From the time that SaaS businesses were an emerging trend in the internet space, to them becoming its omnipresent component, the virtual world has witnessed a massive transition in a very short span. The SaaS market is expected to rise to $220 billion by 2022 from $134 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 13%. This growth is expected as SaaS resolves the scaling challenges for a business, considerably decreases the total cost of ownership, and takes away the hassles of managing local hardware.
It is also expected that about 380 million SaaS applications will be installed globally by 2021. While this flourishing industry promises amplified revenues and expanded customer base for the SaaS businesses, it also signals heightened competition and increased need for customer acceptance. To retain existing customers and win new ones, a SaaS business will have to differentiate itself with seamless and exceptional customer experience. No wonder then, that CIOs worldwide rank ‘enhancing customer experience’ as the top digital priority for their organizations.
Delightful customer experience or User Experience (UX) provides a solid foundation for the success story of any SaaS product – it creates differentiated value for the business and keeps users engaged.
With user experience as the underpinning foundation, we discuss five best practices that will provide your SaaS business a competitive edge.
This is the first phase of the SaaS business life cycle where the product is being built and the go-to-market strategy is being created.
1. Focus On Building a Robust Platform
Success or failure of the SaaS business largely boils down to the product itself. Here are three areas that should top your priority list:
- Rich features and frequent upgrades – Ensure that your product delivers rich features and is upgraded timely to meet clients’ dynamic requirements. Categorize the features as ‘must-have’, ‘good to have’ and ‘low on priority’ during the development phase and execute accordingly
- Strong safety measures – Put all security and compliance measures, concerning data storage and accessibility in place – your clients should find your product safe, secure, and trustworthy
- Versatile product options – Understand the needs of different clients and package your product accordingly. For example, it should be accessible across the globe, even at places with low internet bandwidths. Make sure to implement monitoring and performance management solutions to get a deep understanding of your user’s behavior and needs
2. Ensure Your SaaS Product has Seamless Integration Capabilities and Customization
A robust platform should also have seamless integrations and customization capabilities. The easier your client finds it to customize the product to suit their needs and integrate it with other applications, the better their user experience will be. As a best practice, make sure that your product can be personalized by users and extended to meet their requirements.
This is the phase where your SaaS business is growing, profits are increasing, and so are the infrastructure maintenance and customer retention costs.
3. Measure and Test Performance: Synthetic Monitoring from Global Locations
SaaS performance management isn’t an IT issue anymore, it’s a business issue, and when the focus is on user experience, each and every interaction matters. This is why it is a best practice to monitor performance in real-time as it gives you the benefit of keeping a track of load times, record user journeys, note changing customer demands, and thereby, and resolve issues timely. Synthetic monitoring helps you simulate user journeys from across the world to test for availability, functionality, uptime, and performance.
Customers expect proactive response and businesses should embed monitoring services in the set-up stage itself in order to manage the business effectively when in the thrive stage. In a SaaS-based business, performance monitoring can enable the following
- Business scalability: Your SaaS-based business will achieve scale by constantly winning new customers, making customers use your product more often by providing an excellent experience, and preventing customer attrition by preventing system failures. To win new territories of customers, it is important to be able to make your product experience equally smooth for all, irrespective of where in the world they are located. Being able to simulate user journeys from across the world and monitoring your web pages and services in real-time can help you achieve scale along with customer retention.
- User performance: Understanding your user’s behaviour and journey will help you improvise their experience, engage better and convert more prospects. It is important to capture and monitor the user interactions in your product for logins, signups, shopping carts, etc. for multiple desktop and mobile browsers.
- Security: In addition to compliance to the GDPR and EU-US and the Swiss-US Privacy Shield Frameworks, businesses must focus on implementing security measures at all three levels of the technology stack:
- Infrastructure: Every point of interaction between the IT infrastructure service providers and your product needs to be correctly initiated and constantly monitored – FTP server, email server, streaming media, DNS, etc. It is important to use systems and platforms that can trigger immediate alerts and diagnostics whenever a breach occurs.
- Network: The network layer is highly vulnerable to attack from malicious players. Make sure that you have automated processes in place to identify, log, and send alerts for potential issues. Get penetration testing done from a third-party to identify any potential loopholes.
- Application: Applications, the face for user experience, are also used to capture customer data. Monitoring this layer in real-time is critical to prevent attacks, data breaches and application downtimes. You can build automated monitoring systems internally or go for trusted solutions provided by third-parties.
This is the phase where the business is stabilized but now needs to retain its market share and position.
4. After Your SaaS Business is Stabilized, Automate It
A solid platform and deep performance management will aid the business in growing quickly. Once your SaaS business is stabilized, and it’s generating revenues and optimizing costs, look at ways to automate certain parts of it for enhanced customer experience. Some common examples include automating the billing process to have customized billing as per metered usage and automating the marketing workflow like following up on emails and scheduling social media posts.
5. Integrate into Your Customer’s Business Model by Providing Value to all Stakeholders in the Ecosystem
In a SaaS business, you’re only successful as long as your customer is successful. There are many products which support the business functioning, however there are few that truly integrate into the customer’s business. To do so, your SaaS product needs to have APIs available, and also be customizable and extendable as per the client’s requirements.
There are often several stakeholders involved in this process and it is imperative that each one of them finds value in your offering. Figure out the value proposition for the stakeholders and provide a thoughtful design and UX and keep them engaged to turn them into your advocates.
These best practices are aimed to help your SaaS business outperform competition at each stage of your business lifecycle. To summarize, follow the following points:
- Focus on and leverage the power of UX
- Create a robust product, building in safety, security, and performance measurements
- Maximize SaaS performance and experience through monitoring and considering users from around the globe.
- As you scale up and stabilize, automate and integrate with customer’s business model.