How Tech Companies Can Design Better Products for Market

Design Research is a user-focused method to gaining information of your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs.

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So, the story goes, a company releases a product, it makes a huge splash everywhere, social media, radio, Out-of-Home, communities offline as well as blogs and media sites online. People talk about how they’re interested and can’t wait to try it, there’s so much excitement in the air.

We’re all almost sure this is going to be the product that disrupts all products, I mean, after all the company that released it, is one of the top ones. Then one month goes into 6 months, and 6 months into 1 year, and you hardly almost hear about the product anymore. Rumours start spreading that the company isn’t going to renew their App Store fee when the current one expires. Then the product slowly is unheard of again, until of course someone in one meeting somewhere wants to use it as an example of what failure in the market looks like.

 I remember a similar situation happening not too long ago. I remember distinctly driving down a popular street in Victoria Island, Lagos one December period, the entire street was laden with banners promoting the new product that just launched, everyone I met talked about either how much they loved the product and their advertising and their branding and on and on.

But then less than a year later, public interest had died. The product was now being used as a ‘case study’ of what not to do, with product and digital teams everywhere nit-picking on certain features in the product, pointing out reasons why they failed.

So, what was the problem there? How do you confidently release a product into the market, knowing that customers actually need the solution? How do you launch a product knowing that worst-case scenario is you pivoting, because you’ve taken the necessary precautions to mitigate risk and truly, I mean truly understand what the market is needing?

Market Research will clearly tell you how big the size of the market is, and the locations that will adopt and spend money on your product. Market research is very helpful for any product team seeking to take the time and resources to develop and launch a product into the market. With focus groups, product test sessions and more, market research delivers enough information for teams to know what direction to take.

However, what market research doesn’t do is allow you truly understand and empathise with the people who are going to use your product. An in-depth understanding of your users is a key step in releasing a successful product to market. We’ve seen it with Airbnb, how they went door to door in New York talking to their customers in aims of understanding what was stifling their growth. Or with Duolingo, the world’s number 1 language learning app, who tests their product rigorously to be able to understand what users want and immediately adapt. The list goes on, if you see a company that excels in product design and customer engagement and experience, then you’ve seen a company that relentlessly seeks to understand customers using the methodology of Design Research.

How fit is your product for your customers? Does it hit a nerve with them? Is there something, however small, that’s stopping people from adopting your solution in the masses, and you don’t know about it? For Airbnb, at the start, it was just that the pictures of the rentals that were being posted on the site were bad, and so people were turned off or didn’t trust the platform. Just changing this seemingly ‘little’ thing made them double their profits in a one week.

A screenshot of Airbnb’s website

These are very important questions for product, design and ventures teams, knowing that if they could see what their customers see and experience what they experienced, creating solutions for them would take a whole new dimension. Someone said, ‘empathy is the bedrock of innovation’, that couldn’t be truer, I’ll add that empathy is also one of the drivers of competitiveness and product dominance in the market.

I vividly recall a design workshop we ran recently; the products team’s biggest problem was customers’ use (onboarding) of their app. With Design Research, no doubt they would get to the bottom of the issue quickly.

So, what is Design Research?

Design Research is a user-focused method of gaining information about your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs. It studies users in their contexts, observing them and walking in their shoes, to get an understanding of them that informs the end solution. The one undisputed value of Design Research is to enable you uncover and discover information from customers to serve them better through delightful user experiences and products that satisfy their needs.

Design Research seeks to answer, “why would customers use this product?”, “How would they experience it?”, “What are potential obstacles they could face using it?” Answering these questions empowers product teams to build better solutions with great user experiences to boot.

How Design Research help’s tech teams deliver stellar experiences for their users

It’s no secret that one of the reasons why products fail is because they were never built for users. The entire tech world, today, is radically embracing the idea of User Research and User-centred Design, not just to provide solutions that meet users’ needs but that truly engage them and answer to a pain they experience. Design research emerges as a true means by which companies can deliver on customer expectations, innovate and positively impact the bottom line.

