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Prioritizing an "Experience-First" connected products strategy


April 19, 2021

In brief

  • In today’s world, it would probably take less time to answer the question “What isn’t a smart connected product?” rather than asking what is.
  • In 2019, 41 percent of product companies wanted a next-gen portfolio of more than 50 percent by 2022. Less than a year away, how are they doing?
  • We surveyed Fortune 500 product leaders and their answers involved too much focus on technical features and not enough on customers.
  • So how can product leaders build successful next-gen products? By taking four steps to transition to a customer experience-driven focus.

The need for a new connected product experience mindset

The truth is: for most companies, “disappointment” is a likely outcome of their smart connected products strategy. That’s because so many of them treat their new, internet-enabled products like a mere extension of their existing portfolio and, therefore, continue to work within the constraints of their existing operating model. This strategy is bound to fail.

From product and service strategy, to main KPIs and investment priorities, to operations, too many businesses are still “over investing” in the design and development phases of their connected products’ lifecycles—while severely under investing in things like product maintenance, content, service and security updates, and customer success and retention.

If they’re to be successful with their new smart, connected products, this mindset and stance will have to change. As one executive we interviewed put it: “Companies need a wider cultural change within the organization. Next-gen products should spark a business transformation, not just a portfolio expansion.”

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companies evolve their operating models when they embrace new technology (Accenture Research).

Companies need a wider cultural change within the organization. Next-gen products should spark a business transformation, not just a portfolio expansion.

Product Executive / Global Comms & Media Firm

About this piece

The playbook you’re about to read is based on both Accenture experience and in-depth interviews with 15 senior product executives at various Fortune 500 companies. Our team conducted several hours’ worth of conversations to highlight the objectives, challenges, outcomes, and experiences of people tasked with building the “next big hit” for their companies—and gained a lot of insights around what they’ve tried, struggled with, and found to work.

Pivoting to “Experience First”

This “culture change” has to start with a simple fact: selling smart connected products alters the entire manufacturer-customer relationship. It changes from the old, highly transactional paradigm of “make it—ship it—be done with it” to the new “make it—give it to me—maintain and improve it” which underpins all successful connected products and digital service businesses.

Because with connected products, customers expect to not simply buy the latest and greatest smartphone, smartwatch, or other next-gen, cutting-edge device. They expect these devices to continuously work well, improve, and become more feature- and content-rich over their lifetimes. That’s why product companies need to start following four vital steps in their operations to deliver product experiences that customers now expect:

First and foremost, companies need to Revise their ways of working. This means to instill an infusion of momentum from a modern engineering culture with new ways of doing things.

Next, it’s time to Rethink current product management models. Concentrate on customers and the life time experiences that your products can create for them.

A Refocus on experiences over core technology sets a course for success. Production companies build things, but engineering everything is unnecessary if the technology isn’t a difference-maker.

Finally, companies must Retool product operations processes. Evaluating engineering departments helps companies create living products that don’t die off early, preventing brand damage, negative customer reviews, and ambivalence.

  1. Revise
    Your ways of working
  2. Rethink
    Your old product management doctrines
  3. Refocus
    On experiences rather than core technology
  4. Retool
    To sustain and maintain living products

In this playbook, we delve deep into each of these four steps to show how product and service executives can facilitate these changes to help their companies become true “Experience First” businesses and drive greater smart connected product success.

Who should read this playbook?

Product companies struggling with building, growing, and sustaining a successful smart, connected products business—specifically, executives trying to overcome challenges around product adoption, customer churn, negative reviews, distrust, brand reputation issues, and overall product or service profitability.


Phil Vann

Managing Director – EMEA Smart Connected Product Design & Development Lead, Industry X

Raghav Narsalay

Accenture Research Lead for the Metaverse Continuum Business Group

Morgan Mullooly

Research Manager – Industry X