Validating The Value Proposition

The high level of risk manufacturing companies face when bringing a new product to market is incredible. With competition fierce, and the ever-increasing struggle to secure brand loyalty, companies these days can’t afford to have millions of unsold goods blanketing retail shelves due to missing the mark on customer needs. Those of us working in digital enjoy the luxury of being able to quickly adapt to the marketplace and our customers after a product launches – in fact, we often say “the market is the only test” and count on post launch feedback to refine the Minimum Viable Product and continue to build the user experience.

This approach works for digital, but as we see more products where the physical and digital experience are tightly coupled into a single value proposition, a different approach is required. In these cases, value proposition validation is imperative. So how do manufacturing companies go about this? How do digital engagement agencies, such as ours, offer a degree of certainty around a new digital component to more traditional-based enterprise manufacturing companies who have for decades, showcased technological advances solely through hardware? Here we discuss one of our latest projects with a client doing exactly that, cloaked in a bit of veiled secrecy, to explore the process of executing a formulated value proposition:

A leading consumer electronics manufacturer looked to validate a value proposition for a new connected product targeted at families that would revolutionize their at-home care routine. Because this customer was building hardware that would not only be manufactured by the millions, but required precise testing, we applied a level of rigor around user research and product testing for the digital component as well. This allowed us to fully verify the reason a customer would want to buy the connected product prior to launching in-market, rather than taking a less verified approach to releasing software.

The initial set of goals: generate demand and sales of a new connected product and incrementally increase revenue from the product’s accessories. We began the value proposition validation by hypothesizing that customers engaged with their at-home routine incorrectly more often than not. Or, they did not have any interest in a structured, personalized routine whatsoever. From this we sought to understand not only the behavior, but also the perception of personal care. In order to achieve our desired behavior change, we needed to create an experience that would be not only educational, but also fun. In an effort to ease the negativity around this particular task, we set out to define the specific challenges our customers had with their current routines.

Our extensive history in the behavioral psychology behind motivating actions – as seen in the success of games, apps, websites, and connected experiences that have repeatedly increased retention, revenue, and brand loyalty – and nearly 20 years of pioneering new technologies to market – allowed us unparalleled insight into the habits and triggers that spurred motivation in consumers. We found that customers had the most trouble in the initial motivation needed to form a healthy habit. There was also a severe lack of knowledge around proper technique. These initial insights gave rise to what would become the project’s three main challenges:

  1. How do we keep customers that often have short, fleeting attention spans, engaged over a long period of time?
  2. How do we take a seemingly “boring” task, i.e. chore, and make it fun?
  3. How we do educate customers to help build long-term habits that will benefit their health for years to come?

With this initial set of information and parameters established, the value proposition validation process began with an intense research + feedback loop with a selected pool of target customers. We began conducting contextual interviews, user testing with prototypes, feature testing with development sprints for customer feedback integration every two weeks, and contextual user testing.

Next came a pilot study, where customers used the product for 30 days in their comfortable, in-home environment, in order to see how the product integrated into their daily lives. A combination of surveys, remote contextual research, and local circumstantial interviews provided insight into the natural environments and routines that influenced our participants’ at-home decision-making. Through these strategic tactics we were able to judge people’s attitudes on functionality, features, and the general ease of product usage within their daily routine.

Knowing that one solution doesn’t necessarily appeal to all, we created several options to test and employed A/B testing to observe the customer’s preferences and performance with the varying prototypes. Not only were we able to ask questions to judge the comprehension of the content displayed in two different forms, we observed precisely how the customers interacted with the prototypes. This allowed us to determine which format made the most sense to our customers and which they were able to interact with more intuitively. We added in peer-reviewed research to bolster the validity of the A/B test results to ensure the direction of the final product was solid.

Data! You’ve most likely heard the buzz about the importance of this in the media lately and how it’s used to analyze everything from your spending habits to behavior patterns within your decision formation. This was no exception. We developed a customized analytics platform that tracked individual user actions throughout the study. It provided transparency into the product for monitoring data trends in order to integrate necessary fixes needed to boost customer engagement throughout the duration of the study. For this particular phase, engagement was the main metric of success. Looking at the data through the lens of  Motivational UX™  we validated engagement levels through time spent on sticky features and usage rate frequency.

The greatest test of validity was to see how the product worked in its natural environment – in this case, the home. Testing the product in home, as compared to a clinical lab test, allowed us to unearth many discoveries that were directly applied as feature improvements. We linked participants’ qualitative information with their individualized user behavior data so we were able to discover disconnects between what participants stated about their behavior versus what their behavior actually was. This was key. Because of these insights, we were able to build product features to assist with behavioral motivation and created a strong sense of continuity within the user’s routine.

The qualitative observations and discussions provided context to the data we collected via surveys and analytics. It allowed us to fully validate the value proposition before going to market. The research + feedback loop led to the creation of the right product for the right audience, allowing the connected experience between a once hardware-heavy product and digital technology to enhance a consumer electronic manufacturer’s product line and set them up for continual dominance in the personal care market.

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