Out of Box Experience of Connected Products

OOBE stands for out of box experience. It is the first experience that the customer has with a product--one that leaves a lasting impression.

OOBE is critical to a product’s success. Many companies have entire teams dedicated to it- thinking through the box design, packaging colors, screen covers, protective layers.

Bottom line: first impressions matter.

Product setup used to be fairly simple: plug it in, turn it on and it works! Those products did not have the extra layer of complexity; they did not need to be connected to the Internet or work with any other products.

For connected products, OOBE relates to the setup of the product, including connecting it to Wi-Fi. The setup experience is critically important and the first experience a user has when using the product.

Although the out of box experience is incredibly important to a product’s success, many connected product companies have not solved their OOBE problem. The packaging may be beautiful and the design may be sleek, but setup took 45 minutes when the customer expected it to just work. All of the work that went into the look and feel of the product’s packaging and the months of hard work that went into the product itself did not trickle down to the setup process, leaving customers frustrated and unhappy with the product.

The Effects of Bad OOBE

To put it simply, unhappy customers write negative reviews and lower your product’s net promoter score.

Bad OOBE = Bad Reviews, Increased Support Costs, More Returns = Fewer Sales

Setup is the most critical phase for getting good product reviews, and setup and connectivity drive about 40% of the negative online reviews of connected products.

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One Cirrent customer shared a study that showed if a user runs into any issues during the setup process the net promoter score decreases by 80 points and it’s unrecoverable -- no matter how good the product is in the future, it never recovers. There is no second chance for a first impression! 

Negative reviews and a bad net promoter score can make or break a product. If a product is difficult to connect to Wi-Fi, the customer could consider the whole experience with that product a failure despite the product’s performance after setup.

Every day at Cirrent, we talk to different Wi-Fi product companies.  Most understand that setup and connectivity are two factors that they have to get right to have high customer satisfaction. In one case, a product company mentioned that if they get WiFi onboarding wrong, they are risking a 50 point reduction in NPS. It won’t be the same with every company, but it’s abundantly clear that investing in the user experience from the beginning is key for a high NPS and rapid consumer adoption. 

If your product’s NPS is high, your customers are likely recommending it to their friends and in product reviews. They are delighted with the product and have become advocates for it and the company that developed it. 

Net promoter score and market penetration are inextricably linked. All other things being equal, the higher the NPS, the faster customers will buy and adopt the products. Customers who are successful with their products are happier. If they’ve had a great experience when they unbox and set it up, you’ve done a good job. (Ease of use is the most important feature of a connected product.)

Best OOBE for Connected Products

You want your users to have the best possible experience with your products. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi connected products face a major customer experience challenge right from the start.

For many of your customers who’ve connected a new product to their home Wi-Fi network in the past year, this was their experience:

  • They unpack the product, excited to get started. They download an app, scroll through screen after screen of passwords and setup codes, and begin to wonder how long this is going to take. Their excitement slowly melts into frustration.
  • They disconnect their phone and reconnect, because for some reason they have to disconnect from their Wi-Fi network to be able to add a new product. They don’t understand it, but cross their fingers in hopes that their product will be connected when they log back on.
  • If they’ve missed a step, forgotten their network name or password, or mistyped a character in the series of complicated passwords and codes they’ve been asked to enter, their product doesn’t connect. They don’t have time for this, but don’t know who to call for help.

 Sound familiar?

Ease of use is the #1 buying criteria for connected products, but many connected products are not easy to connect because their Wi-Fi onboarding solutions are outdated and complex. They rely on the convoluted SoftAP mode process (learn more about SoftAP).

Until recently, SoftAP had been the best available Wi-Fi onboarding solution. 

With large internet service providers coming together to support ZipKey, now users can have a much better OOBE: they turn it on, open the app, click OK, and it’s done!

Improving your Product’s OOBE

Choosing Wi-Fi Onboarding Method

You need to think about your product’s OOBE and customer experience from the outset of product design. You’ll need to make many important decisions. One of these important decisions is choosing a WiFi onboarding method- how you will build your product's Wi-Fi connectivity experience.

Choosing a method is difficult - you don’t know every customer’s environment, aptitude for following directions, understanding of the technology or threshold for product failure. You also have to weigh the potential cost (additional cost per device, supplementary hardware, etc.) to deliver a reliable solution. One thing that you can be sure of is that the success of your product highly depends on this choice.

Bluetooth Low Energy

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) can be used to create a local wireless link between a smartphone and a product to exchange the Wi-Fi credentials.

To use BLE, the product must have a BLE chipset, associated hardware, and antenna, which adds to the bill-of-material cost for the device.  Most companies would not choose to add BLE just for onboarding.

