in at Fast Pass entrances for rides, make payments via the credit cards stored in their accounts and also get deliveries of their purchases made right to their rooms.  Disney’s CX experience is second to none for how it magically integrates it’s online and in-person customer experiences.


IKEA the global home furnishings retailer is making the most with its omnichannel experiences. The brand has one of the most intuitive mobile app interfaces that operate like an eCommerce website, enabling customers to choose and save their favorite catalog items to be used on the website or in-store. Additionally, it also uses VR technology to help viewers visualize furniture in their homes without having to visit a store. The stores are equally well planned with the app informing users precisely where they can pick up goods from the store.  Not just this, they also share current inventory and stock availability information based on the forecasted shipment inventory and current stock levels to ensure customers can plan their visits based on the stock availability. Ikea also has ‘pick-up and order’ points which enable customers to pick up orders closer to where they live.

One of the most recent additions to its omnichannel experience is its new batch of IKEA Planning Studio stores which uses 3D planning tools for kitchens and bathrooms. These are relatively smaller stores aimed for customers who cannot visit out-of-town stores. They hold no stock, inspiring customers to pre-book orders that are thereby delivered and installed from their larger warehouses. Ikea is one of the brands that have seamlessly integrated its online and offline shopping experiences to create a truly exceptional omnichannel strategy.

The need for omnichannel is not limited to specific industries; it’s influenced by customer preferences as more channels continue to emerge.  With mobile and assistive technologies becoming ubiquitous to the customer experience, brands need to look at ways to embracing these to stay top of mind and provide users with relevant omnichannel engagement. And the ones that understand this & commit themselves towards understanding customer journeys to build capabilities that provide a seamless omnichannel service will be able to scale customer experience & delight in the years to come.

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Mobile Opinion

The modern Product Manager: mini-CEO, fire-fighter or orchestra conductor?

A day in the life of an average consumer today is filled with digital experiences. From the time we wake up (and check our social media feeds of course) to the end of the day, we interact with native mobile apps, websites, smart watches perhaps and maybe digital kiosks of some kind. A product manager and a team of experts are behind every such experience. They decide the features, look & feel, functionalities and more. But is that all they do? Is there scope to take a broader view of today’s product managers and their role in the success of an enterprise? I believe so. But first, what is product management? Up until recently, this term was used largely to convey project management. An enterprise would decide to revamp its website or app and that project would need to be managed within a specific time frame, specifications, quality and cost. The person leading such projects – by definition short term approach, would be the de facto Product Manager. Thankfully, things have changed.

Today, Product Management is a much sought after job across many markets in the world. According to a study, Product Management roles in the US have grown 32% over just a two year period. Aside from digital product led start-ups, several established enterprises and legacy companies are seeking the role of a product manager. What has led to this change?

Digital experience as a competitive edge: many enterprises operate in tough competitive categories where genuine, meaningful product differentiation’s are difficult to come by. In such a scenario, what the consumer perceives as a superior digital experience is an edge. As consumers we can experience it in taxi aggregator services, mobile banking, OTT streaming services and more. Loyalty towards a taxi aggregator app may depend on ready availability of vehicles, pricing, safety perceptions, the behaviour of drivers and other factors. But the experience with the native mobile app – the primary mode of brand interaction is critical and can make a difference. Similarly, our choice of an OTT service may depend on the catalogue of content and subscription pricing. Then again, the mobile app’s design and its intuitive ability to have a consumer hooked on and remain loyal makes a huge difference.

Consumer expectations – the bar is set higher: until recently, enterprise software was expected to be dowdy. Legacy companies believed that it was alright if a website, intranet or a tablet app was not aesthetically designed as long as it delivered on the basic functionalities. However, the same consumer who is expected to use an internal app or intranet of an enterprise also enjoys using a well-designed consumer-facing app. In fact, the latter has conditioned consumers to expect a better customer experience with all their brand interactions across categories.

A Product Manager in a digital environment is akin to the classic brand manager. Brand management is a concept well understood in the consumer products business. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and many more owe their success to effective brand management – a phrase used to convey all aspects which impact success: product conception, feature augmentation, increase sales, build equity and command loyalty. Many believed that leading a business is much like managing a brand.

Which brings me to the three possible approaches to a Product Manager’s role: mini-CEO, fire fighter or conductor of an orchestra.

Product Manager’s role: mini-CEO, fire fighter or conductor of an orchestra.


