Discover What Software Buyers Want Through Customer Reviews

October 4, 2019
Contributor: Aaron Henckler

Customer feedback and reviews are vital for business growth. Analyze reviews to reveal buyer needs and software industry trends.

Our day-to-day lives depend on technology (think smartphones and CRM software), and we buy that technology knowing full well that a newer version will soon hit the market. We assume new models will offer their predecessor’s core features in addition to advanced ones designed to meet our evolving needs and social trends.

The same concept applies to business software: Consumers expect software, and its features, to advance alongside their needs and industry tends — but how can you predict future consumer wants and needs?

Extract consumer need and industry trend insights from reviews data

I recognize that not everyone is a data analyst, and sometimes we just need data to back up our product development ideas and assumptions of buyer needs. I have good news: That data can be found, without getting too far in the weeds — or too heavy into scientific jargon — by analyzing your user reviews.

But how does this help you, a software vendor? Data found in user reviews can highlight future consumer needs and industry trends that should guide your product development, sales messaging and marketing strategies.

To demonstrate how, and gain a better understanding of business software trends over the past five years, we analyzed term frequency across the Gartner Digital Markets database of 1 million user reviews. Our findings enables us to identify common themes across software buyer searches and how software user needs have evolved over time.

The shift to mobile-compliant software

Smartphones have drastically progressed in purpose from convenient communication to tools for banking, photo sharing and everything in between. From early 2014 to mid-2018, that growth in the importance of mobile-compliant software is reflected in a 50% increase in references to “mobile applications” across business software reviews.

Greater emphasis on data security

As a result of multiple global data breach headlines throughout 2017 and 2018, consumers have, unsurprisingly, shown an increase in concern about the security of their personal data.

That concern is reflected across the business software industry, as shown by the nearly 150% increase in references to “data security” in reviews since January 2014. And with those references closely aligned to the dates of those news-making consumer data breaches, it seems like consumers’ personal needs link closely to their workplace needs.

Buyers now look for “personalization” over “customization”

In the past, consumers wanted to manually create custom music playlists, but now we expect those playlists to be created for us and to include music based on our personal preferences. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have shifted the typical consumer’s desire from customization to personalization. We’ve seen that shift in the consumer space represented in business software reviews.

“Customization” saw a sharp dip — 54% to be exact — in mentions within software user reviews since January 2014. In its place, “personalization” saw an increase — almost 40% — in mentions during the same time period. That shift demonstrates a change in software feature trends: Users now seek or expect a personalized experience over manual customization capabilities.

SaaS to cloud

Finally, let’s take a look at the shift in mentions of the term “SaaS” to the all-encompassing term “cloud.” When business applications moved to the web, “SaaS” entered the lexicon. As technology continued to evolve, infrastructure (“IaaS”) and platforms (“PaaS”) also moved to the cloud. That meant SaaS turned in to one of many pieces of cloud-based business and IT tools, and we saw a marked shift in references from the component-term “SaaS” to the more holistic term “cloud.” As a result a sharp decrease, 66%, was seen in “SaaS” references within Gartner Digital Markets reviews, and references to “cloud” increased 17% since 2014.

How you can use term insights to your business’s advantage

Remember when I said this wasn’t going to get too in the weeds? All non-data analysts rejoice, I’ve reached my main point: Analyzing software reviews as a group reveals themes that represent the majority of software user and buyer needs. By incorporating those themes across your business strategies, you can better align your product’s development, marketing and sales messaging with industry trends and buyer needs.

Learn more about how we ensure the quality of our 1M reviews.

Aaron Henckler

Aaron Henckler is the Managing Vice President of New Market Programs for Gartner Digital Markets. He is an experienced strategy consultant and proven operations leader with a track record of establishing scalable capabilities in product development and insights generation. When not at work, Aaron likes to spend time with his family and break it down on the dance floor. Connect with Aaron on LinkedIn.

Get the Gartner Digital Markets Newsletter

We value your privacy. By submitting this form, you agree we may use your information in accordance with the terms of the Gartner Digital Markets Privacy Policy.