A popular Japanese sales application gains traction in North America by engaging technical design and business teams with tablet-based, end user focused tools.
By John Blyler, Editorial Director
Remember how yesterday’s Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) devices greatly improved the way in which business and technical managers collaborated with their teams and even across domains? Today’s updated version of that killer “app” is the tablet but with the significant addition of far greater performance and connectivity. Not only has collaboration amongst various product teams been improved, but tablets have gotten so powerful that engineers can use them to perform sophisticated product designs and simulations with connection to the cloud. (see, “System Simulation Moves from Goods and Services to Experiences”)
As testament to its performance capabilities, the design of next generation tablets themselves is being done on tablets. Product teams comprised of sales, marketing and engineering members have used the tablet to create a virtual (as opposed to physical) prototype to gain critical end-user feedback before the design was realized in hardware and software. Customer engagement techniques using augmented reality could be used to validate the usefulness of a new form factor –size, shape, and even “feel” – of the future product. This would result in significant cost and time savings over traditional in-person, focus group meetings.
One of the key benefits of this approach is the validation of the user experience. It’s as important in product prototyping as it is in the sales and marketing of those products. For a case in point, consider an application called Handbook. It provides a new tablet-based, end-user experience to the salesman in the field.
Handbook is a cross platform tablet app that lets sales people engage dynamically and interactively with their customers. Instead of a static “sit back and watch me talk” PowerPoint presentation, the sales person gets closely connected with the customer via an engaging presentation on the tablet with high resolution images, video, and other interactive elements. This makes for a more emotionally invested and interested customer which help drives more sales and better customer experiences.
Instead of marketing the application, Infoteria America – the company behind Handbook – markets the tablet experience. This is a clever move as more customers and consumers buy into the experience as much as the product. Businesses are finding that, in some cases, the experience may supersede and even supplant the actual product.
“Experiences are customizations aimed at the individual,” explaines B. Joseph Pine II, noted author and speaker at a Dassault Systemes 3DX Forum. “Companies need to innovate experiences to maintain profitability.” One example is REI, which provides a climbing mountain in its stores for customers to try out the company’s equipment before purchasing. Such experiences lead to greater product sales, but the experiences themselves also bring in revenue.
So instead of merely selling their applications, Infoteria America sells the experience of using tablets in sales and marketing. Naturally, they use their Handbook application on the tablet. It’s been tested and accepted as a useful interactive platform by a wide spectrum of Japanese industries in the financial services and manufacturers markets as well as the hospitality, hotels, wedding and related sectors. The application has over 730 customers and is used by tens of thousands of sales people.
“The goal is to enhance a salesman’s ability to get closer to the customer, and to enhance both the sales and end-user experiences,” explains Munekazu Matsumura GM of Infoteria America. The success of the application in Japan has encouraged the company to introduce Handbook in North America.
This application provides yet another example of the growing awareness of the value of end-user and customer experience. Whether you are an engineer or salesperson, understanding and engaging closely with your end-user is the best path to success.