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Product discovery at different product stages

Describing what product discovery looks like at different stages of a company’s development is a challenging task. This is because product discovery and agile development processes differ from company to company, as well as between different stages of a company’s growth.

However, I will attempt to describe some of the processes utilised at MOBGEN, to give a general overall idea of some of the elements of the discovery process, by using case studies we have worked on.

The term ‘product discovery’ encompasses all the research and decisions on the product that you and your team are working on, whether you’re planning your next deliverable, or testing your latest prototype. The term ‘product delivery’ describes the activities needed to build and ship your product. You can’t build a product without deciding what that product is in the first place. You can only make good decisions about what you should be building if you first dedicate some time and effort to ‘product discovery’.


Early-stage product

In the early stages of a product, the team will work with interchangeable roles, with many people involved in discovery and research around the new product. Activities will include things such as Market Research, Benchmarking, User Journey maps, and User Persona development.

Market Research and benchmarking are used to identify what is available on the market for potential users of your product, as these could be things you would like to emulate with your product.

  • What can be learnt from competitors’ products and market leading products in related industries?
  • What are the key trends in design or functionality that are shared by the market leading apps and products in your sector?

Use your market research and benchmarking activities to create aspirational goals that your team can work towards. An example of this at MOBGEN was when one of our clients was looking to create in-app challenges and competitions, to increase user engagement by gamifying the application. For this, I was looking into a leading sports app that, though from a different market sector, has gamified running and cycling through challenges. In addition, I looked at how MMO games use challenges to engage players online, and recommend lessons for our client from this research.

Personas are a way to model typical target users, based on observation and research. A persona depicts a specific individual but is not a real person; it is a summary of your observations about many people.

The persona exercise enables the team to focus on a manageable and memorable group of target users, instead of trying to focus on thousands of individuals.

User Journey mapping is a way to understand a customer’s journey to achieve a goal by interacting with a product. For example, when they’re buying an item on an ecommerce website. The user journey map should detail the steps which customers follow to achieve their goals, and should highlight any potential obstacles they may find.

Often, these planning activities are taking place inside the company’s offices, but if it’s at all possible, you should go out and meet directly with your potential customers to get a real understanding of your target group. You can conduct interviews and observations or invite them into your working environment. Your customers are the best experts about your customers, and their input is vital as part of a good product discovery phase.

Furthermore, spending time meeting your potential customers or undertaking user research will increase the chance of your product being a success. It’s possible to condense a lot of these ‘product discovery’ and customer research activities into an intense workshop known as a design sprint.


Post launch product

As a product matures, the division of work will be clearer and you will start to have individuals with roles dedicated to product discovery, with job titles such as Business Analyst, or User Experience Specialist.

The ideal way to treat discovery at this stage of a product’s development is through continuous discovery. This means not only continuing all the product discovery activities you undertook before product launch, but also additional activities such as A/B Testing and data analysis.

Continuous product discovery gives you multiple data points for making product decisions along the way, during the development and delivery process.

Continuous data analysis, once your product is in the marketplace, is a way of tracking activity and usage trends. This is done through regular data analysis using whichever event monitoring and traffic tracking tools you have available. At MOBGEN, there is a team dedicated to data analysis, which I work with regularly as a BA. Together, we look for trends in activity on MOBGEN’s client application, to spot trends and recommend updates.

A/B Testing involves comparing two versions of a feature in your product, to find out which performs better. This is a way to test the impact of a new feature or changes to a feature on a live product. An example of a simple A/B test would be, Does a red button perform better than a green one? Conducting regular A/B tests will help you optimise the product and could improve a product’s UX.

A simple example of how we carry testing into everything we do at MOBGEN is by using A/B tests on our marketing emails. This was something I set up with the marketing team: to run an A/B test to see which type of email title, long or short, resulted in a higher open rate. We then used the results of these test to make a recommendation of how marketing should write email subject titles. Subsequently, after performing these tests we increased our email open rate from 16% to 24%.


Mature products

As the product grows and reaches maturity, there will be dedicated teams for user research and data insights. At this stage, it is vitally important to make sure that the knowledge that is gained in those teams is shared across the whole product, not just between your research experts.

By sharing the understanding across the company, everyone can learn from your customers and can contribute to a shared understanding. At MOBGEN, we hold knowledge transfer meetings, and work in cross functional teams, to make sure our learnings and observations are shared, but we can and aim to do more.

You can also make use of these product discovery activities to look for innovation beyond what is currently available in the market. For example, looking at future trends in retail technology you might consider the usefulness of developing virtual shop assistants.