Develop an experience, not just a product

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My 3-year-old daughter uses my iPhone to play music videos and YouTube videos and has not touched a PC (or better, a Mac) yet. With the same content available on either she’s obviously seen me operate my Mac and looks over my shoulder now and then, but finds all the keys and even the “Magic-mouse” complicated. Clearly a usage experience is more important to her than sheer processing power. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Nintendo anyone?

What I see in so many early business plans today is the old-fashioned notion of deep technology expertise, something most traditional investors still harp on. I see too many BMW engines being developed without attention being paid to the development of The Ultimate Driving Experience®. True, you can’t build the driving experience without great engines, but BMW, like no other vendor understands that the total experience is the selling point. In the end, technology will become commoditized and its differentiation will be determined by the way it interacts with content, media, social network, end-users to create a well designed user experience.

Apple is another company that understands that focus on user experience very well. Its products are a piece of art, its function (to a novice) is at least competitive. Buying a Mac is an experience, and so is using it. A much better experience than buying a PC in every way. The box your Mac comes is even a work of art, the way it folds open, the new materials, everything builds to the experience. As a customer you feel special, owning an iPod with your name engrave on it and all your music in it. And that is what Apple customers are buying into: feeling special and appreciated. Attention paid to you!

Now every market segment has its own definition of user experience, so don’t go do what Apple does before you understand how you can differentiate. But every software, service or content vendor should consider building a unique customer experience that in the end – sells more. It’s a CEO level responsibility because it involves making sizable investments in complementary areas, not just a marketing ploy. The days of just selling a product are over.


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About Georges van Hoegaerden

Georges is a serial entrepreneur, venture catalyst, 4x CEO, board director turned innovation economist (by fate). His ideas have raised $14M in venture capital and produced over $100M in returns. More.