4 Keys to a Data-Driven Product Strategy

November 13, 2018
Hilary Rich's picture
Director, Product Management

Today’s product decisions must balance project inputs from product and engineering teams with feedback and information provided by users. By focusing more on the needs of your users, product teams can quickly adjust their development priorities to enhance user experience, improve customer satisfaction, and increase analytics adoption rates—while still meeting the needs of the engineering team. So how can you collect the kind of user data that can better inform your product strategy?

1. Identify Customer Needs

Organizations have a wide range of user data just waiting to be harnessed—from transactions to purchasing behaviors, to complaints, to support tickets. Put that data to good use to find out what features or updates your users would find most beneficial, then take that one step further and actually talk to your users. That means physically getting out of your office and visiting your customers or end users. Go see their processes and have an in-person conversation. You’ll get much more useful information out of an in-person conversation than you would’ve gotten over the phone or via email. Other ways to engage with your customers are to become a more user-centric company, by setting up Customer Advisory Boards or user groups.

Gathering data about your customers or end users and their workflows, actually talking to them, helps you to uncover what they need, what their pain points are, and how you can improve your data product to address those needs and pain points. After all, the key to a data-driven strategy is to use data to identify your specific customers’ desires, problems, and needs.

2. Improve Customer Experiences and UX

A customer-obsessed enterprise focuses its strategy, energy, and budget on engaging with its customers, and an excellent customer experience will only become more important for your product strategy. Gartner has found that, in two years, 82% of B2B CMOs expect to mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX, and companies should be preparing for this likelihood today. Invest in technology that will enable you to gather the data you need to understand how the right experience will keep your users coming back, and focus on leveraging new technology to help you better understand the customer experience to stay ahead of competitors. People who want to keep current customers loyal and engaged are always asking: “How can we use insights about product and feature usage to improve our users’ experience?” The answer is to truly understand your users. According to Gartner, product efforts are essentially wasted if companies don’t develop an understanding of their customers' context. The better you can relate to their situation, the better you can serve their needs.

3. Infuse Insights into your Product Development Process

Use data and insights to not only understand your customers and how you will evolve your product and their experience, but also infuse your product with insights that provide value to your customers. Here are some ideas you can do to infuse insights from data into your product development process:

  • Hit reset on Big Data: Take a whole new look at what big data means to you. Large, diverse and messy forms of data can create new sources of customer value, so think of additional sources of data and how you can use them to generate new insights. Insights from that new data can increase your operational agility—making you more in-time and in service to your customers, and improving brand loyalty.
  • Get personal: Use data to fuel real-time and machine learning efforts. Your edge will come from self-sustaining cycles of real-time, two-way, insights-driven interactions that are actionable and delivered exactly where your users need them.
  • Jump a step ahead: Accelerate innovation by using Big Data not only to anticipate customer needs but to provide new or unexpected value. Game-changers like Uber weren’t formed because a customer requested it, but because someone realized that it could be a solution for a problem we didn’t even realize we had. Apply this same line of thinking—how can my product go above and beyond to solve a problem for our users?—to your product strategy. Incorporate rising technologies like AI, predictive analytics, or natural language generation to generate the real-time and personalized insight you need to deliver to create engaging, contextual experiences your customers will clamor for, and tell their friends about.

4. Get Everyone Thinking about the Needs of the Customer and End User

Forrester has recently found that the disconnect between committing to improve user experience and actually doing so often arises due to a lack of executive buy-in, which is surprising considering that Forrester has also found that the revenue growth of CX leaders is 5.1 times that of laggards. Invite executives and engineering to participate in Customer Advisory Boards and user groups. This is a great way for them to learn customer workflows and hear their experience first hand. Tracking and measuring data and outcomes from the previous 4 points discussed will allow you to show the correlation of investing into understanding the customer, evolving the product and experience, with adoption and growth. Share those outcomes across teams and organizational leaders. This is an effective way of making the business case for everyone to start thinking about the needs of the customer or user experience to better understand their needs and preferences—and ultimately improve adoption and customer loyalty.