The good news is that most smartphones have BLE capability built in, so they can take advantage of BLE to onboard products to Wi-Fi.  For both iOS and Android, the BLE connection can be controlled directly through the app with no user intervention. However, many desktop computers do not have BLE technology, so this approach cannot be done with a browser. The consumer must also be trusted to enter their password manually with this method.

Homekit Wireless Accessory Configuration (WAC)

Apple’s Homekit supports a feature called Wireless Accessory Configuration (WAC), which takes the Wi-Fi network credentials from the phone and shares them directly with the product the user is trying to connect.  This is a reliable method, as the user doesn’t have to enter the credentials manually.

However, WAC is only available for products that have been through Apple’s MFI program, include the Apple MFI chip in the product itself, and have BLE.  In addition to the substantial hardware costs of BLE, adding the MFI chip also adds bill-of-materials cost to the product.  The product must also undergo extensive costs for testing, certification, and approval from Apple. It also has limited applicability (works on iOS only.)

Soft Access Point

Product manufacturers use Soft AP (aka software enabled access point or virtual router) to let their users configure their Wi-Fi network names and passwords into headless products. The product uses its Wi-Fi radio to create a temporary access point to get the network name and password for the user’s private network from the product’s app. This is the most common mechanism to connect products to Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, this method has a high failure rate: tests show that 20% of people using SoftAP fail to get their product connected to their home Wi-Fi network.

SoftAP can be done with any modern Wi-Fi chip, requires no additional hardware and works with all Wi-Fi routers. It can work with iOS, but the user has to leave the app, go to settings, go to Wi-Fi, and then select the SoftAP Wi-Fi network, and then come back to the app, which is a confusing process even to the most diligent consumer.

It’s worse for Android. The app can control the Wi-Fi subsystem and can get the phone on the product’s SoftAP network, but the fragmentation of hardware and software in the Android ecosystem makes the user experience unpredictable. A good customer experience is difficult to guarantee with the SoftAP approach with Android.

Now, let’s talk about browser experience. SoftAP cannot be done reliably on a computer browser because the instructions for different operating systems are different and the machines may be connected over ethernet rather than Wi-Fi.

ZipKey

ZipKey is supported by leading internet service providers like Comcast and simplifies the process of onboarding of Wi-Fi devices.  ZipKey hotspots, which are ISP-controlled guest networks that are isolated from the user’s private network, allow ZipKey products to connect to the cloud automatically. This makes Wi-Fi onboarding a cloud-facilitated process rather than a local process. This improves the reliability and eliminates the need for the user to manually enter the Wi-Fi password.

ZipKey is compatible with standard Wi-Fi chips, which means no hardware change. It also works with iOS, Android, and browsers.

ZipKey provides a great customer experience and integrates automatically with ISP network management apps.  In addition, ZipKey provides benefits in the ongoing lifecycle of the product: reprovisioning, moving between networks, automatic update of Wi-Fi credentials if they change.

 Your odds of losing to a bad customer experience are high with most of the Wi-Fi onboarding approaches, so consider your options wisely.

ZipKey Experience

After downloading the app and turning on the product, the user simply selects “Add Product” and “Connect,” and that’s it. Just like that, the speaker is connected and will stay connected, even if the user changes their home Wi-Fi network name or password.

This process is as robust as it is simple: there is very little opportunity for the user to make a mistake. It’s also embedded with ironclad security that helps keep a user’s private network and information safe.

 

Improving your Mobile App

Another aspect of setup is the product’s mobile app. For headless connected products without a keyboard or screen, the app is what guides the user through the setup and management.

As you know by now, connected products can be confusing for users. The goal of the app is to be approachable and easily understandable by mainstream consumers. We have found that designing the interfaces for Wi-Fi with these principles in mind keeps us focused on what’s most important:

  • Simple. The interfaces should keep the complexity under the hood. Most users don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, and they shouldn’t have to.  
  • Easy to use. If we can eliminate a choice the user has to make, or even eliminate a step altogether we’ll do it. People want things to be easy to use -- in fact, that is the #1 buying criteria for connected products!
  • Clear. The user interfaces should be straightforward. Make sure the user knows exactly what you need them to do using simple language.
  • Complete. More advanced users will want more options - they’ll want the interface to be complete.  It’s possible to do this while maintaining simplicity, ease of use, and clarity, as we’ll show below.

 

Conclusion

OOBE is vital to the success of your product.

With ZipKey, customers can easily follow the product app; there’s no opportunity for user error. Making setup a breeze is what we’re all about at Cirrent and beyond that, we want the customer’s entire experience throughout the product's lifecycle to feel just as effortless.  With our Wi-Fi connection management solution, if the product falls off the network for any reason, it will automatically reconnect with no user intervention. 

Say goodbye to your mom calling you in the middle of an important meeting because her printer won’t work or her speaker stopped playing her audiobooks and hello to a future of simple Wi-Fi onboarding and management throughout a product’s lifecycle.

Resources

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