Depending on the size, structure and hierarchy of an enterprise, the Product Manager may be given varying degrees of freedom to decide on the road map of a product. In large enterprises, where the digital experience is the business, the CEO or CXOs maybe directly responsible for the product concept, feature sets, design and more. Even in such a context, it is possible for the Product Manager to mentally re-orient one’s role as a Brand Custodian and take a broader, long-term view. This calls for understanding business needs, the larger business goal the digital product should meet and consumer needs & trends. Since Digital Transformation is not merely a buzz phrase in enterprises, this role can be critical in the changing the fortunes of the business.A typical CEO mindset sees P&L responsibility and treats digital not just as another channel – but aims to create a disruptive business model.

The fire-fighter

‘Wanted yesterday’ is the lead time on most digital products. Native mobile apps have product updates shipped regularly – some within a span of few weeks. In such a scenario, a Product Manager has to play the role of a fire-fighter – managing conflicts, solving issues, conducting stand-up meetings with agile teams, allocating resources, understanding the needs of design & technology, managing timelines and more. If the role is in a service organization, the role involves managing the client expectations too. It is critical to assume that user research is done and understood by all stakeholders. A fire-fighter mindset also goes with the philosophy of ‘fail fast and fail forward’.

An orchestra conductor

The day-to-day operations of product development can be seen as a perpetual struggle or as bringing harmony through diverse talents – in strategy, design and technology. A Product Manager can then see the role akin to that of a philharmonic conductor – orchestrating seemingly diverse talents to deliver a harmonious experience. The mindset her is to accept that there are many stakeholders (users, business leaders, marketing, engineering, design, etc.) and that are involved and need to collaborate to get a successful product in the market.

More often than not, all three roles maybe required to be performed in parts. In essence, a Product Manager’s role is balancing a strategic vision and driving operational details –a combination of having a birds eye view  and worm’s eye view, as it were. Another key trait of an effective Product Manager is to place the end-user’s needs at the centre. No decision pertaining to a product is due one’s personal inclinations or bias. In case of stakeholder conflicts, a Product Manager should only trust end user research.

In upcoming articles in this series on product management we will examine in-depth the characteristics of a great Product Manager, the tools and services essential for product management and relevant trends in the industry.

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Mobile Opinion

User Research Methods & its Relevance for Enterprises

There are millions of apps on app stores, but only a select few have been successful with users and most others experience a drop of interest right after their launch. As per research, an average individual uses close to 25 apps per month, of which 96% of the time is split between just 10 apps.

Forrester reports that 70% of the projects fail due to lack of user acceptance. This is mainly due to the apps poor user experience. As per a study from Bain & Company, 80% of companies feel they delivered an exceptional user experience while only 8% of customers agree. This is one of the main reasons why it’s crucial to gain customer insights with scientific techniques like user research and identify what users prefer than rely on assumptions or gut insights.

Let’s explore some of the key factors that make the user experience integral for enterprises to craft & deliver products and services that resonate with the pulse of their customers and prospects.

What is User Research?

User research is the foundation for creating a successful product or service. It keeps the user at the heart of the experience and helps in creating offerings that align with the user’s needs.  Engineers and product designers have since centuries incorporated user feedback into their process, however, it was not until 1993 that the term “user experience” (UX) was coined by Don Norman during his time with Apple.

With the UX discipline evolving over the years, design teams and experts today incorporate various research techniques to enable decisions informed by the end-user rather than be led by assumptions.

The Significance of User Research

User research is a technique that is used to understand the needs, aspirations and behavior patterns of users through a series of quantitative and qualitative methods that help in simplifying the users’ challenges.  A great UX Design is always embedded in great user research – influenced mainly by the user insights while balancing the other key technical aspects and priorities. It’s an excellent way to include the user in the design process for a more human & user-centered design process that is critical to product success.

However, most often teams and enterprises rush through and evade the user research process as it seems exhaustive and time-consuming. But, the implications of not applying user research as part of the product strategy are far too many. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that works in a hyper-personalized era that we are a part of.

While it is an elaborate process, it helps to include user research as part of your product & design strategy. Click to Tweet

“User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project” — Don Norman

When is User Research needed?

The answer to this is actually anytime. At every stage of the product development cycle, user research helps in bringing new insights that will guide the product development cycle. Although each product development cycle is distinct, it can broadly be categorized under the following steps:

Product Development Cycle

User research is broadly conducted in three distinct stages.

The Discovery Stage

The key goal during the early stage of the design process is to conduct exploratory research. As each project has a specific context and user group, the research should explore what is it that users actually need and understand what’s currently working and what’s not. A few research methods used at this stage include competitive analysis, benchmark studies, ethnographic research, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups.

