Why Simpler Is Better When It Comes to SaaS

Too many SaaS companies think stuffing a product with bells and whistles will give it curb appeal for customers. Our expert says you would be better served to prioritize quality over quantity and add features with intentionality.

Written by Itai Sadan
Published on May. 09, 2024
Why Simpler Is Better When It Comes to SaaS
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Modern SaaS platforms have increasingly taken on a “jack of all trades, master of none” approach that often leads to rigid, bloated software. These platforms make the mistake of sacrificing flexibility for additional features, forcing their users to adopt a certain workflow to get the most out of the product. 

Although customers can expect some level of adjustment and adaptation with any new piece of software, making them adapt the entirety of their business processes is too much. Asking them to then pay for a piece of software that doesn’t match their needs is a clear recipe for disaster.

Relentless or Sustainable Growth?

In the past, success in the technology industry was defined by relentless growth. This involved spending large sums of money or taking losses to acquire new customers. Today, however, the field is much more about sustainable growth spurred by strong customer retention rather than expensive acquisition. The idea here is to promote quality over quantity

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Customers Want Tools That Feel Custom-Made

A SaaS company might reasonably want to add additional features to its products. In fact, a lot of evidence suggests that offering multiple, complimentary products can increase customer retention. That principle really only applies when done well, however. Done poorly, too many unfocused or underdeveloped features can create a cumbersome user experience that turns customers away.

In short, software needs to be customer-centric. What does your platform do that creates the most value for your customers? What creates the least? Are these low-value features making it more difficult for your customers to access the features they actually use?

Your software should work for your customers. Put another way, your customers shouldn’t have to work to use your software. Customers want software that is, or can be, tailored to their specific needs. Products that impose a specific workflow through inflexible processes are the very opposite of that desire.

The growth of verticalized SaaS, meaning software specifically designed for a particular industry segment, is great evidence of customers’ increasing demand for more personalized solutions. These companies create platforms that truly speak to their customers — often without much dreaded excess.

 

Customers Want Streamlined, Easy-to-Use Tools

In the past, success in the technology industry was defined by relentless growth. This involved spending large sums of money or taking losses to acquire new customers. Today, however, the field is much more about sustainable growth spurred by strong customer retention rather than expensive acquisition.

Customers and markets alike are seeking out more streamlined and efficient experiences. Unfortunately, in the midst of increasing economic and competitive pressure, some B2B SaaS companies have lost sight of what is truly valuable to their customers. Instead of meaningful, intuitive and streamlined solutions, they’re creating unwieldy programs that frustrate customers instead of empowering them.

Consider your favorite piece of productivity software, or perhaps even your own product. How many clicks does it take to accomplish a basic function? The absolute core functions, like adding a new prospect to a relationship management system, should be front and center. Ideally, this requires just a single click. Other basic functions should follow a similar philosophy and require as few clicks as possible.

This principle is what’s missing from many pieces of modern software: good user experience. When customers must turn their focus away from the core of a product in favor of add-ons, especially ones that exist beyond their typical development expertise, both products suffer. Even the largest companies do this! Apple infamously extended their own iTunes product with a social network add-on, Ping, that was underdeveloped and riddled with spam. It was a technical departure from music streaming that distracted from the core product function and that the company ultimately had to remove.

 

SaaS Companies Must Serve Customers Above All Else

The solution to these problems is simple — SaaS companies need to serve their customers above all else. You must design the product not only with the customer in mind, but with their direct involvement as well. Talk to them! Your customers want your software to improve just as much as your product team does. They’re the ones who use it, after all.

Take a moment to understand their actual workflows. How can your team streamline these workflows, or at the very least offer a level of flexibility within the product that allows customers to do so themselves?

Does accessing your platform’s core functionalities require too many clicks? Encourage product leaders to maintain a list of the most common, basic functions performed on your platform alongside the number of clicks it takes to perform those functions. This number should be as low as possible.

During these discussions, evaluate your add-on features. Are your customers using them, or are these bells and whistles just creating bloat within your software? Really hone in on your research here. Not all add-on features are bloat. You may have a great feature within your product whose poor user experience is holding back its theoretical potential.

Payment processing, for example, provides a lot of value to many customers. A piece of customer management software that can process payments within the platform is a huge time saver, but only if it integrates intuitively with the rest of the platform and is easy to access.

In these situations, looking beyond your company is key. Integrating high-quality, third-party solutions can be a preferable alternative to developing something in-house. This relationship allows for better value-add features, while simultaneously freeing up developer time to focus more on improving your core product.

Many platforms, for instance, want to offer their clients a digital presence, but they aren’t prepared to take on the challenges associated with developing a modern, feature-rich, responsive website builder. A well-considered partnership ensures clients get the best web experience possible without the incredible overhead of in-house development.

The idea here is to promote quality over quantity. That doesn’t necessarily mean your product has to have fewer features, but rather each one should be deliberate and intentional.

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Listen to Your User and Streamline

Modern SaaS companies need to listen to their customers to stay competitive in today’s market. Their software should directly address the needs of their end users with as little excess as possible. 

Accessing core features should be an easy and intuitive experience that streamlines their customers’ operations instead of hindering them. This software should be flexible, yet focused, with a priority on good user experience.

Intuitively, these are obvious rules for software to follow. Your software should be something your customers actually want to use, after all. When competition gets tough and profitability becomes more important, however, losing sight of the fundamentals gets too easy.

Take a moment to talk to your customers, even if it’s just one at a time. Discover what they love about your platform, and take note of what they don’t. This feedback will ultimately lead to a better and more profitable product, so don’t ignore it.

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