The Benefits of Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
What do highly successful apps like Spotify, Uber, and Instagram, have in common?
They all have used a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) process to not only test the viability of their respective products but to build functionality over time based on user testing data and feedback to gradually evolve into the mature apps they are today. A Minimum Viable Product is a version of the product which includes only the features that solve a core problem for a specific set of users, allowing an organization to release it to market. The goal of an MVP is to provide immediate value, quickly, while minimizing development costs, to gather data and feedback that can then be applied to improve future iterations of the product.
Below are seven major benefits to choosing this iterative, agile process over the all or nothing approach.
Iterative Development and the Build-Measure-Learn Process
When an organization decides to develop a product, assumptions are made. Assumptions can be made on any of the following: what users they want to target, how the design should work, what marketing strategy to use, what architecture will work most efficiently, and which monetization strategy will make the product sustainable. However, no matter how certain organizations may be of their assumptions, for a product to find success, these assumptions need to be validated.
By using the iterative, “build-measure-learn” process of MVP development, organizations can validate or invalidate these assumptions with little to no risk. Iterative development is designed to identify user pain points and determine the proper functionality to address those needs over time, by continually testing assumptions against user feedback to make fast product changes as new information presents itself. Following the “build-measure-learn” process businesses begin by building an MVP to test an assumption, release the product, let the users test it, and then collect feedback to guide the iterative loop that is used to make decisions on future iterations of the product including; what other features to add, what aspects will help increase sales/ROI, and exactly where you should allocate budget.
The Benefits of an MVP
Winning Stakeholder/Investor Buy-In
In many cases, businesses rely on stakeholder or investor buy-in to secure funding and get the green light on a mobile project. The key to receiving this buy-in is to build confidence in the product being pitched and its ability to achieve the desired outcome (i.e. increase revenue, reduce check-out times, etc.). Developing an MVP is an effective method to securing this buy-in as it allows businesses to understand if their idea will work before going to investors, ensuring that when they do they will have a solid business case that demonstrates the market validity of the product. Furthermore, an MVP is a fully functioning product so, businesses can show investors a physical product. Ultimately, stakeholders want to invest in products that will be successful, and an MVP not only proves the merits of a product, it provides a physical product stakeholders can see and use, and if buy-in is granted, a product that can be launched into the market without stakeholders having to wait months to see return on their investment.
Testing Business Concepts
The biggest benefit of developing an MVP is that it allows organizations to test their business concepts. By offering the core set of features rather than a full-blown, feature-heavy product, organizations can verify if their product concept resonates with who they believe to be their target audience, providing an opportunity to change a product’s direction based on findings. When the product is launched, organizations will have the ability to identify what types of social groups are the most active users, and how they interact with the product. This information can be used to tailor app functionality to suit these users more. With a feature-heavy product, it would be much harder to change anything as organizations would need to essentially rebuild an entire product. Instagram, is an example of a brand that used its MVP to do this. Instagram wasn’t always the photo-sharing application we know of today. Originally, its core idea was centered around a GPS feature. However, after it was launched leaders decided to change the concept based on insights.
Verifying Market Demand
An MVP is all about testing, seeing what works and what doesn’t. In some ways, an MVP is more about trying to achieve an understanding of the market demand, than it is about trying to sell or acquire customers. Often, organizations assume that their product fulfills a specific user-need; however, this may not be the case as either the need doesn’t exist, or solutions already in the market address the pain point. An MVP allows organizations to test market demand for their product, discovering if potential users need and will use the product without having to invest large amounts of money. Based on these findings organizations can either re-work the solution their product provides to allow for more market differentiation or come up with a new concept altogether. For an app to be successful it is integral businesses conduct user research to ensure that their product provides a solution that their customers have expressed a need for.
Developing a Monetization Strategy
Products need to be profitable. When it comes to mobile applications, building a sustainable stream of income involves defining a mobile app monetization strategy. However, as numerous app monetization strategies have been proven to be successful, deciding which strategy is best can sometimes be difficult. With numerous considerations in mind, businesses may think one strategy will work but ultimately, may not be the best choice. The best thing to do is to test this assumption with an MVP. For example, if an app monetization strategy is centered around in-app purchases, organizations can use their MVP to test this strategy and assess their users’ willingness to pay for upgrades and add-ons available within the app. If results show users aren’t purchasing as much as leaders had hoped for, this is an indication that another approach to monetizing the app should be taken.
Testing UX and Usability
Creating a mobile product that results in deep user engagement is a difficult task to accomplish. According to Localytics, only 32 percent of users continue to use an app after three months and 21 percent of users abandon an app after one use. It’s vital to have a goal that goes beyond the mere number of downloads. Retaining users by providing continual value is an essential goal of UX design and an MVP will test the product’s potential for app engagement, longevity and lifetime value. Again, saving on costs before proceeding with further development. With an MVP, organizations can gather data and insights on how users interact with the product to assess how quickly they understand the purpose and flow of the product, and based on this, can identify new opportunities to expand functionality to provide a better user experience.
As mentioned above, mature products are the result of years of development, with a price tag to match. But because these apps were created iteratively over a longer period, the cost is spread over time, often with reinvestment of the revenue generated from earlier versions. The minimum approach also helps to prevent the product from becoming over complicated and requiring more sophisticated coding and solutions. As businesses begin to gain more users and gather more information to inform the direction of the product from the MVP, they can begin to invest more, and more intelligently.
An MVP is a process centered around testing. In this process, businesses identify their riskiest assumptions, find the smallest possible experiment to test that assumption, and use the results of the experiment to guide development. The key takeaway here is that a Minimum Viable Product allows organizations to start smaller and iteratively build up to produce a better, more polished product – all in a way that allows them to leverage user intelligence to make the best product decisions. With every release version, the product evolves to maximize ROI and move towards a fully mature application.