The Development Stage

The next step is to assess the efficiency of the prototype developed and analyze if the product actually helps to solve the users’ challenges. Here are a few things to consider to ensure you’re on the right track.

  • Do users understand how the prototype works?
  • Have they been able to interact with the prototype?
  • Were the users able to find what they were looking for?
  • Do the features look & feel right?

Some of the user research methods used in this stage include card sorting,  prototype testing, moderated and unmoderated usability testing, preference testing, and A/B testing.

The Execution Stage

Once the product prototype is ready to go live, the goal is to evaluate the efficiency of the product and assess if it meets the users’ needs. The objective is to measure the performance in order to optimize the experience. Feedback from users is crucial at this stage, as the users’ needs may have changed or evolved with time and the current prototype developed might not be the best fit. The key is to adapt and reiterate as per the current user needs. A few of the research methods used at this stage include surveys, bug reports, data analytics and more.

In a nutshell, user research is conducted at every stage of the product lifecycle depending on the end-objective. Let’s explore some of the user research methods and how they can be integrated as part of the product design strategy.

User Research Method Approach

The discipline of research is vast and multi-dimensional. Considering the various types of user research approaches and methods it can get overwhelming to focus on the one that you need to choose. Here are some of the important research methods and insights about when to use them:

User Research Approaches

Quantitative Research

Any type of research that can be measured numerically and used to understand the ‘what’ can be categorized under quantitative research. For example, “How many people have downloaded your app” or “What percentage of users clicked a particular app feature”. Quantitative research explores large samples of data like these to identify key trends and patterns. It gathers information from existing and potential customers with various sampling methods, online surveys, polls, questionnaires, analytics, and AB testing, etc. After a careful understanding of the results from quantitative research, it is much easier for product and business heads to assess the future of the product and make amendments to the product features accordingly.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research unfolds the ‘why’ behind certain user behavior.  It is a form of research that assimilates and works with non-numerical data and seeks to interpret meaning from this data with respect to specific user groups.  For instance “Why do users have a particular affinity towards a product?” “Why was there a negative response to a product tagline?”. Qualitative research explores the opinions, attitudes, and behaviors of users and provides insights and context into why certain patterns and trends arise. The various research types used here include usability testing, one-on-one interviews,  field studies, and customer calls.

For a holistic understanding of users and to be able to address their needs and concerns,  it’s important to use a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Both methods are integral to the product lifecycle and cannot be substituted for the other.

Attitudinal Research

Attitudinal research methods gather insights about the users’ feelings, thoughts, needs, attitudes, and motivations. It seeks to discover why users have specific feelings and attitudes towards an experience. For instance, it shares insights about whether users enjoyed engaging with a certain product. Research types include card sorting, surveys, focus groups, questionnaires, and participatory design.

However, there’s one downfall of this research method, especially in a focus group setting. As humans, we are self-conscious and concerned about how others might perceive us. The desire to belong to a certain group and be accepted also referred to as the ‘herd behavior’ can be so overpowering that the user’s responses might be swayed and not be completely honest. One way to keep a check and counter this is to split the focus group into smaller subsets without a moderator that’s observing their responses. Despite room for potential bias, this technique is incredibly valuable as users are invariably engaging with your digital assets and experiencing your brand and ultimately converting.

Behavioral Research

Behavioral research methods aim to evaluate what users actually do. This could help in gauging how users navigate through the website and provide quantitative data about their engagement with the website. For instance, it can provide insights into where users click after arriving at your homepage or identify if users fail to notice the key messaging displayed at the main menu section. Some of the techniques include eye-tracking, click-stream analysis, A/B testing, and usability studies.

As it is important to understand what users say vs. what they do, it is beneficial to conduct a combination of both attitudinal and behavioral research and derive actionable insights from both techniques in conjunction with each other, essentially to back up what users say as against what they do.

Enlisted here a few amongst the many user research types that brands need to consider to identify and assess user behavior and preferences.

Types of User Research Methods

Ethnographic Field Studies: A research type that gauges user behavior in their natural environments, where participants encounter the product or service.

Usability-Lab Studies: A one-on-one lab setting, where the participant is given a set of scenarios that helps in the identification of specific usage patterns of a product or service.

Participatory Design: An experiential method where participants are given to construct experiences that helps in clearly identifying what matters most to them and why.

Interviews: The researcher meets the participant on a one-on-one discussion to gain in-depth insights on a specific product/service or topic.

Eye Tracking: A research method that tracks the eyeball movement to identify how participants engage with the company’s digital assets and environments.

