Organizations are nothing without their paying customers. While so many companies are busy focusing on gaining new customers to demonstrate growth and progress, the pandemic has taught us a valuable lesson: Your most loyal current customers are your key to sustainability.

Companies are moving to subscription models, offering products as a service, regardless of their industry. Subscription models are the transition from transaction-based interaction to a long-term, gradual relationship that provides a steady stream of revenue. The operational model as a service also provides vital information about customer behavior.

But to win the customer’s commitment to subscribe in the long run, you need to create a product experience that outweighs the benefits the customer can get from a stand-alone product transaction.

“Economics of Experience”

Traditionally, the customer has had to buy a new product to get the latest feature enhancements, such as buying a new phone for a better camera. Now companies have broken this model by moving to major software-based upgrades that provide an improved experience without the need to replace the physical product. These companies have used continuous delivery in software development to provide an ever-improving customer experience. Today’s experience with the product is managed by software, which means that the experience is delivered digitally.

Product companies need to embrace this change and build a digital continuum. The convergence of the physical and digital worlds must reflect changes in the software industry. Businesses need to create products with the thought that their life cycle now extends beyond the transaction of physical delivery of products. They will need to provide both software and physical updates and upgrades based on individual preferences and uses. Subsequently, the design process must change towards making physical products as modular and extensible as software.

This is an opportunity to make you think, where the design cycle is transformed into a long-term and sustainable physical product. The inclusion of adaptability and software-driven products in the design process leads to four key improvements in the customer experience:

1. Ease of upgrade

With products designed to be upgraded wirelessly through software updates, on-site purchase or repair travel is becoming less common. Vehicle updates, for example, are made over the air, such as software updates sent to your phone or computer – allowing you as a user to take advantage of new features almost instantly. This ensures continuous service and protects products from obsolete with inherited functions. Software-based design also creates the potential for cost savings for both customers and organizations – through an almost easy process to keep products up to date. Physical users will reap the same benefits, and modularity will make it easier to replace and upgrade parts independently.

2. Building relationships

The growing presence of software in cyber-physical products allows companies to collect huge amounts of customer data in real time. This means that they understand how customers use these digitally embedded products, their basic needs and any potential gaps that can be filled. With this data, organizations can make improvements immediately by adjusting the customer experience and adapting it to their specific behavior. Most products today do not have this two-way communication capability – and companies that do not use this accurate customer data miss the golden opportunity to strengthen the relationship through a higher quality experience.

3. Long-term loyalty

Creating comfortable processes and building a strong relationship also gains trust, proving reliability and ensuring loyalty. Why would someone buy a new car from another company when sticking to the current company allows them to continue to earn new improvements and upgrade the consistency of the vehicle, which is intricately tailored to meet their needs and habits? When the customer is given more influence to improve their own product, it promotes a greater sense of transparency between him and the company. This setting builds strong arguments for customer loyalty – where companies can offer points and customer status throughout the relationship. The car is not only connected to other products, such as the phone and customer applications. It has to do with their way of life.

4. Sustainability

When you make you think, you choose materials that are less harmful to the environment. Even if the price of the physical product rises, it is a more sustainable product with durability. Choosing the RIGHT materials is crucial.

But many of today’s products are designed for functionality to reduce costs and run multiple iterations of the product to increase revenue. They are not built with single use in mind, as 80% of the recyclability and single use is decided at the design stage. But when companies make you think, the digital form of the product evolves as it is used, allowing the product to last longer for the benefit of the environment through less physical disposal.

Recent developments in technology have created a model in which product design increasingly focuses on the software capabilities built into the product itself. It is a catalyst for both environmental sustainability and a high-quality customer experience. When companies approach the design of their products, they need to “make them think” – protecting the planet and gaining loyal customers in the process through the convenience and personalized experience that their software capabilities can provide.

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