Consumer products generally need a feature that sets them apart from the competition.
It could be something fun, unique, quirky, or likable. But whatever it is, it must go beyond pure functionality and relate to the user’s experience with the product.
This is the “wow factor” of that product.
To understand it, think about what Amazon does when you’re ordering an item. As soon as you add it to your cart, they recommend the top items people bought along with it. Getting a new desk? You’ll surely need a lamp and a wastebasket, too.
Suddenly, you realize, “Hey, I do need one of those.”
Amazon gets another purchase, of course, but you don’t think about it because you’re enjoying the experience — similar to walking down the aisle in a physical store. Amazon has other wow features such as one-click ordering and two-day shipping.
The wow factor turns first-time visitors into loyal customers.
Given another product with the same features, they’ll choose yours every single time. Here’s why every product, whether for consumers or companies, needs one:
A wow factor makes a product stand out by providing a fun experience.
There’s a difference between a standard feature and a wow factor. A normal feature is a necessary function in the product, a wow factor is not.
Wow factors often make tedious tasks more enjoyable or provide an extra, nonessential element to the experience. They make the mundane interesting, the tedious bearable.
For example, what happens when you finish an episode of your favorite show on Netflix? The countdown to the next episode begins, and if you don’t actively stop it, you’ll be watching another episode within seconds. That feature is not necessary for Netflix to function. Before it was introduced, you simply clicked to play the next episode.
But now that it’s here, people can easily binge-watch an entire season without thinking about it. The autoplay is an ostensibly small feature, but one that has been extremely powerful for Netflix.
I remember when I actually said ‘wow’ aloud when using a product.
It was when Google introduced the autofill when a user typed in a search query.
All you had to do was put in a word or two, and you may already have the term you’re searching for right in front of you. In a way, they were thinking faster than you. They have now recently added the same functionality when you start writing an email, which makes writing emails so efficient.
Are these 100% necessary? Of course not.
But they do provide the user with a better, more streamlined experience. That’s the point of the wow factor.
The more enjoyable the experience, the easier it is to use (and share) a product.
Interestingly, enterprise products don’t usually have wow factors.
They tend to be reserved for consumer products because software companies assume the corporate world doesn’t want anything fun or likable on top of their functionality. Yet, the consumerization of enterprise products is trending.
More enterprise apps are being built to look as good as consumer apps.
It’s how products like Slack have seen so much growth in the enterprise space. Slack looks and feels more like a consumer product. It’s easy to use, with plenty of fun add-ons to liven up communication. Actually, a lot of Slack’s corporate adoption didn’t come from top-down decision-making by the executive team. It came from individual departments who began using it to communicate.
People liked it enough that they shared it within the company, and eventually employees ended up advocating for it. This helped Slack grow organically, so they didn’t have to spend a lot initially on a marketing and sales team. Their product sold itself.
Surprising customers, or wowing them, is what makes them remember you.
And crucially, that’s what will get people to recommend your product to others — and ultimately help strengthen your brand.
The wow factor doesn’t have to be massively complex.
In fact, when first adding it to your product, it shouldn’t be very complicated.
Consider the Twitter ‘Fail Whale.’ If Twitter was down, they showed a web page of a whale saying that the website would be right back. It was a fun and quirky thing to do even when the situation was as major as an outage. It made people like Twitter. They could have shown a generic web page with an error message, but they were creative about it. And realistically, the effort to build this page was likely minimal.
Something as simple as adding an animation to the completion of a mundane task can be the difference between your product and the competition.
Ideally, you’re looking for something with a lot of benefit for a low cost. If you find yourself spending lots of time and money on your wow factor in the beginning, that may be a sign it won’t be worth it.
Think about how Apple packages its products. Unboxing an Apple product feels like opening a gift. It’s an experience.
By comparison, unboxing other products involves reading manuals, finding batteries, managing power cords and going through a complicated setup. This innovation makes for an memorable first user experience. And the new packaging doesn’t cost much compared to the cost of Apple products.
Like all good things, heed the warnings related to wow factors.
First, you should not compromise on functionality in adding a wow factor.
The wow factor is like icing on the cake, with the cake itself being the functionality. If you’re missing core ingredients, your product won’t be successful — no matter how many wow factors you have.
Secondly, you do have to A/B test the wow factor first (ideally with end users) to make sure people will love it. Otherwise, you can end up with something like the Microsoft Paperclip: a wow factor-gone-wrong that was the object of harsh criticism among Microsoft Office users for years.
Your first step should be to try the wow factor internally with employees who weren’t involved in working on it.
And if you have dedicated customers who are up for beta-testing, ask them to try it and get their feedback.
If the feedback is good, and you’re confident you’re not sacrificing on functionality to build the wow factor, then you should certainly add it to your product. It could eventually be the difference between mass adoption and mediocre sales.
Thanks for reading!
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The WOW FACTOR Turns First-time Visitors into Loyal Customers was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.