Clickstream Analysis: Data gathered by analyzing the record of the user clicks across all digital assets and platforms.

Focus Groups: Participant groups ranging from 3 –12 members are guided through a discussion about a fixed set of topics. Verbal and written feedback is documented through the course of the discussion.

Usability Benchmarking: Usability studies that are conducted with precise and predetermined measures of performance.

Moderated Remote Usability Studies: Usability studies conducted remotely via screen-sharing tools and remote monitoring capabilities.

Concept Testing: A research type that assesses if the product or service aligns with the value proposition of the concept to ensure it meets the needs of the target audience. This is conducted in both, group and one-on-one settings, offline and online.

Panel Studies: An identification of attitudinal changes using constant participant-base and assessing the individuals’ opinions at different times.

A/B Testing/Multivariate Testing:  A research technique that evaluates the impact of the interaction between multiple variables, to identify the variant/s that have a greater impact on the desired user behavior.

UX Studies: Includes both quantitative & qualitative research methods to observe and track user behavior over a series of fixed goals and scenarios.

True-Intent Studies: a method that maps if users were able to accomplish their goal or intent and evaluate their subsequent behavior.

Diary/Camera Studies: A research study where participants are given a diary or camera to capture and describe the aspects of their lives that are relevant to a product or service including their thoughts and emotions.

Desirability Studies: Various visual-design alternatives are offered to participants to choose and associate each alternative from amongst the attributes selected from a predetermined list.

Card Sorting: Users are requested to classify items into groups and allocate categories for each group. This method typically applies the users’ mental models to refine the information architecture of a site.

Customer Feedback: Mostly commonly used research type, where participants are given open/close-ended review questions either online or offline.

Intercept Surveys: a survey that gathers user data during the use of a site or application.

Email Surveys: one of the most widely used research types that gathers user information via an email survey over a set of fixed scenarios.

Nothing sums it better – “Undervaluing User Research is a Deadly Disease”, says  Jared Spool, a Maker of Awesomeness and co-Founder at Center Centre – UIE.

It is crucial to invest time and resources that bring you closer to your audience.

There is no comparison to the quality and impact of products that are crafted with user research insights. Click to Tweet

However, there is a huge overlap in the various types of user research methods that can be conducted. Selecting the most appropriate method/s to apply depends on the research goals you wish to accomplish. Though it is exhaustive and time-consuming, user research methods and their unique attributes can help enterprises and product heads gain useful insights that – inform the design process with specific and measurable goals, adapt a creative problem-solving approach and follow a user-centric design that can impact the overall business performance and growth.

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Mobile Opinion

Top Technologies & UX Best Practices Driving the Tourism & Hospitality Industry – Part 2

The former article of this series outlines the various technologies that are driving the travel and tourism industry.  In this article, we will discuss some of the most crucial UX Design strategies from top travel brands that can help enterprises in this niche to increase customer engagement, acquisition and make the most of their digital presence.

As a travel enterprise closely integrated with Technology, it is imperative to understand the finer nuances and underlying factors that influence customer decisions, which to a large extent, can be determined by the website’s UX Design.

UX Design is the process of creating products, processes, services, and omnichannel journeys that provide relevant and pleasant user experiences. It can also be used as a measure to monitor, control, and refine your digital presence to ensure it addresses the core requirements of your audience. Invariably your customer responses and reactions are all great hallmarks of the efficiency of the site’s user experience design.

“In order to achieve high-quality user experience … there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.” –

Nielson-Norman Group

Let’s explore some of the essential UX principles that Travel Brands can integrate as part of their website design.

1. Neat Layout with Easy Navigation

Users need to know where to begin. As the homepage receives most clicks, engaging content, and a clean layout with an easy navigation process, that prompts the next steps at the homepage can help to increase engagement and keep visitors on your site.  Too many options, search forms, and offers cluttered with no clear indication of where to head next can lead to page exits.’s home page is a good reference of UX done right. The content and layout is neat and simple, with clearly segmented categories, including a mention of the average price based on the location, enabling users to choose based on their budget.

Neat Layout with Easy Navigation

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‘ has everything for your trip’ ‘Browse by property type’  ‘Homes guests love’ ‘Get inspiration for your next trip’ & more of such messaging on their homepage that helps to garner customer confidence, invariably driving a positive action. Each element supports & enhances the other, a perfect instance of a great UX design.

