Getting to market first can often be the difference between success and failure. But getting there too early can also be disastrous. If quality is judged to be poor, the brand suffers and reputation might not be recoverable. If adoption is low, the innovative technology itself might seem irrelevant, obscuring its value rather than exploiting it. So the challenge for technology leaders racing to market is this: How good is good enough for a minimum viable product?
Great idea + great technology + great experience = disrupting an industry
You’ve got a great idea, you think it will be a hit in the market and fill an untapped need. Your team develops innovative technology to transform the idea into a working product. What’s next? Successful disruptors focus on the entire consumer experience to increase the likelihood of adoption and reduce the risk of low adoption. For example:
- Uber released an initial product with an addictive experience coupled with innovative technology. The design of the engaging mobile app succeeded by combining simple visualization of cars and location with a straightforward payment workflow. This ensured quick adoption and that consumers would not quickly switch to next-to-market competitors such as Lyft and others.
- Warby Parker made the experience of getting new glasses seem fresh by combining technology with a great, personal brick and mortar experience. In addition, the experience includes an understanding that the socially conscious brand will donate one pair of glasses for each pair purchased. This focus on multiple ways to interact with consumers created an initial product suite that reflects a dynamic, multi-channel approach.
Designing a great experience: The Holy Grail of product development
Developing the consumer experience has never been a hotter topic. A recent Harvard Business Review article quoted Bridget van Kralingen, a senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, saying “there is no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience”. As a society, we are fascinated by products that seem to become ubiquitous overnight. In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger ascribes this success in part due to personal recommendations being prime influencers in behavior – if you have a great experience with a product, you are very likely to tell your friends and family to check it out, and they are very likely to do it.
This rapid, viral adoption is what all product developers seek: rather than investing heavily in promotion and marketing, a great product experience will sell itself and early adopters will become the product’s most effective spokesmen. In fact, our data has shown the direct relationship between user experience and active brand equity – a direct contributor to market share.
How should an organization (and its investors) decide when a product is ready to ship?
It’s all about the user experience:
- The technology has to be “ready” enough that the experience communicates a quality product. This means no bugs and no typos. Details matter, a lot.
- The value of the product is apparent to users: the use of disruptive technology, innovative approach, etc. need to be readily seen both from the marketing messaging and the product itself. Example: Uber and those little black cars on your mobile device, clearly communicate information and expectations.
- The first shot needs to have a clear purpose. You can always layer in more technology (e.g., targeting additional devices such as watches) and more features but the first launch has to provide a great (possibly infectious) experience even for the early adopters.
- Delight your intended customers. Measure beforehand what the experience feels like and use this to inform your go-to-market strategy.
The race to market has never been tighter. As soon as a company decides on a cool, new, innovative, disruptive technology, there are dozens of competitors right on their heels. The winners of this race will determine what’s good enough by developing strategies that incorporate a focus on the experience in their definition of minimum viable product.
Lauren is Senior Vice President, User Experience at GfK.