First, you came up with the product idea.
You translated your vision into an actual product and after launching it, you are reaping the benefits.
Does your entrepreneurial journey end there?
Nope. This is where it begins, all over again.
The launch was the first chapter and there is so much room for growth.
Markets change and users’ needs evolve over time.
To keep pace with all of these, you need to make constant product improvements.
Let us show you why they are so important, and how you can start doing them.
What is product improvement?
Product improvement is the process of refining the experience of an existing product.
Typically, a product is improved to acquire new customers or to enhance retention. This means that the product is already out there in the market and has a good relationship with its target audience.
Product improvements come in various sizes and formats. From changing just something as small as the color scheme to as big as a major UI revamp, they can also give products a new life.
Sometimes, when existing features are repackaged under a better name, they start getting more usage.
Such re-introductions are also product improvements.
Most product improvements, especially minor ones, are not officially announced. The best example for that would be Google: the search results’ page constantly undergoes changes, and one of their biggest innovations, the Rich Snippets, had just popped up for everyone.
This means that product improvements are a good way to surprise your existing customers and show them that you are constantly working for them.
Why should you improve your product?
To keep pace with your competitors
No matter which industry you belong to, there is one thing you cannot deny.
Even if you have a stellar product, you stand to lose to a competitor who could then copy your features.
That, or your competitor is addressing a few of your users’ issues in a better way than you.
This is where continuous improvement comes in.
Leonardo da Vinci had said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” but in our case, we cannot abandon our product and move on to the next thing.
To keep your enterprise afloat and to reassure your customers that you care about them, you would have to go back to the drawing board.
Any form of lethargy can lead to a loss.
To evolve along with the needs of your customers
Products exist to solve the problems of users — but no solution can ever be permanent.
You might have addressed a key market gap, but there might be other points of friction that inhibit the user’s experience.
Or, in their overall workflow, there could be something that slows them down.
And above these is the commonest reason why you would need to constantly reiterate on your solution — culture changes, and so do the people.
What works now will not work in the future.
People were used to websites loading quite slowly in the 90s — and then, speed becoming the focal point for every innovator out there.
Now, users have zero patience for websites that do not load on time.
If you do not match the new expectations, then you are out of the game.
To curb boredom and monotony
It does not take too long for users to get used to the UI of any product. At first, this results in efficiency: they get better at using your product and getting the most out of the features you offer.
Over time, the same features might seem boring to them.
This is because humans are attuned to chase novelty.
Your offering might have the best features but if your competitor can present a diluted version of it with a different aesthetic, your users might flock to that.
Product improvements allow you to see which features might perform better, and to also arrest the decline of sales.
Identifying the right product improvements
Making product improvements is not all that complicated.
There are only two key things that you need to consider: if your product improvement would increase usage, and if it would increase adoption.
Anything that does not immediately contribute to these two can be shelved for later.
No development is free of cost or overhead, and continuous product improvement can rack up a huge bill over time.
People do not use all the features present in a product.
There are many reasons. Three leading ones:
- The user tried the feature and found it to be lacklustre or underdeveloped.
- The user felt that the feature would work well if it were paired with other complementary features.
- The user found the feature hard to use.
If you find features that fit the definition of #1 and #3, then those are your low-hanging fruits. The moment you redirect some of your team’s efforts on it and improve those features, you would see people using those features more.
#2 is something that should get added in your product roadmap, because developing a set of complementary features would set you down the path of adding a whole web of complexity.
Despite their obvious utility, some features might be used less than others.
This could happen because of a missing link between the most frequently used features and the unused ones — and this is where you can improve your product.
Or customers might not know why they should use a feature, making it an issue related to awareness and onboarding.
Optimizing any of the two would increase engagement and you can then decide your next move.
Thinking about where your product is in its lifecycle will also help you decide on its improvements.
If the product is brand new and has just started to gain traction, then there is a lot that can be repositioned and improved.
Products that are about to retire or be replaced do not need such effort-investment.
Product improvements is all about increasing the life expectancy of your product, while also enabling it to continue to drive sales and revenue for you.
If certain features or fixes can help you increase your brand’s worth or convince new customers to try your solutions out, then you should invest in developing them.
This is the masterstroke for user retention.
When you start improving features that are already popular with your customers, you achieve two things.
One, you show them that you care about them, which revalidates their decision to continue with your offering.
Two, the increased value would make them recommend your product to others, increasing your sales.
When you anticipate their needs and the shifting tides of the market and make product improvements, that immediately positions you on a higher ground.
Product Improvements Strategies
Assessing pain points proactively
Products solve problems, and a successful one is good at solving its own before it is too late.
Just because your product is getting a lot of engagement does not mean that it will continue to get that over a period of time.
While your product might solve an existing problem, it might bring in a new one.
Users are constantly trying to improve their workflow.
Either they want to see an increase in their productivity, or a decrease in the time they spend on repetitive tasks.
Your product might help them do X, but complicate their ability to efficiently complete Y: this would diminish their desire to use your product.
If you start working on product improvements before they drop off, then you win.
To do that, you have to be proactive.
Email your most frequent customers a few simple surveys from time to time to see what problems they face.
Vague surveys will only help you understand that they are dissatisfied. To get to the root of the cause, you will need to ask them specific questions.
