Your business plan can be solid, your strategies intelligible, and your market research thorough. But, when you push a service or a product to the savagely competitive market, you can always expect the unexpected.
We don’t mean to sound discouraging but, in fact, more than 90% of startups are doomed to fail. The reasons for this can be many — from the lack of a product-market fit to disharmony in the development team. Then, there is the added problem of limited resources in the pursuit to advertise the brand new technology.
However, it is now possible to harness and ensure the utmost use of your resources, mainly by introducing an MVP as soon as possible to test values and growth statistics. You can perceive this as a kind of experimentation that allows teams to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about the consumer and helps organizations to reduce the uncertainty of project failure.
What is MVP?
Back in 2011, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries transformed the face of startups by introducing various concepts. The Minimum Viable Product or MVP — a tactic that helps you avoid the development of products that customers do not want — encompasses the bare minimum of a product, including only such features and options as are necessary for its market release. Here, the principle aim is to collect user feedback before developing the final product, with only as much as a bare-bones design. Thereafter, the MVP is tested further to determine its market potential.
MVP encompasses the bare minimum of a product, including only such features and options as are necessary for its market release.
An MVP enables you to confirm users’ interest in your product. Thus, the entire concept aims at not just testing the viability of your products but building functionality over time, based on validated feedback and user testing data. Eventually, MVPs evolve into the mature apps and products that they are today. This minimizes development costs and provides immediate value to gather the feedback, which is then applied to improve future iterations of the product.
The importance of MVP
Addresses the initial concern of your public in a timely fashion
While developing any kind of product the concept of an MVP comes in handy. Sometimes, your final product takes months to be completed. When it’s finally done, you additionally have to determine the minimum requirements that will work ideally for your user base, release them accordingly, and move forward with a plethora of other processes that will serve to enhance your product. An MVP quickly addresses the problem at hand by offering an answer to constructing a feature in a timely fashion while simultaneously adjusting for the customer needs.
Validates ideas and helps in testing the product in the real market
When a company or an organization decides to develop a product several assumptions are made and on a host of things — how the design should work, what users they want to target, what architecture will work most efficiently, what marketing strategy to implement, how much money and resources are they willing to invest, and which monetization strategy will ultimately make the product sustainable. However, no matter how certain organizations may be of these assumptions, for the product to succeed in the highly competitive marketplace, these assumptions need to be validated. Else, it’s a huge risk that they are taking.
The concept of an MVP development strictly follows the iterative build-measure-learn process which helps organizations invalidate or validate assumptions or ideas with little or no risk. Further, the testing of the product helps identify user pain points and determine the ideal functionality that will address these demands over time by consistently validating and testing assumptions against user data/feedback to incorporate necessary changes as new information presents itself.
Winning Stakeholder/Investor Buy-In
Very often, businesses tend to rely on stakeholder or investor buy-in to get the green light on a project by securing funding. Yet, what is the key to receiving this buy-in?
It’s to carefully map the product’s ability to achieve the desired outcome — reduce check out times, increase revenues, and ultimately, to build confidence in the pitched product. If you develop an MVP efficiently, securing the buy-in will be a cakewalk as it will allow an understanding of whether or not your ideas will work.
In other words, it will ensure that you have a solid business case that will demonstrate the market validity of the product. Additionally, you can show investors a physical, tangible product instead of just abstract concepts, since an MVP is a fully functioning product. There is no better way to prove the merits of a product without investors having to wait months to see the return on their initial investment.
Focuses on the features of the product vis a vis consumer experience
The MVP enables you to focus on the interior value of a product and features that only the consumer needs. You can easily test your business concepts via an MVP because instead of offering a feature-heavy, full-blown product you offer just the core set of features so that you can verify if your business concepts actually resonate with who you believe to be your target audience. Likewise, you can change a product’s direction based on findings.
This approach places the value of your customers in the highest possible regard enabling organizations to determine the types of social groups that are the most active users and how they interact with the said product. This enhances the level of personalization everyone is looking for these days.
