There’s an old customer adage — you get what you pay for. However, in recent years, that’s not always been the case. Cheaper products tend to have less features, but sometimes outperform their more expensive counterparts. For example, certain cell phones still don’t have touchscreens, yet are more durable than smartphones. Smartphones have touchscreens, a variety of apps and have higher specifications that benefit the customer even more, yet have lower battery life or decreased durability.
When it comes to usability and affordability, people are looking for the best product they can buy at the best price available. The question is: how do we reconcile the two? And, as the title suggests, is that relationship the key to retaining customers?
The Assembly Line: The First Practice of Reconciling Usability and Affordability?
The International Standards Organization (ISO) defines usability as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” A prime example in history of reconciling usability with affordability was the development of the Ford Model T. Automobiles were a rather new invention at the time, and people traveled by ship, train, horse, or their own two feet. Each had their advantages and disadvantages, but automobiles allowed people to go where they wanted to go in the least amount of time according to their own schedule. Ships and trains ran on fixed schedules and could face unexpected delays, while horses or walking was considered too slow by the early 1900s.
Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line in 1913 allowed his company to produce cars at an exponential rate, reducing the time needed to make a car from 12 hours and 30 minutes to only an hour and 33 minutes. Before his assembly line, a Model T was $825 ($19,683.39 in 2014 dollars). After the assembly line, the price dropped to only $575 (13,718.73 in 2014 dollars). This allowed sales of the Model T to increase dramatically due to the introduction of the assembly line. Therefore, it allowed people to get where they wanted to go in the most efficient manner (the usability of an automobile), at an affordable price.
What About Now?
We have come a long way since then. Nowadays, many businesses include a quality control department to see if their product or service will work for the customer at a price affordable to them. Many companies conduct a usability study to determine whether or not the product or service is ready to go to market with the least amount of design flaws.
Although this might seem like something that only large companies can afford, smaller businesses and startups can also conduct this study as well. This is usually done in the early stages of a product or service’s development.
Early Action Determines The Balance
One of the most important things when you are trying to reconcile usability and affordability is to invest as much as possible in the early stages of development, ironing out usability flaws and other design issues before pushing your product or service to market. You don’t want to pass any costs onto customers — a high price tag might prevent them from buying the product, thus resulting in lower sales.
System design decisions made during the first 10% of a product’s design process can determine 90% of the product’s cost and performance, making the initial stages crucial to the process. Therefore, invest more money in the early stages so that you don’t have to pass on the cost to customers later.
Even worse, you could have your reputation damaged by faulty designs and lack of usability and have to fix them later on, which not only costs money, but will also damage your reputation in the eyes of your customers.
Investing in usability also helps reduce support costs—in some cases, up to 80%. This will also allow for your company to also invest in training for when support issues do arise. In the initial stages of design, this will save your company money as well, and also allow you to introduce the product at a rate more favorable to the consumer. Several studies have shown that sales can increase by at least 40% with a good user experience—and 225% if sufficient product information is available to the user.
Reconciling usability and affordability is best tackled before a product goes to market, therefore preventing any increased support costs that may arise from a usability flaw. This, in turn, will also keep your product affordable if you don’t have to pass any unnecessary costs onto the customer — many customers nowadays are price sensitive and are always searching for the best deal. Another effect of this is increased sales and more satisfied customers.
But your work is not done once your product is up and selling: as entrepreneur John Rampton states in a piece for Smallbiz Technology, asking brief and succinct “exit questions” that are conducive to your company will keep you up to date on what new and returning purchasers alike love and hate about features of your site and sales process. These steps will keep your return on investment, sales, and customer satisfaction high and give your product or service a good reputation in its market.
(Lead image: Depositphotos)