Tiers of User Experience for Smart Connected Appliances
A static product is a dead product. Dynamic internet-connected products are becoming the new normal. Although it’s not too late to act, time is of the essence, and the way in which appliance designers build connected user experiences will define their success over the coming decade.
In a recent longitudinal study by Smart Industry, the anticipated impact of IoT is on the rise. Amongst the manufacturers surveyed, the percent of those believing that the Internet of Things will have low or neutral impact declined from 2015 to 2017, and the percent of those anticipating the Internet of Things will have a high or critical impact on their business now stands at nearly 70%. A summary of the anticipated impact of IoT on manufacturers of durable goods appears in the following figure.
As a result, the maturity of IoT strategies is also improving as organizations are beginning to put actionable plans and timelines in place to build out their smart connected product portfolio. In fact, the number of companies that now have a formal IoT strategy and timeline is nearly 50%, a summary for which appears in the following figure.
The Internet of Things has moved beyond hype to the realm of operational reality. But for what end? After all, if the smart connected products aren’t meeting user needs, creating an operational efficiency, improving safety and security, or improving next-generation designs, why are we developing smart connected appliances in the first place?
Donald Norman described a model for tiers of user experience in his book Emotional Design in 2005 that distinguishes visceral experiences (gut reactions), behavioral experiences (what it is like to use a product), and reflective experiences (how a user thinks about their experience later).
These same tiers of user experience are also applicable to smart connected appliances, a diagram for which appears in the following figure.
The visceral experience refers to the way in which users feel when they use a product. For smart connected appliances, users may initially be interested in buying the product because it simply delights them. However, those same users will often rationalize and communicate that feeling by talking about its usability in their life and/or environmental or energy savings that the product promises. Finally, that same user will often make a final decision along with their spouse, significant other, or partner on buying the product based on its reliability guarantees (safety and security).
Smart connected appliances have a unique ability to improve the visceral experience of a product because of how interconnected its features are to the user’s consciousness. Digital messages and experiences for maintenance reminders, energy savings reports, environmental impact statistics, or for configuring interoperability with other smart home or commercial devices are all opportunities for improving the visceral experience. If users get benefit from using the smart connected appliance, feel in control, have confidence in their safety and security, and are delighted with how natural the experience fits with their lives, they will turn into loyal customers that will pay long-term dividends to the brand’s future sales.
The behavioral experience describes the mechanics of how users interact with device features and capabilities. The behavior experience usually has a lifecycle to it that starts with the buying experience, continues through purchase, shipping, setup, direct use of the product, extension of features over time, and, ultimately, gracefully retiring the device from service.
Specifically, there are three areas of opportunity for smart connected appliances to improve the behavioral experience for users:
Setup and configuration. A digital experience reduces reliance on paper manuals, reduces complexity, and in the process often makes it easy to register the product for warranty and repair alerts.
Remote monitor and control. A digital product has an opportunity to improve the way in which users remotely monitor and control the product, including receiving product health alerts, remote configuration of product features, and for controlling product safety and security features.
Extension. Digital products have a feature set that is dynamic, even after the product is sold and installed. Additional product features can be delivered as remote firmware upgrades, additional features can be added to mobile applications, and interoperability with other products or services can be added over time, augmenting the value of the connected product over time.
The reflective experience refers to the way in which users think about their product experiences and communicate about it to others. Product loyalty breeds repeat purchases and brand advocacy, which results in future product sales. Connected products are not only a present competitive mandate, they are a tool for future sales growth.
In the digital world of appliance design, it’s no longer the big companies beating the small companies, it’s the fast companies defeating the slow companies. The name of the game is speed, and towards this end, appliance designers should embrace outside technologies such as sensors, communications hardware, and an enterprise IoT software platform that they can leverage to rapidly deploy visceral, behavioral, and reflective experiences that establish the base for the next generation of loyal customers.