Why smart businesses used lockdown to focus on product-led innovation

Posted on November 4, 2020

Todd Olson, Founder and CEO of Pendo

Todd Olson, Founder and CEO of Pendo

What does it mean to be product-led? The best example I can give is something I purchased during lockdown – a Peloton.

I thought, why not? The gyms are closed, let’s give it a go. Built into the experience are mechanisms to engender loyalty and create a sense of community – all while having no 1:1 human interaction with anyone from the company. The product gamifies exercise, letting me track my progress, set goals, compete with my friends, and rate my rides, all of which get me back on the bike more than I ever expected. As I used it more, it became harder to imagine that I will ever need to use a gym again.

Often when we hear the term ‘product-led’, it refers specifically to growth—building customer acquisition and conversion activities into the experience so the product essentially sells itself. Products like Dropbox or Netflix are good examples of this. But growth is just one piece of the picture. Ultimately, the grand vision is to automate much of the customer journey inside the product, leading to a better, more engaging customer experience.

Digital products taking off through skyrocketing usage

More businesses than ever are buying into this vision and using lockdown to focus on in-app innovation. Our data shows that usage of EMEA-based SaaS platforms has grown by an average of 50% across all industries since mid-March, with usage of e-learning platforms showing the largest spike—184%— as kids had to learn from home. The increase in remote working also meant usage of HR software and collaboration tools increased by 89% and 80% respectively.

The influx of new users means that the question has changed from: “How can we grow usage?”, to: “how do we maintain this level of user engagement?”.

Take Firefly Learning, for example. With usage of its virtual learning platform spiking ten-fold in two days, the company revamped its in-product onboarding and education efforts to make sure parents, teachers and students new to the platform got off to a great start. And they studied how these users journey through the software to identify areas of the product to improve. Like 74 percent of the technology businesses we surveyed in a research study this summer, product engagement has become the primary growth driver for the company.

Product managers – we need you!

As companies adopt a product-led strategy, product teams are going to become even more critical. And in fact, Pendo’s research shows that six in 10 technology businesses across Europe have already increased their investment in product research and development since March.

Additionally, 72% of UK businesses believe the product team will be significantly more involved in future strategic decision-making within their businesses.

As the world moves increasingly digital, there will be more onus on product managers to make sure their products deliver value to users. Because that ultimately drives customer satisfaction and growth for the business. In this new world, it will be critical to not just look at the product as part of the customer experience, but rather, as the entire experience.

‘Think Peloton’

I believe that product-led companies are the future. They will help the UK successfully navigate out of an economic down-turn by making it easier for all of us to learn and adopt digital platforms. Companies should continue to invest in product research, development and innovation, not just as a perfunctory exercise but to bring real business and customer benefits.

Product-led businesses should ‘think Peloton’ – building delightful and engaging experiences inside their products and continuing to evolve with user feedback along the way. Through these product-led approaches, businesses are sure to keep us all out of the proverbial gym!

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