Testing UX and Usability
Developing the perfect mobile product that will drive enhanced user engagement is a task that’s quite difficult to achieve. Very few users actually continue to use an app or product after the first few months and many actually abandon it after just one use. It’s crucial to have an aim that goes beyond the mere number of downloads. Retaining users and customer loyalty by offering continual value is a significant goal of UX design.
An MVP effectively tests the product’s potential for longevity, app engagement and lifetime value. Before you develop any further you also save up a lot of money and time. Since you can easily analyze how quickly users understand the flow and purpose of the product, you can determine new opportunities to expand functionality aimed at providing holistic, hassle-free user experiences in no time.
How to build an MVP?
Figure out the problem you’re solving and for whom
There’s nothing more important than evaluating your concepts and business ideas as a first step to building a successful MVP. Clarity, in this regard, is your strongest ally. Start by asking yourself questions like — Who needs this product? Why do they need it? By developing this problem, what kind of problems am I solving? It’s very important to put your finger on a purpose and outline additional goals.
The most ideal way to find a problem that demands an immediate solution is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about it personally. For instance- is there anything you’d do better if there was a way to do it better? You can also look within a particular segment for problems. You can also start in broader terms- think how you want to build something that will help your customers save money because that’s an obvious goal for everyone. And you can work your way from there eventually.
Market Research, demographic research
Often your ideas may not be a perfect fit for the market needs. Before you initiate anything and embark upon an MVP development process it’s mandatory to ensure that it fulfills the target users’ needs. How to do this? By conducting surveys and collecting as much information as you can get your hands on.
You also have to conduct a competitor analysis — blinded faith in your product’s uniqueness won’t get you anywhere. You may not have direct competitors but investigating your competitors’ apps or websites to get insights about their monthly traffic, website rank, the geographical location of users, sources of traffic will give you a competitive advantage. Likewise, analyze your target audience and the feedback about your competitors’ products to build an MVP that will address all the shortcomings of the existing solutions.
Knowing how users respond to your competitor’s products will help you target more precisely. In other words, don’t hesitate to incorporate tailored changes, or adopt good ideas from your competitors. This will help you define each and every aspect of your product including the value it offers and the essential estimations of the same.
Considering the design process and user flow
You are designing your product with your users in mind. The most ideal and effective way to ensure that the first iteration of your product guarantees a holistic user experience is by mapping out user journeys. You can look at all the specifications of your product from the perspective of your users and design something that is user-friendly and convenient. Further, defining the user flow and the ensuing actions your users need to take to complete an end goal will ensure you don’t miss out on anything.
To define the primary user flow, you should start by defining process stages, i.e. outline the various stages steps required to reach your product’s primary goal. Don’t bother with features at this point but basic tasks- the types of goals your end users are likely to have when they use your product. The steps involved are-
Identify the user — Who is going to use your product? You may have more than one category of customers. For instance, Snapchat was created keeping in mind teens who wanted to send vanishing messages. This was, precisely, the USP (Unique Selling Point) that led to its glory.
Identify the actions — These are the actions your users will take to reach the story ending and accomplish the goal. While developing your MVP you should focus on the user with the highest number of actions. However, there may be other priorities that need to be addressed first.
Identify the story endings — There is a story ending for each user which defines the ultimate goal for the user- like buy a skirt, book an appointment, etc.
Identifying the pain points
The only reason why you are going through all this is that you want to solve a problem that was bothering your users and then build a sustainable business around it. If there are frictions in the interactions between your user and the product, you might want to spell them out clearly. When you have worked out the user flow you will want to identify all the user pain points and also what they gain when these are effectively addressed. This is an important tactic that will help you determine the areas where you have the greatest potential to add possible value. You can then channelize your MVP development towards these areas and add the less impactful ones to your product roadmap for other projects.
Outlining the MVP features while prioritizing them
Your MVP is not the end product so don’t get too worked up about adding features. Instead, start with the essential ones. Consider the pain points and address them so that by now you can have a feature-rich MVP. Once you’ve defined all the customer steps you can list out features for each of them, following which, you need to prioritize them. To achieve this, you can ask yourself a bunch of questions. Your main feature will primarily be comprised of the single most important action you want your users to accomplish. This will be a top priority feature which will efficiently convey the product core value.
