What to Expect from the Software Market in 2018

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Enterprise software products have long-focused on functionality for trained users, without devoting many resources towards overall look, feel, and mass usability. To compensate, companies throw significant budget towards marketing that tends to be impersonal while tasking customer support and sales teams with meeting customer expectations and working to ensure satisfaction.

However, contemporary software companies are working to keep up with the current trend towards the consumerization of software inclusive of user experiences, features, and functionality that appeal to the modern, mobile, global professional. In 2018, this must accelerate in order for companies to continue to see growth, and maybe even surpass their legacy competition.

Today, most people expect to download a piece of software and be up and running within minutes. And, while this is already mostly true of consumer apps, it’s expanding rapidly into the business world as well.

To support this idea, here are three predictions that hinge on the trend of the consumerization of software.

Higher Expectations Increase the Need for Instructional Design
Users today hold products to a higher standard when it comes to ease-of-use and personalized experiences because there are applications existing already that have gotten them accustomed to this – Uber and GMail are two prime examples. Historically, businesses decided how software functioned, which often led to feature-rich, clunky products that primarily served only technical users. This was acceptable when people didn’t know better, but today’s users are increasingly self-sufficient when it comes to the digital tools they rely on, and expect to be able to access products that are easy-to-use, helpful, and intuitive at every turn.

To keep pace with the rising user standards, companies in 2018 will shift their focus towards a more preemptive instructional design strategy by making the onboarding process an experience, rather than just tooltips and frequent, impersonalized popups. These embedded user experiences then allow them to analyze a user’s learning needs and goals and help them deliver a product experience that meets those requirements. As a result, software becomes less of a “product,” and more of a fundamental tool that brings forth value.

Products Will Become Sales People Through Free Trials
We live in a society where we won’t commit to something unless we know it works for us. This means the proof must be in a company’s product, because in many cases, the user won’t speak to a representative before using – or ultimately purchasing – a product. If the product is too challenging, they’ll lose users outright, and in many cases, it will be to a competing product.

Enterprise software companies traditionally rely on sales teams to sell the value of a product to a prospect and consider free trials giving a product away. But, if a product can be its own salesperson, upselling is easy, and the product pays off long term for a customer. We see free trials frequently from B2C companies, but enterprise companies have been slower to adopt this approach. In 2018, they’ll need to jump on the bandwagon and put their products to work to grow their customer base and increase retention.

Technology Will Continue to Evolve Product Experiences
As users continue to demand more personalized experiences, companies need to implement strategies where they can deliver a more personal and unique interaction without having to rely on an actual person. For this reason, we’ll most likely continue to see chatbots and messaging platforms on the incline, as they are already helping enterprise businesses provide support and functionality information to users. However, while chatbots continue to rise, particularly for customer support use cases, it’s important to understand that they’re not the end-all-be-all for support challenges. Rather, we should look at how they’ve helped to evolve the product experience overall as it transforms from traditional, human-only interactions to more product-led experiences. In 2018, we’ll be seeing more of these bot-enhanced experiences, but as a bridge leading to a future where products take the lead.

As the software landscape changes, companies need to support users’ self-sufficiency and desire for personalization. As a result, they will see customers adopting new features faster, therefore generating heavier overall usage, and higher retention rates. The guide to business success ultimately provides feature-rich products that consistently deliver a high-quality experience, and in 2018, we can expect to see enterprise companies shifting to this mindset by doubling down on remarkable product experiences that are personalized, value-driven, and meet the high standards of today’s software users.

Jonathan Kim
Jonathan Kim is the CEO and Co-Founder of Appcues, a user experience platform that makes software easier to use through interactive tutorials. Prior to starting Appcues in 2013, Jonathan built user interfaces as a front end software engineer at HubSpot, which he joined by way of Performable.

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