Relaunching an existing digital product can be both an exciting opportunity to improve your product’s performance and an unnerving mission to satisfy your customers' needs and expectations.
To succeed at both, you need to manage the process carefully.
Digital relaunches have the potential to be disruptive to your customers' daily lives. Humans are programmed to notice change. When it disrupts habits and creates additional effort, we can have a negative response to it.
People are more likely to notice change in systems that are familiar or which they use frequently. And change is perceived as more disruptive when they are trying to achieve a time-sensitive goal, compared to when they are in a more relaxed frame of mind.
It happens even if customers love your product or brand. Regardless of whether you’re Apple, Google or Facebook you are not exempt from this reaction to changes in a well-known product or service.
Take some of the initial feedback on the iPhone X interface as an example (or any of the previous iPhone launches which have involved a shift in the hardware or interface for that matter). People have been vocal about their adversity to the change of gestural patterns. Apple users are not familiar with the gestures and they involve some work on their part to get used to them. Over time, they will get used to these changes, but for now, they seem like a big deal to users.
If you are relaunching a well-known platform, product, or service you need to know how to minimise the negative response to the change. Below we offer seven rules of thumb to help you plan, design and manage your digital relaunch project in a way that will minimise its risk.
1. Design with user input and validation
Involving users throughout the product and interface design process will help to ensure that you are building something which solves an actual user problem.
Conduct research at the start of design to understand what issues people are encountering with the current version of your product and what they really want, and need, from an improved product.
Once you’ve started designing the interface, carry out frequent usability testing to ensure your intended solution actually solves the problems you’ve identified, and that the new designs are easy and intuitive to use.
2. Run a beta phase before full launch
A beta phase allows you to release the product to a small group of customers and evaluate their reactions, before it's released to the wider public.
This phase allows you to identify any major design, interaction, or performance issues once the product is ‘in the wild’ (albeit in a controlled environment) and rectify them before they impact the whole user base.
Make sure you have processes in place to gather customer feedback and performance data during the beta phase. Having this data will allow you to get the most out of the beta and mean that you can build user feedback into your design with ease.
3. Communicate to users that change is coming
Tell customers about the change before it happens, to give them time to get used to the idea and realign their expectations. This will make the change less disruptive, allowing them to plan around it if needed.
Make sure you communicate this change through multiple channels. This will help to reduce the likelihood of customers missing a key communication and being caught off guard once you relaunch.
In your communications, explain the rationale for the change and the benefits it will have for the user. If you educate people about how the change provides value it may help reduce any negative responses.
If possible, test the messages you intend to use as part of your pre-live research and beta release too, so you can ensure they have the right impact. This can provide you with insight about how improve the messaging before full launch.
4. Prepare yourself (and your boss) for some negative reactions
You are likely to get some negative feedback from customers, even if you have designed something great, because you have disrupted their routine and created some (temporary) additional effort.
If this is the first time your team is relaunching a product, this reaction might surprise you, or your boss. Before relaunch, remind yourself and your key internal stakeholders that initial negative reactions are normal and should be expected.
Make sure that you closely monitor:
- What the reaction is
- How strong it is
- How long it lasts
If it lasts for longer than a few weeks, there may be a genuine problem with the interface, product or communications you've sent your customers. If ongoing issues persist more extensive user research will be required to pinpoint and address them.
5. Define good measures of success
Customers will call or write to tell you that they don’t like change. But they rarely take the time to tell you that they love your new design, or say thank you spontaneously. Often, feedback and social comments end up looking overly negative, when in reality customer sentiment is more balanced.
To get a rounded picture, make sure you collect data about responses to the change from several sources, including analytics and post-launch surveys. Make sure you evaluate both customer attitudes to the change, and the impact it has had on their behaviour.
You might find that although customers complain, they are now able to do their tasks faster, better or with fewer mistakes. Hopefully, over time they will realise the value of the experience you’ve created for them and become more positive about the change. And you will also have gathered some data to demonstrate the positive impact of the change on business metrics at the same time.
6. Ramp up support channels around launch
Before a relaunch, ensure that all relevant staff have been appraised of the change, timings for launch, the rationale and the benefits. Make sure you provide training to front line support staff, so they are equipped to respond to customer queries about the relaunch.
You may also need to increase the number of support staff in other channels for a short while around the relaunch, to deal with an increase in customer support requests.
Ensure that self-service channels, e.g. website FAQs and online guides, are updated to reflect the changes too.
Aligning all touchpoints across your business to reflect this change will make for the most frictionless possible transition for your users during digital relaunch.
7. Think of launch as the start line, not the finish line. Make a plan for optimisation
Customer research during product development will help you to spot and address the majority of issues before full launch, but you could discover a few more as your product goes out to a wider audience. This is normal and not a cause for alarm. Remember, launch is just the start of learning on a large scale!
Make optimising your product post-launch an integral part of your launch plan, and adopt a mentality of continual learning and iterative improvement. This will help ensure that you set time aside and have the right resources available to do optimise the product. We've worked with too many teams who only plan for the best outcome and are caught short when the product goes live and still needs some attention.
Start thinking about the analytics and customer insight that you will need to gather about performance in-live, set up a team to triage and prioritise fixes and to think about how you will design and release updates to the product post-launch.
Digital relaunches can be tricky but they also give you a unique chance to better serve your customers and improve your business performance. Complaints and changes in sentiment are quite likely to occur, but there are steps that you can take to help minimise these and get customers onboard with the change faster.