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product discovery process

Product discovery is the very first stage of the product development journey. It is fair to call it a never-ending one, too. It guides you through creating your product, provides insights, and helps with the following steps or turns. On top of that, ecommerce product discovery helps understand customers' exact needs and offers the products they need.

This guide explains the concept of discovery and its techniques. It's also about tools, common mistakes, and useful tips and recommendations.

What is product discovery?

It is a process of uncovering, understanding and defining the main aspects of a web or mobile product. Its goal is to create a solution that addresses users' needs and aligns with business goals. It includes user research, market analysis, competitive research, and concept validation. The goal is to understand the target audience, its pain points, and its behavior.

The outcome of this phase is a roadmap for the development process. It's based on a clear product vision and defined user requirements.

The benefits of product discovery

The product discovery increases your chances of building a successful and valuable product. It will resonate with users and drive business growth. Here are its top three benefits.

  1. Lower risk and waste

    Skipping a product discovery means gambling on assumptions. Instead of learning about your users' needs and desires, you'll be guessing. During the digital product discovery, you confirm your idea and product before spending time and money building and marketing it. It also allows your design and development teams to pivot when needed to save cost and time in the long run.

  2. Innovation and competitive advantage

    While exploring the product, you learn about marketing trends and the competitive landscape. You can differentiate your product from similar ones and stay ahead in the demand. You create innovative solutions and deliver a competitive advantage.

  3. Efficient and smooth delivery process

    The product discovery process inspires your team to be creative and think outside the box. Incorporate customers' viewpoints from the very beginning for more innovative and sophisticated solutions. The business team will understand which ideas are market opportunities and which ones to put aside.

Efficient and smooth delivery process

Key steps in the discovery process

  1. User research

    At this stage, you absorb as much information about your target audience as possible. Focus on pain points, needs, and expectations until a clear pattern appears. The best-known techniques include interviewing, running surveys, and user testing. The goal is to identify a real task instead of validating an initial idea.

  2. Problem definition

    The next step is defining the problem or opportunity the product aims to address. It means analyzing insights and identifying common patterns. As a result, you get a clear problem statement — focused, specific, and actionable.

  3. Ideation

    At this stage, your teams finally start cracking the problem and brainstorming solutions. Ideas can come from team members, stakeholders, or user feedback. Encourage creativity and the ability to explore different perspectives. These qualities help generate innovative and viable product concepts.

  4. Concept validation

    Validating potential solutions before investing significant resources is a must. This phase involves creating prototypes or mock-ups to test the concepts with users and collect feedback. Conduct usability tests and move to the next iteration.

    Typically, you go through this stage several times to test multiple iterations and concepts.

  5. Roadmapping

    After concept validation, the team moves to prioritize features. Considering user value, business goals, market trends, and technical feasibility is vital. The endpoint is a roadmap for the development process. The roadmap outlines the features sequence, milestones, and timelines. It guides the development process from the beginning to the release.

    Remember you can always step back and move in a different direction if it's reasonable.

Common mistakes in the product discovery process

  1. Lack of user research

    Not paying proper attention to user research is the most significant mistake. It might be time and money-consuming, but it pays back well. Skipping this point, you risk going in the wrong direction from the beginning.

  2. Ignoring feedback

    Overlooking user feedback results in unsolved problems and missed opportunities for improvement. Listen to users, analyze, and incorporate their feedback to make the product user-centric.

  3. Unclear problem definition

    Unclear definitions make the entire development process vague and unspecific. Operate data, facts, and insights, not someone's sixth sense or theoretical knowledge.

  4. Premature solutions

    Rushing into action can result in wasted effort, time, and money. Explore solutions, brainstorm them with your teams, and commit to one.

  5. Inadequate validation

    With inadequate validation of hypotheses, you risk building a product based on assumptions. Run regular hypothesis testing and validations. This way, you will deliver a product that resonates with both users and businesses.

    Inadequate validation

Key product discovery principles

Be user-centric. Always put your users at the center of your product discovery process Make all the processes spin around them. This way, you'll understand what they like, how they behave, and what bothers them.

Don’t stop learning. Make constant learning a part of your culture. Constantly work with feedback, test your ideas, and ask for feedback one more time. Pay attention to failures — they are the most valuable source of information. At some point, it is all about learning from failing.

Work as a team. The UX/UI design team, marketing, development, and business representatives must collaborate during digital product discovery. Such collaboration leads to diverse perspectives sand ensures a holistic approach to problem-solving.

Take small steps. By adopting an iterative method, you allow gradual improvement and refinement. The goal is to gather feedback and make improvements and adjustments step by step. You don't have to deliver a perfect product on the first try.

