Product experience refers to the way an existing or potential customer interacts with a brand’s product. To understand the way this works on a deeper level, it helps to look at the framework of the product experience.
Through the framework of product experience, you can gain a better understanding of how customers can experience your product. This is vital information for any company or brand, as it allows you to design or adjust a product to create the best possible experience for your customers.
A good product experience builds brand loyalty, brings in new customers, increases sales and revenue, and improves the reputation of your brand.
To understand the product experience, this article explores the framework in question. Well, what are you waiting for? Read on!
Three Levels of Product Experience
When trying to understand the ins and outs of product experience, the main framework that most consult is the one designed by Pieter Desmet and Paul Hekkert. They have done extensive research into how humans interact with products and what this tells us about the user experience.
The framework focuses on the experience that a customer has with a particular product and the different ways in which they can react emotionally, psychologically, and mentally to a product during the experience. This can hugely contribute to product-led growth.
To make the most of the information gathered from product experience, a brand should first research and clearly define who its target audience is. Using demographics and interests, and even creating user personas, helps to make informed estimations about the product experience.
The first level of product experience outlined is the aesthetic level. This focuses on how customers experience your product on a sensory level. Visual appeal is very important in software platforms.
Understanding the customer’s aesthetic experience is important, as it allows you to center the design around what is most appealing on a sensory level. You can then personalize the experience based on this.
Even if the visual element of your product does not necessarily link to its main functionalities, it is still important to consider. This is usually the first impression that the customer has, and might determine whether they choose to purchase or buy into the product.
For example, a website might work well and be easy to navigate, but its design is important to convey an attractive and professional look to a potential client. The design can also, in many cases, determine how easy it is for a client to find their way around a website or software platform.
Another example might be a smartphone. While the importance lies in the phone’s software and interface, people do value how it looks if they are seen to carry it around with them daily. The feel of it is also important, as it should be easy to carry and hold for long periods.
Sometimes the customers themselves may not be fully aware of how their sensory experience with a product impacts their impression of it, but brands need to think one step ahead and anticipate the subtle difference this can make to a buying decision.
The second level of product experience is meaning. This focuses on the cognitive experience and interaction of the customer with the product.
This looks at customers’ interpretations and perspectives of your product, any memory associations, and how it is placed in relation to other products, concepts, and ideas in their minds.
Analyzing the mental states of customers when interacting with your product can be complex, as this is very much subject to individual thinking, personality, differing contexts, and personal experiences, as well as cultural differences.
To begin to understand this cognitive state, you first need to understand your target audience. With this market research, you should be able to identify commonalities between the majority of consumers.
Consider data like age, location, income level, gender, race, religion, and more. You can also factor in hobbies, professions, interests, habits, and behaviors.
An example might be an item of jewelry. A customer might look at a jewelry product, and automatically associate it with sentiment, luxury, and investment. They might imagine wearing it to a special occasion, gifting it to a loved one, or passing it down to their children based on the general impression of jewelry and its value.
You can also look at the example of a book cover. When browsing through a bookstore, a customer might notice and pick up a book that has a cover that has a similar look and feel to other books that they have previously read and enjoyed. This association creates a feeling of familiarity and might convince the customer to buy the book.
While these examples are different from the meaning that prospects will find through using software products, note that this principle applies to all products!
Understanding how the customer thinks, and the cognitive associations made based on their demographics, can help you to tweak your software product design to appeal to the target audience.
The final level of product experience is the emotional experience of the customer when interacting with your product.
Arguably, emotion is considered one of the most powerful influences in the product experience. This visceral experience for customers can easily make or break their impression of your product.
You want a customer to feel positive emotions when experiencing your product, and you should try to avoid negative emotions. If a customer feels happy, satisfied, excited, or at ease when using your product, you have made a good impression. It is more likely that they will buy into the product, or continue using it if they are an existing customer.
When looking at this level, there is a focus on the idea of appraisal. This refers to how a customer evaluates a software product on an emotional level, regarding how it can help or impact them. It will differ according to the individual, and their personalities.
Again, this reinforces the importance of market research and familiarity with the target audience.
Let’s consider the example of a software system. Users may feel frustration or despair when dealing with a system that is difficult to navigate, and not user-friendly in its design. On the other hand, a simple and well-designed system will invoke feelings of comfort and satisfaction.
The former will convince a customer that the product is not worth buying into, and lead to them looking elsewhere for a better option. The latter is likely to convince them to either continue using the product (if they are already a customer) or buy into it as a new customer.
To manage this level, you should monitor how customers feel when using the product through surveys and feedback streams. This helps you to adjust the product where necessary, regularly, to keep customers happy with its design.
Relationships Between the Three Levels of Product Experience
While the three levels of product experience are distinctive, they do often work together and can inform one another in the overall product experience.
If a customer is interacting with a product, they will have the aesthetic, meaning, and emotional experience all at once. Just because we’ve discussed them in isolation, it doesn’t mean that they don’t work in harmony!
The look of a product can spark an emotional response in a customer. Similarly, the aesthetic of your platform can also fire up a cognitive association, or trigger a memory.
If your customer interprets a product in a certain way, this can lead to an emotional response. Cognitive context could also impact the way your customer views and reacts to a certain aesthetic.
An example of how the levels can work together is the product experience of software that uses lots of yellow across the platform. The color forms part of the aesthetic level, but the color may symbolize happiness or sunshine to the customer which is on a cognitive level. If instead, they associate the color with being too bright and showy, they may opt to let it go.
The yellow platform could remind the customer of a game they played as a child, which then triggers nostalgia and fondness. This sees all three levels come together: the aesthetic color that triggers a memory on the meaning level, which then leads to an emotional response.
This emphasizes the importance of considering all three levels both separately and together when designing a product, or showcasing it in a sales demo.
If you only consider one or two, but the third has not been thought about, it could result in a domino effect that still results in the customer choosing not to buy your product.
You need to have in-depth insight into how your customers experience your products on an aesthetic, meaning, and emotional level.
The first step is to clearly define who your target audience is, and then seek to analyze their product experience. Monitor this experience on all three levels, and then use the resulting data to inform the way products are designed and adjusted regularly to suit the needs and desires of the customer.
This keeps customer satisfaction high, which maintains brand loyalty, and draws in new customers.
If you’re looking to boost your software sales, consider using Saleo. This platform can help you to create product demos that give you a leg up on your competitors.