There are interesting and massive industries in the world – construction, education, insurance, logistics, and more – that are ripe for reinvention. Innovative software products are the instrument to disintermediate markets and take these orthodox industries into the future. At Suuchi Inc., we learn more every day about the gargantuan, complex, and awe-inspiring fashion supply chain, and along the way, we have built a strong B2B next-gen software product. Here listed are some of our learnings on designing software products for digitally-hesitant/legacy industries:
Products that democratize access and empower more players, a.k.a. networks – makers, distributors, consumers, enterprises – along the value chain are set for success. These products collect better data because of real-time feedback and multi-level engagement. To eliminate the barriers to engagement, successful product teams invest in putting themselves in the shoes of different types of users and are willing to change to elevate the user experience. Built from the lens of empathy and feedback loops, such products have better pricing, better UI/UX interfaces, and longer periods of high revenue growth. A few years ago, Thumbtack tore apart its old interface and replaced it with a new flow, all to drive a better customer experience. The company was a $100M in revenue when running this re-haul – teaching us by example that user empathy kills all complacence.
Part of what makes products like Dropbox and Slack successful is that they are super intuitive to use. The most successful B2B product companies of the future will have B2C-like interfaces – with heads of product that over-focus on design and UI/UX. These companies and their leaders recognize that when it comes to building product, simplicity is beauty, simplicity is superiority.
Few B2B software products in the past have taken a mobile-first approach. The big-opportunity industries prime for digitization are mostly service industries, and these industries while large in the United States, are much larger in other parts of the globe. Industry artisans on the job are not carrying a laptop, and most countries in Asia and Africa leapfrogged straight to cell phones. On the other end, building features for mobile-first is also a winning approach for the world of enterprise, tying well with the earlier principle of simplicity. Enterprise software no longer means months of training, and complex on-premise implementations and onboarding. Mission-critical updates and DIY analytics on the phone is the future for executives in enterprise companies.
Industries like transportation, manufacturing, and retail have traditionally required participants to be on location to complete a task. Reducing on-location overheads and converting on-location transaction and communication costs to features that can be updated off location/anywhere in the world can create massive value. Building this convenience was part of what helped Toast build a fascinating company that has transformed the restaurant business.
When the charge is to change the behavior of very large, orthodox industries, companies are most successful in their attempt when they become a central actor in the industry they’re trying to change. Or at least, rope in an early customer to work in a cohort to define and iterate on the roadmap.
Standard cognition set up their retail store as they developed their autonomous checkout product for big-box retail. Alto pharmacy (B2C) bought and ran an actual pharmacy as a 1st step towards launching a next-gen online pharmacy product. At Suuchi, we built and ran our factory before building and going to market with our software, the GRID. Thought leadership is weaponized to build stronger products.
If going to market in fragmented, traditional industries, the addition of one more software, even if superior, added to a pool of legacy, clunky applications could be an irritant. Building for users’ ease and frictionless integrations should always be a section on the roadmap. And product managers should plan for SSOs with most seen applications in the enterprise customers’ ecosystems.
For many users across the value chain – service providers on Handy, container carriers on Flexport, or factories on the Suuchi GRID – your product may be the first time they’ve used technology to manage their business. As the product collects their transactions’ data and other data across the demand-supply chain, the next natural value-add is to provide actionable insights and basic predictive power to elevate their business and experience. Descriptive and predictive off-the-shelf analytics and advanced real-time search should be on the roadmap.
Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce incredible coral reefs – providing ecosystems for the most brilliant applications. The early entrant products in each legacy industry will have the opportunity and have earned the trust to become coral reefs for those markets, providing the habitat to foster all new applications required across their user types. Software development kits and open APIs built by these product teams will foster entire application platforms for each of these industries.
It is an exciting time to be building software products for large, traditional industries. We’re building one. And we’re cheering you on if you are.
Written by Suuchi Ramesh