Eventually, you might end up in a slightly or totally different place from where you expected.

Base your decisions on data. Collect and analyze relevant data, such as user metrics, market trends, and competitive analysis. It provides insights about the market you're entering. Make all your choices by leveraging these data.

Product discovery techniques

  1. Customer interviews

    The easiest way to define what people need is to ask directly — organize interviews. You can ask all follow-up questions and be creative. This way you educate yourself about the latest trends and forever-changing opinions. Interviews disclose the motivations and struggles of your potential clients. You also hear the language they use and discover the things they value.

    The only pitfall is that interviews take a lot of time to organize, conduct, and analyze. They can also be expensive, so once you start speaking to a customer — make the most of this time.

  2. Product analytics

    Data provided by product analytics is mostly used after a product launch. However, it can inspire new features and be a ground for changes during a product discovery. Compare the main theses from your surveys or interviews with metrics. See whether they correspond, draw conclusions, and make decisions afterward.

  3. Competitor analysis

    Learning how users feel about your product has a lot to do with the options they have. Competitor analysis allows you to see the problem from different perspectives. Keep in mind that your competitors have gone through a digital product discovery themselves. Their solutions are a reflection of their insights. Thoroughly explore their products and evaluate them from a user’s perspective.

  4. Brainstorming

    Brainstorming is the most straightforward way to come up with ideas. Organize a meet-up for your teams and key stakeholders. Communicate the objective and the problem. During the ideas-sharing round, you will probably notice consistent themes emerging.

    The outcome of brainstorms is usually a bunch of ideas to try.

  5. Prototyping

    Create a paper prototype or low-fidelity sketch for initial product designs. Complement it and adjust for new features. Make your prototype easy to tweak, iterate, or scrap if needed, based on customer feedback. Having one, you can make all edits before spending money on developing the solution.

    Use prototype testing to identify how your users interact with early versions of your product. Review data to make improvements in the next iterations.

  6. Usability testing

    This method helps evaluate how easy it is to use your product or website. Present your users with test scenarios and tasks they need to complete on your platform. Use insights and comments from this usability test to make the following improvements.

    Usability testing

Types of product discovery tools

User research tools are used to gather information about user preferences and behavior. SurveyMonkey is a well-known example. With its help, you can collect user feedback, conduct surveys, and perform usability tests. As a result, you receive game-changing data.

Analytics tools such as Google Analytics offer essential insights into user interactions and behavior within digital products. Monitor metrics like conversion rates, page views, and user flows. They help you notice patterns that involve product strategy.

Design and prototyping tools, like Figma, make it easy for designers to create visually appealing and interactive prototypes and present them to other teams. These tools ease collaboration and work with feedback, ensuring effective iterations.

Market and competitive research tools such as SimilarWeb provide data on market trends, competitor analysis, and industry research. You can gain insights into the competitive landscape and identify market gaps.

Collaboration and communication tools, like Microsoft Teams, foster teamwork and information sharing. Their functionality usually includes real-time communication, file sharing, and collaboration on all activities.

Tips for successful digital product discovery

Define the goals and objectives. Establish what outcome you expect from a product discovery process. It might be understanding user needs, exploring market opportunities, or improving an existing product. With clear goals, the process goes smoothly, and every team focuses on their part of one big job.

Place the user at the center of your efforts. Invest time and resources in interviews, surveys, and usability testing. Listen to user feedback and incorporate it into the decision-making process.

Maintain transparent communication throughout the process. Be open about insights, progress, and troubles with stakeholders and team members. Effective communication fosters trust and encourages collaboration, resulting in better outcomes.

Embrace the principles of agility. Be ready to adapt and adjust your plans based on new insights and market dynamics. Embrace change and pivot if necessary, making a place for improvement.

Conclusion

"If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the problem and could solve the problem in less than five minutes." This phrase by Albert Einstein is a textbook definition of a product discovery process. Understanding your problem makes it much easier to find a solution.

The product discovery helps define the audience and its problems. It helps to understand how it will accept your help and the outcome for both users and businesses. It also educates you about possible failures in advance, so you don’t have to pay for them later.

How Blackthorn Vision can help in product discovery

We have extensive expertise in product discovery and can assist you from the beginning or improve your existing product.

We offer a comprehensive and structured approach to understanding user needs, validating ideas, and defining a clear product vision. We have experience starting a business analysis at the beginning of the development process or using its techniques to improve a product and improve it with new features.

Contact us if you have an idea or want to improve and modernize your product. We’ll find the best ways to make it more user-oriented and profitable. Let’s make it happen!

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