List out other additional features, explain why you think you need them and then reject the ones least important or relevant. You can categorize the features from “high priority” at the top to “low priority” at the bottom. You can also divide features and tasks into must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won’t-haves. Don’t hesitate to consult with your team when it comes to prioritizing.
When you have successfully prioritized all of them, you can define their scope for the first version of the MVP. if you are willing to go through some more trouble you can create an MVP’s prototype that will help you see what your future product will look like.
Building the MVP
You can use opportunity statements to finalize what features you want your product to have. Then, all you need to do is pick the most appropriate MVP approach.
- No product MVP — Also known as a ‘No-Code’ MVP, validates an idea and receives feedback without actual coding. Again, there are two ways to implement this. Idea Visualization, which tests an opportunity hypothesis using marketing campaigns without having to contain any building blocks of the future product and Sell first build afterward approach which starts a pre-sale before actually building a product.
- A product mockup MVP — Enables you to deliver at least a part of your product’s functionality. The various options this approach entails include concierge which includes the need for complex machine learning algorithms or any kind of sophisticated technology under the hood; the main feature is handled manually (for instance, Airbnb) and the Wizard of Oz which is similar but hides the fact that it involves the use of manual labor to stimulate core functionalities (for instance, Zappos).
- Single Feature MVP — It is self-explanatory and focuses mostly on core functionality.
- MLP or minimum lovable product — Foresees a memorable first-time experience. The basic aim is to enhance a product’s features with an enhanced user experience through streamlined flow and design. Thus, your MVP is an MLP if the UX delivers an emotional story. For instance, Spotify.
Now, you are good to go. You know all the features you want to incorporate and the market needs. Keep in mind your MVP cannot be of a lower quality than your final product. It may not be the final version but you still need to ensure that all the features included are connected to your product’s overall goal- creating an enhanced user experience.
Testing and Learning
You need to test your MVP to validate your business idea and to understand whether or not it solves the purpose of its existence and meets all the startup requirements.
To know that, you need to gather user feedback and determine the scalability of the product. If it’s not scalable, needless to state, it won’t be suitable for the larger customer base. There are two ways to get user feedback- by collecting feedback from a select few also called alpha testing or to get feedback from actual people.
Collecting user feedback however is imperative since it ensures market validation and tells you where the product is lacking. Further, you can easily generate new ideas grounded in validated learning and user behavior research which will play an important role in shaping the subsequent versions of the product. It’s a never-ending loop of testing, learning and then testing again until the product is finalized.
NPS or Net Promoter Score is a survey-based metric that involves asking your users directly about the MVP like “how would you rate your experience”.
Money based data should also be considered like MRR or monthly recurring revenue which is the core financial metrics for SaaS products. It determines the volume of money generated by your product per month.
CAC or customer acquisition cost identifies how much money is needed to get a single customer and is relevant when it comes to determining if the product is profitable and scalable.
How “minimum” should be your MVP be?
An MVP should deliver a minimum yet a valuable product since the success of your finished product inevitably depends on it. There are a few features your MVP must be endowed with.
- Serve one specific audience at least
- Address one key issue at least
- Be easy to build and launch
- Have a well thought out/designed user experience
If your MVP fails to deliver these you must realize that it is neither minimum nor viable/valuable. It is ultimately not about creating a workable mockup or about building a Beta version of your app. Implementing the basic features without any essence of its viability will not have a strong appeal or be accepted by the niche you target. Your MVP must claim to give access to features that can make the lives of your users easy.
Silicon Valley’s vibrant entrepreneurial culture is highly contagious and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the same exciting and perilous journey to uncharted territory and an MVP is your ally since it helps you learn from user feedback and validates an opportunity hypothesis.
To check the viability of flows core to a product idea, the MVP foresees the creation of a barebone version of a functional solution. Bringing a new product or service to the market is always a big risk and there’s nothing you can do to eliminate that completely. However, if you build an MVP you can expect relevant feedback on user experience, the gradual growth of your customer base, and other signs of enhances user engagement. There’s no fun in spending time on a product that isn’t fruitful.