 Knowing this value, companies from NGOs to Banks have sought to unearth users’ latent needs, seek opportunities for growth, or solve a problem that exists to bring about a better solution to market. 

Testing Lo-fi prototypes with a potential user

Every company looking to stand out through stellar customer experiences and disruptive solutions must have an understanding of the customers so in-depth that it informs the product build and ensures product success, brand growth and positive impact to your bottom line.

Other benefits of Design Research:

  • It’s a proven method to greatly reduce the cost of releasing product failures into market
  • It’s the way to discover user needs
  • It helps you not only discover users’ latent needs; it helps you understand and deliver great experiences for them
  • Informs you with real facts about your users and their contexts, using Design Research, you even discover information such as their personality types, how they look and their reactions etc.

In this age of empowered customers, leveraging this methodology is one ammunition tech teams everywhere wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Discovering the Value for Your New Offering: A Look at the Offering Viability Tool

In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts.

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In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts. During one of our internal processes, we developed a tool to help us plot out estimates of the returns expected for a product we were building for one of our clients. The tool is called the Offering Viability tool.

The Offering Viability Tool helps teams map out and have critical discussions on the potential market size, revenue and cost of launching a new product to market. The tool takes into consideration facts like the market size, targeted customer base, competitive landscape and cost structure in building a revenue analysis that could be used by your team to test for things like viability and customer buy-in. 

As it is with developing solutions using the design process, the tool gives room for teams to constantly iterate. We designed the tool so teams can compare up to three offerings to best decide on which offering gives your organisation the most value for your organisation. See this as a pivotal tool in building your business case for your new offering just before you launch. It is also a good way to share the value of a potential product with stakeholder and sponsor within your organization.

This tool is great for product teams, strategy and innovation teams wanting to launch a new product/service to use this tool in measuring the offering’s viability.

Here is a breakdown of how you could use this tool.

Step1: Download the Offering Viability Tool here.

Step 2: Write out the offering(s) you want to measure to see if its capable of bringing in revenue for your business. You can use this tool for a maximum of three offerings (3) and a minimum of one (1).

Step 3: Fill each block with the necessary information needed. 

Step 4: Make decisions on the next steps based on the results.

At the end of the session, you’d have come up with clear insights to guide on next steps moving forward to product/service launch.

The Innovation Sourcebook: Finding Inspiration from Successful Products in the Market

There are many ways you can get inspired in launching your new venture or improving on an already existing one. The innovation sourcebook serves as a means to gather various inspirations in one place to help you as you innovate.

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Innovation, as defined by Wikipedia is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

Innovation, in some cases, can be something totally new that was never in existence and in other cases, it is inspired by technology, process or concept that has once existed. However, we see today that business leaders are getting innovative around their businesses more and more.

There are certain reasons why and one I’ll like to point out would be the inspirations they get from novel ideas which may not necessarily be something that directly applies to them or comes from their various industries. For example, we see how a digital revolution led to online booking and leasing service as Airbnb which opened the door for an online car hiring service like Uber and a parking space hiring platform like your parking space UK.

The innovative cycle of new business opportunities is in a loop fuelled by existing ideas. With that said this post is aimed at sharing some of the eye-catching innovation that can inspire you in building your next business venture which will be worth $1 billion, I hope.

The simple way of sharing great ideas that have impacted businesses would be to use the Innovation sourcebook, which is a tool to help you organise various innovative solutions and the unique values they offer to customers and shareholders. Below is one of our curated sourcebooks.

Looking at the curated book above, find out ways that one or more of the above listed solutions can impact the next thing you develop.

A quick thought

How might your team leverage AI in helping people use your offering better?

Use models like the innovation sourcebook to find solutions you can align to meet a unique challenge you may face within your environment.

For business leaders within the banking industry looking to leverage new models or technology, you could use this sourcebook to compile some of the most interesting business models that have caught your attention. Looking through them at a go will help you discover patterns and opportunities you can leverage on to drive business growth.

Be on the lookout for new products and processes being developed around you. Download the innovation sourcebook to help you curate new solutions as they come.