2. High Impact Imagery

A strong visual element, especially for a travel website, helps in invoking a greater connection, where users can get a feel of the holiday experience through high impact imagery. While a lot of brands use stock photos, an effective way to go about this is to invite users to share photographs as Tripadvisor does.  TripAdvisor spices up its content by sharing user-generated images that are real and provoke user emotions that lead to greater customer loyalty.

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3. Keep It Simple

It’s always a good idea to keep things simple and focus on important information. This helps users consume information that is connected with action. Most websites overload users with too much information resulting in a heavy cognitive overload. Yes, it’s quite tempting to squeeze all special offers on the homepage, but keeping it simple lets the user focus on the main task. Trivago follows this UX principle well. It understands customers’ objectives and presents them with a clear and clutter-free search experience. Top suggestions are arranged in a neat grid with attractive thumbnails accomplishing both key aspects of UX, visually inspiring with easy navigation.

Keep It Simple

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4. Have a Progress Tracker

Progress trackers are designed to guide users through a multi-step process in order to complete a specified process. A travel site with a well-designed progress tracker can keep users informed about the steps they have completed, the section they are currently on, the tasks that remain, and gives them a quick peek into where they stand in the buying cycle. This feature is a must-have for airlines, which helps users to logically structure the booking process while making it easy and intuitive, thereby maximizing conversion rates.

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5. Use an Interactive Map

While locating an address, it is most likely that we look for a visual representation through a map or GPS. This is because it’s much simpler to understand the visual navigation, more so when you can view your destination or travel route.

An interactive map enables users with a dynamic method to screen holiday destinations. Travelers mostly prefer maps that refresh search parameters based on geography or destination-based pricing and find important landmarks, nearby events, and locations.

6. Personalize Messaging

It is reported that returning users are 2x more likely to make a purchase during a session. Personalizing the site based on your core user personas can have a great impact on results. Demarcate messaging for new visitors and returning visitors. Inspire new visitors by offering recommendations on popular locations. On the other hand, greet returning visitors with recently searched offers, which gives them a personalized experience.

7. Smart Calendars

Finding the right flight deals can be a long and tedious process and additionally get tough when the prices are volatile. Skyscanner makes search extremely easy based on its users. Choosing the dates on its calendar is extremely easy, an important UX parameter to have dates of the previous month and the subsequent month. Based on the flexibility of the user’s travel dates, Skyscanner also highlights the options of choosing months when the airfares are most economical.

Smart calendars

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8. Use Action Verbs

Let’s admit it; a good copy is often an afterthought in UX. But a reassuring message can ease the anxiety related to the booking by giving more context and insights into the best options based on user dynamics. Also, action-focused words like ‘Discover,’ ‘See’ ‘Explore’ like on AirBnB’s site drives greater engagement, moving users from a passive to an active state. If you aspire to increase your site’s user experience by the virtue of your copy, don’t hesitate to use action verbs and optimize your site’s performance.

Use Action Verbs

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9. Streamline Forms

Too many fields and misleading content in the forms often lead to instant exits. One of the most crucial elements in a travel site is to streamline the forms with clear categories and sections that enable quick and easy action. Here’s a peek at’s search form on its homepage. The forms are hidden inside a handy horizontal tabbed navigation segment, and the tabs include different search forms related to their core services, enabling users to navigate to the service they are interested in directly. Quick, efficient & seamless – best UX attributes in a nutshell.

Streamline Forms

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10. Make a Personal Impact

Increase user engagement with personal stories from customers. Social proof like testimonials, reviews, and brief travel journals can maximize your brand value, credibility, and overall performance. Invite your customers to talk about the positive experiences that made a memorable travel experience along with images that they will be willing to share online. Adventures of real people are always interesting and more inspiring than stock images and marketing babble.

11. Include Related Products & Benefits

Just like big e-Commerce players, include recommendations of related products and services based on popular choice and user search. The trick is not to sound pushy while letting users know of the various gamut of options available and associated benefits that can elevate their travel experience. Given that consumers today opt for luxury and comfort, it’s a good idea to use words that connote the experience like ‘indulgent’, ‘pamper’, ‘comfort’, and the like.

While customer satisfaction is one of the hallmarks of your sites UX design, no UX Design principle or technology mix can guarantee a satisfactory user experience. Brands need to identify the right combination of UX principles and a host of other diversified experiences like customer journey maps and human-centered design principles that align with their offerings. The need of the hour is for travel brands to constantly evolve alongside their customer requirements that are spoilt for choice with the mounting competition offering similar services. The trick is to stick to the core customer values you offer as a brand and ensure that these are deeply integrated as part of your user experience design.

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