This article was originally featured on our sister community, Product Marketing Alliance.

Every product marketer should always have customer needs at the forefront of their mind, whilst also focusing on how they can optimize the customer experience.

The most efficient way to improve this experience is by making the product as easy to use as possible and reducing their cognitive load, and in this article, we’ll cover important topics surrounding this concept, including:

  • What is customer cognitive load?
  • Why is it important to reduce their cognitive load? And,
  • How to reduce it.

What is customer cognitive load?

Customer cognitive load is the amount of thought that’s required to carry out a task.

If you’re asked to focus on too many things at once, this makes it difficult for your brain to process the individual pieces of information and this will increase the time needed to fulfil the objective.

For example, a high cognitive load can be caused if you’re trying to read a complex piece of text while having someone talking to you with loud music playing in the background.

Everyone handles levels of cognitive load differently, so it's important to reduce the complexity of your product to cater to a wider variety of consumers.

Why is it important to reduce their cognitive load?

So, we’ve already established the basic premise of why reducing cognitive load is important, let’s take a look at additional benefits of reducing cognitive load:

Reduces customer churn

Humans have a limited amount of processing abilities. In fact, a psychologist named John Sweller found that with a higher cognitive load, people were unable to pay the proper amount of attention to a stimulus, and couldn’t rehearse or remember the information given.

This then ultimately made learning less effective, which had a negative effect.

If your product is impractical and difficult to use, it’s more likely that they won’t be able to use it properly, and the likelihood is your churn rate will increase. And it’s a fair argument - why’d you wanna use something if it’s too hard to understand?

Improves customer experience

If your user's experiencing a high cognitive load, they’re less likely to retain all of the information surrounding your product and could end up forgetting a lot of important factors in how to use it. This would then impact how they see your brand, customer loyalty, and reduce the likelihood of them recommending your product to their network - in fact, there’s a fair chance they’d tell them not to use your product.

Increases sales

Customer experience is critical in product marketing. If your user has a good experience with your organization and product, then the chances are you’ll retain the customer and they'll buy from you again.

On top of that, they’ll be singing your praises to anyone who needs to hear it. Nobody likes a product that’s hard to use - and remember, simplicity aids usability. Take this into consideration during the development of your offering and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.

How can we reduce customer cognitive load?

Let’s address the steps we can put into place to reduce customer cognitive load to increase the success of your product:

Simplify instructions

In the Product Marketing Manifesto, one of the principles highlights the importance of making the complex comprehensible for your customers, saying:

“A hugely valued aspect of product marketing is making the customer comfortable and happy. So, you must ensure you’re improving their experience with your product and service by making it easily accessible. Take out the technical jargon and create a more comprehensible product to ensure you aren’t alienating your customers.”

Organizations often use chatbots on their websites to guide the customer through the product if they haven’t used it before. Similarly, chatbots are also used to offer the user the avenue whereby they can ask a question and receive tailored support in a short time period.

A great example of this is Slack. Their “Slackbot” is an automated system that onboards their customers, but also remains present throughout the entire product use.

It’s a handy way of reducing the cognitive load of its customers; if a situation arises when they’re stuck and need help in using the platform, they know exactly where to go in search of support.

Simplify visual design

Strong visual design is beneficial for many reasons, but you must take into account how a complicated, loud design can negatively affect product usability.

For example, a website that is focused on aesthetics, with no practical layout or navigation may be deemed frustrating to use. The visual design has to be simple enough that your target audience can understand how to use it and where to find things.

One of the most common errors companies make is when they don’t have an obvious “contact us” page. If a customer is having an issue with your product, your support team must try and remedy it as soon as possible.

As mentioned earlier, facilitating seamless customer experience is paramount in product marketing. A well-designed website will improve usability and enhance your chances of enticing your customers back at a later date.

Research your target customers

Cognitive load will also hinge on the demographics of your customers. For example, if you’re targeting a user with a low IQ in their teens, they’ll have a comparatively lower attention span than a middle-aged adult with a high IQ.

You need to take this into account and tailor your content to your audience, what they’d benefit from, and which features to include to make their lives easier. For example, simpler interfaces, fonts, font size, use of video, etc.

It’s also important to ask yourself: Are they experts in the field? Have they used your products before? These factors will depend heavily on how easy they're going to find using your product, and how simple you need to make the onboarding experience.

Overall, you just need to ensure you’re designing for the customer, rather than your company- so do your customer research.

Gather customer feedback

Focus on user testing to ensure you’re on the right track, gather customer feedback to see how you can refine your design, and continue to improve the issue surrounding customer cognitive load.

The best way to establish whether you’re meeting the customer’s needs is to gather feedback from them firsthand. Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) are a handpicked collection of customers whose role is to lend insights surrounding the product.

This is a super helpful method for product marketers to gather intel that’ll positively impact their product.

Interested in learning more?

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