How to Leverage 9 Digital Product Development Principles to Design and Build Successful Products
Effective product development is not creating a product that customers need; it’s creating a product that customers ‘want’ to use regularly. Read more for tips!
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
According to a 2018 US Chamber of Commerce report, 84% of the small businesses use at least one digital platform to promote their business, while 79% use digital tools to engage with customers and suppliers.
Today, the estimated annual global digital ad spending stands at a staggering $332.84 billion. Closer to home, Americans purchased a whopping $586.92 billion worth of products and services online.
Businesses of all sizes are doubling down on their investments into digital marketing and are trying to engage with their audiences online to offer them richer brand experiences. However, what’s even more astonishing is that digital technologies have evolved beyond their traditional supporting role for sales, marketing, operations, and customer service.
Today, digital technologies play a central role in an organization’s core offering – it’s the product.
The rapid advancement in digital technologies has spawned a whole new era of digital products – services and experiences that are fully digital. Video games, email services, streaming services, creative design tools, AI voice assistants, video chat apps, and countless other products and services are not merely complementary to their physical alternatives; they are native to digital.
We now live in an era of digital native products that are created using digital product development principles. They follow an entirely different philosophy compared to traditional product development, even in an IT environment. This new product development philosophy can be a game-changer for businesses of every size and industry – whether they are digital or not.
What Is Digital Product Development?
In the digital era, a product (or brands for that matter) does not compete with other products like it. Instead, it is competing against everything that’s vying for the attention of the consumer. The modern consumer is routinely bombarded with messages from brands across every industry at every touchpoint – smartphones, TVs, tablets, desktops, outdoor banners – the list goes on.
Digital product development emphasizes creating a product that not only addresses the consumer’s need, but compels them to embrace it; it gives it a place in their mind space, and they enjoy engaging with it, despite the numerous alternatives available to them.
In a nutshell, digital product development is a user-centric process. It utilizes smart technologies (such as IoTs), consumer analytics, actionable data, design thinking, and marketing principles to develop and continuously improve a product that fulfills an unmet consumer need and consistently elevates their product experience.
Why the Popularity of Digital Product Development?
Consider this: an average smartphone user has 40 apps installed on their device, out of which they use only 18 apps regularly. Even millennials, who have an average of 67 apps on their devices, use only 25 apps regularly.
This tells a disturbing story. Even though the consumer has recognized that they need an app (a product in general), and have proceeded to acquire that app, they don’t necessarily use it.
This is a new reality. Consumers are so overwhelmed with choices that they have lesser and lesser time and/or mind space to allocate to something that’s not inherently ‘exciting’ to engage with. In other words, consumers frequently use only those products that are capable of consistently ‘pulling’ their attention towards them.
And here lies the crux of the issue: what do you call an activity that is engaged in captivating the consumer’s attention and compelling them to take action? It’s marketing.
That’s right! In the digital era, the product is marketing!
The digital product development principles were devised specifically to rise up to this challenge.
Digital product development strategy combines marketing, product development, and design thinking. Together, they create a systematic growth process that captivates consumer attention, compels them to make the purchase decision, engages them with satisfying experiences, builds habits. They retain and delight the consumer to the point where they are organically inspired to become a product evangelist.
The product takes the consumer through their entire life-cycle journey from acquisition to retention to advocacy. It consistently elevates the product experience of the consumers and keeps them coming back for more. That is the purpose of digital product development.
And that is how successful products are built!
Advantages of Digital Product Development?
Now that we have identified the purpose and objectives of digital product development, it’s time to understand the unique advantages that prime products for success. The benefits of digital product development can be broadly classified into four groups:
Digital product development uses endpoint devices, social media, and data analytics to uncover deep insights into the behavior of the target customers. These insights help businesses understand what their customers need, how they need it, and when they need it.
More importantly, a strong focus on consumer analytics helps businesses keep track of the rapidly evolving consumer trends and behaviors in the digital age. They then use these insights to tailor the products to satisfy these changing needs.