- How does using feature X make you feel? Does it address your issues?
- Are there any issues while using feature X?
- We have seen you slowly reduce how much you use feature X. Can you tell us why?
To be able to ask such specific questions, you would need to set up metrics and track performance across each of your features.
Along with this, you should also take an active look at the obstacles that your sales team face when they pitch your product to prospects.
The prospect might have told them that they would consider using the product if X were faster/simpler, or if Z were present, or if a certain integration was available.
After assessing the need, if you find them to be easy to implement, then those would be your top-priority product improvements.
Put your product vision into action
It might have been the idea that put you in the shoes of an entrepreneur, but it is the product vision that will fulfill that journey.
You might have come up with umpteen product strategies, and you also might have a product roadmap in place.
But, no matter what you plan, it is execution that matters.
You would have to check if all the items have been checked off in your product roadmap.
Or better, you would have to understand if your initial vision-to-roadmap exercise had laid down the right features to work on.
You can do this by doing a detailed market or competitor analysis.
Right after the users’ pain points, the new features that would emerge out of this exercise would be the second-most important product improvements.
Should you consider adding new features?
Back in the traditional, enterprise days, developing an application took months, and sometimes years.
This made the new version number of a product very alluring.
These days, not so much. The first version is generally easy to build and adding superficial changes to call it a new one is not going to fool customers.
Look at Messenger’s version history.
It does not make any sense anymore.
Users are well aware of that. But, the even more concerning part is that users might not like drastic changes to an app that they use every day.
That might disrupt their workflow or just repulse them completely.
A better way to go about this is, yet again, surveys.
Show them a list of the features that you are considering to build and ask them if they would like to see them implemented.
Showing them mocks of those will help them make better decisions.
You can also go a step further and make your product roadmap public.
Product Improvement Frameworks
User journey’s in your product
Every user that signs up for your product or has been using it for a while can be categorized into the following.
- Signed up users
- Activated users
- Engaged users
- Retained users
- Paying users
- Delighted users
A product is said to be successful when it has a high number of delighted users. These users not only use your product on a regular basis, but they feel a sense of great satisfaction when they do so.
Further, these delighted users help you reduce your Customer Acquisition Cost, as they become informal ambassadors of your product and tell their friends and immediate social circle to try your product out.
The goal of any product improvement should be to increase the amount of delighted users.
How do you do that?
Following the Product Improvement Strategies would already put you in the right path.
But, you can make the process of product improvement easier by visualizing the user journey of your product.
To do so, you would need to track how users navigate within the product, which features they use, how long they stay, and when they leave.
- Where did they learn about the product?
- How long did it take them to decide to sign up?
- Do they open the app often?
- Where do they go first within your product?
- How long do they stay?
- Are there any glitches, or gaps in the product that force them to exit the app?
These are just basic questions, and you would have to brainstorm and come up with specific questions for your product.
After you do that, it is all obvious.
For every question, you would find that there is something that you can improve.
Prioritize the simplest product improvements first as they would bring you results fast.
Measuring the success rate of a feature
Just because people use your product often does not mean that they are completely satisfied with it.
Think about the many things in your life that you do not change because they are familiar.
When they use your product for a while, users also fall into that pattern.
Now, if your product continues to disappoint them, then they might start looking for alternatives.
This means that you would have to look into aspects that cause friction.
It could be a feature that is poorly made, or its interaction with features might be a bit disconnected or slow.
When you identify these gaps, you would realize that this set of product improvements are just UX optimizations.
But, it is easier said than done.
When you start measuring the success rate of every feature, you would discover that some features are barely used.
Would you remove them or would you rebuild them?
How do you decide the right course of action?
History is a great tool — if users have never used a certain feature, then you should definitely remove them.
If they were using a feature for a while in the beginning but stopped later, then that might be an issue with its responsiveness.
Or, they might have forgotten its utility; time to educate them about it via a newsletter.
This implies that sometimes product improvements can be external, in the sense that working on feature awareness might pay off better than re-developing something.
Product Improvements Prioritization
The more you dig deeper into your product, you would find a lot of things to improve.
As the list grows, how would you choose which product improvements to work on first?
Well, you can just use the tried and tested methods of prioritizing features.
One of the quickest ways to sort through your product improvements list is to use the MoSCoW technique.
- Must-haves: These are product improvements that you need to go on with immediately, either because they are low-hanging fruits or because your product has issues that need to be fixed as soon as possible.
- Should-haves: These are products improvements that are not urgent, but can help you drive the engagement up of your product. These are also the features that users have been asking for a long time.
- Could-haves: Product improvements that would help make the experience better but are not essential to its functionality for now.
- Would-haves: Product improvements that have been identified but need to be validated and assessed to know if they need to be developed.
“If you are not shipping, then you are dead.”
That is the spirit with which startups, especially new ones, run their days.
They know that every competitor of theirs is just constantly trying to innovate. They also know a moment’s rest can backfire, because a new startup might solve a problem that they could have.
Aspiring and serial entrepreneurs are at different stages of their journey, but both of them need to embrace the concept of continuous improvement.
From maintaining product-market fit to helping you be on the same level as your competitors, product improvements are a must.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, if you feel like all of these are a lot to process and strategize, then you should reach out to a digital product agency.
There is always room for improvement.