Product features are the components, attributes, and capabilities of a product that provide value for its users.
A product without features is no product at all. So, developing product features is, in essence, the foundation of creating a product.
Clearly defining a product’s features is, therefore, perhaps the single most important function of a product manager. If you have to master just one skill, this could be it.
In this article, we’ll look at what product features are, how products, features, and benefits differ and explore the different types of product features.
Table of contents
What are Product Features?
Product features are the underlying traits and functionalities that create or perform something of benefit to the customer.
For example, a calculator is only a calculator because it has features such as add, subtract, multiply and divide. If you remove a calculator’s multiplication and division features, it instantly provides less value to users than other fully-featured calculators.
Meanwhile, adding other functions to a calculator beyond its standard operations could potentially transform it into a completely different product—a computer.
Aside from characterizing what a product is, product features also differentiate it from competing products. Consider the following:
- 1. Computer A: Has less general-purpose computing power, but has subsystems for decoding video.
- 2. Computer B: Has a lot of general-purpose computing power, but does not support hardware video decoding.
- 3. Computer C: Has the same computing performance as Computer B and the same video features as Computer A.
In this example, we see that although all three products are computers, they are distinct from each other. Their features contrast them and also determine how they compete in the market. Computers A and B clearly vie for the attention of different target audiences. Meanwhile, Computer C tries to capture the entire market by capitalizing on the weaknesses of both.
Taking all of this into account, you can clearly see that the outcome of a product hinges on its features. What your product is and who it attracts revolves around what features it presents. Whether it sinks or swims depends on the value customers derive from those features.
How Do Products and Features Differ?
The line between product and feature is somewhat blurry. In fact, one could argue that features are like mini-products.
Here’s an example that elucidates that point:
- To Tesla, high-capacity batteries are a feature of their electric car products.
- However, to Panasonic, the batteries they sell Tesla are the product, not the feature.
- To miners, the lithium in those batteries isn’t a feature, it’s their product.
As you can see, modern products are the result of large, interconnected value and supply chains that involve multiple enterprises. These enterprises each have their own products, which in turn can become components of other products. Whether something is a product or a feature is always a matter of perspective and depends on the scope of your project.
How Do Features and Benefits Differ?
Customers often consider and compare features when deciding whether to buy your product. In fact, over 54% of consumers research a product before buying it. Likely they’re looking for the best deal and learning more about what’s available.
That said, what they’re also doing is trying to discern whether your features can provide the benefits they need or want. For this reason, every product feature should be examined alongside the benefit it provides to your customers.
Benefits are the positive results you want your customers to enjoy when they use your product. By comparison, features are the elements of your product that deliver that outcome.
While this seems like a clear-cut difference, different types of users may disagree on whether something is a feature or a benefit. For example, here are some concepts that could either be features or benefits:
- Fast charging
- User repairable
- High fidelity
To determine whether something is a feature or a benefit, put yourself in the shoes of your customer. When purchasing a media player, audiophiles generally look for certain hardware features, and will consider “high fidelity” to be a benefit of those features. Meanwhile, casual users will see “high fidelity” as the feature itself, and are looking to gain the benefit of improved sound quality that comes along with it.
In most instances, the product features you specify will fit neatly into the definition of a feature. When they don’t, correctly identifying whether something is a feature or a benefit can help you connect effectively with your target market.
What are the Different Types of Product Features?
If you are in the position to decide how to classify features and you don’t already have a preferred method of doing so, a common practice is to categorize them under one of three types: physical, functional or added value.
Though not strictly true in every case, these types also indicate the priority of a feature. Because compromising on a physical feature puts the product at risk of failing, it often takes the highest priority. Conversely, added-value features usually exist lower in the priority list.
Let’s go over each of these types of product features in a little more detail:
Physical or inherent product features are determined by what the product is made from. For tangible items, these might be their material and composition. For software, these might be the language used to code it or the framework developers built it on.
The structure or manufactured quality of a product also falls under this category. These include features such as durability, weight, and shape.
Functional product features refer to a product’s capabilities. For example, a functional feature of a watch is its ability to tell time, whereas a social network’s functional feature is its potential to connect people.
Added value features are those that are separable from the nature or functionality of a product. These include non-critical production decisions choices, such as electing to make a product entirely out of sustainable plastic instead of new material. Optional features, such as warranties, represent a significant fraction of this type.
Great Features Lead to Great Success
Product features and benefits drive every customer’s buying decision. If you can’t clearly convey to them why they should choose you, then they’ll go to your competitors. So make sure you’re making the best impression with your product features.
The key to an outstanding product launch and solid sales figures is identifying these outstanding product features and leveraging them to achieve customer success.