Besides, businesses can monitor the performance of their products in real-time and ensure that they are delivering a satisfying experience to users. If there are any performance issues, they are identified quickly and addressed swiftly.
Unlike the traditional product development process, which is an all-or-nothing bet, digital product development is iterative and, therefore, more responsive. MVPs (minimum viable products), designing, wireframing, and prototyping allow businesses to test, albeit in a limited way, the consumer response to product ideas before the full launch. They can get early feedback and improve the product in ways that matter.
Rapid prototyping and iterative process of improvement also allow businesses to deliver new features continuously, thereby enhancing user experience continuously.
Modern IT has become almost synonymous with the cloud. Thanks to the cloud, businesses need not invest in expensive server-grade hardware and software. They can develop and test their product’s reception by the target segment using minimum investment in cloud services. Cloud also allows them to seamlessly scale up and down their resource allocation to suit the varying demand.
Naturally, the cloud is a critical pillar of the digital product development process.
Using a variety of team collaboration tools and project management tools, teams can continuously track and monitor the status of the product development in real-time. This allows them to make data-driven decisions that drive product success.
Moreover, the product development team can also get real-time data on the usage behavior of the users. Performance bottlenecks, UI issues, and other such problems can be identified quickly and resolved on priority.
Principles of Digital Product Development
The Product Development process is built on nine fundamental principles:
1. Design for the User
Put the user at the right, left, and center of the product development process. Their needs, behaviors, and context should drive the development process.
2. Understand the Ecosystem
Keeping abreast with the latest trends in consumer behavior, digital technologies, and the political landscape is critical for developing products that will stand the test of time.
3. Design for Scale
Identify possible bottlenecks arising out of the potential explosion in demand, and develop a system that leaves limitless room for scaling.
4. Build for Sustainability
Develop products for the future. Ensure the organization’s long-term financial health by investing in products and processes that give back to local communities and contribute to sustainability.
5. Be Data-Driven
Creating an atmosphere of data-driven decision-making. From innovation efforts to managerial actions to strategic decisions, everything must be based on data, and not on gut feeling.
6. Use Open-source Technologies and Standards
Open-source offers twin advantages – a thriving community and resistance against phaseout – thereby ensuing long-term availability of skills and technologies.
7. Reuse and Improve
Discard monolithic tools and processes in favor of modular ones, which allow reuse. It reduces spending on IT infrastructure.
8. Address Privacy and Security Challenges
In the era of GDPR, CCPA, and other data protection laws, businesses need to develop products with security and privacy baked into them. They should not be mere afterthoughts.
9. Be Collaborative
Groundbreaking insights can come from any source. Therefore, it’s crucial to engage diverse expertise from across industries and disciplines. Publication of work – results, processes, best practices, and so on – widely improves the knowledge base of the talent in the industry, thereby making high-quality talent affordable.
6 Steps to Replicating the Success of Digital Product Development Methodology
Creating an experience with which users fall in love and keep returning to – that’s the goal of digital product development. However, the success of this methodology can be replicated with a variety of products, digital or otherwise. Here is a 6-step strategy to make that happen:
- Identify the Business Outcome – Business Objectives and KPIs
- Establish a Digital Strategy – Leverage digital as a key differentiator
- Engage with Staff and Stakeholders – Get Ground-level Insights on Consumer Needs and Product Viability
- Establish a Culture of DevOps – Create Processes and Train People to Develop and Deliver Value to Customers Continuously
- Adopt an Iterative Approach – Shatter Barriers to Experimentation and Instill a Continuous Improvement Mindset
- Measure and Share Benefits With Everyone Transparently – Identify Critical Contributions by Teams and Individuals and Reward Them
The Road to Success
Effective implementation of the digital product development strategy can help organizations create a product designed for success right off the bat. To realize it, organizations must embrace digital product development principles and implement new processes that collect insightful data from their users.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.