In one of our previous articles, “How to use data to build better digital products”, we discussed how a virtual tidal wave of new apps and websites are launched every day. The majority of which are doomed to fail in a crowded marketplace.
This week we are going to take a deeper dive into what helps separate successful digital products from the competition and the key items you need to consider while developing your next app and website. We’ll look at a few best in class examples and discuss the dos and don’ts of digital product creation.
1. Solve a problem for your user
When Airbnb first launched in 2008, their product idea was modest. Offer alternative accommodation to travelers in a market saturated by expensive hotels. It goes without saying that their product grew to be a roaring success.
Airbnb grew as quickly as they did because they were solving a number of issues for their users that no other product had ever addressed as successfully before. It allowed travelers a variety of accommodation options previously unavailable and local renters an opportunity to earn money by renting their property on a growing and trusted platform.
- Who are our end-users?
- What problem are we solving for them?
- How is our product going to improve their lives?
These are the most important questions you can ask yourself while you are in the ideation phase of creating your app or website. Well thought out and heavily researched answers to these questions will also serve as an excellent north star for your product as it grows and develops.
2. Validate, research and validate some more
In 2009, the film Avatar took the world by storm, raking in a record smashing $2.79 billion at the global box-office over the course of its theatre run. Part of its success was attributed to its groundbreaking 3D technology. This caused TV manufacturers to race to bring 3DTVs into people’s homes. Almost every major manufacturer offered a 3D model by Christmas 2010.
Despite many indicators that would point to this being a good move, there was a disappointing uptake on 3DTVs. There were too many competing forms of 3D, most TV sets only came with 2 pairs of glasses (and additional pairs were expensive), additional 3D capable blu-ray players were required and on top of all of this, there was very little content actually available in 3D. Within a few years, 3D technology was abandoned by TV manufacturers to focus on 4K and OLED sets.
It’s difficult to know how much market research was conducted before the launch of 3DTVs but given the market reaction it's clear to see that many large companies missed the mark completely.
Validating the product idea by conducting surveys, focus groups, customer interviews and utilising analytics tools can prove to be the difference between success and failure for many products.
3. If you can’t be unique, be better
With over a billion available apps and websites it can prove difficult, if not outright impossible, to come up with a unique product idea. Sometimes you don’t need to be original, you just need to offer a clear improvement over your competitors’ product or target an untapped niche.
Even products with an absolute stranglehold on their market can be toppled.
In its heyday, Myspace was the largest social networking site on the planet. It was reaching 100 million users per month and it was the most visited website by users in the US, even beating Yahoo and Google. It was sold to NewsCorp in 2005 for $580 million proving for the first time the huge financial value of social media. By 2007, they would be valued at $12 billion.
Facebook, a comparatively new company on the social media scene, knocked Myspace from the global user top spot by 2008, and the US top spot by early 2009. All of this despite the massive head start Myspace had.
Why? Because Facebook had a better product.
Since being sold to Newscorp, Myspace had become flooded with intrusive ads which led to a declining user experience. Facebook was initially ad free (ironic, I know) and arguably had a much cleaner and user-friendly design.
By 2011, Myspace was sold for $35 million. A measly amount compared to their former value and Facebook’s value today, at just under $700 billion.
This is one of many similar stories from the last few decades in the tech industry. Google toppling Yahoo, Netflix toppling Blockbuster etc.
Innovating and improving on an existing idea or targeting a specific niche in an existing market could end up being what separates your product from the competition.
4. Make sure you are seen and heard
Remember Everpix? The beautifully designed cloud based photo app developed by a team of former Apple employees? Neither do we!
Despite receiving millions in funding and developing an app that was loved by its user base, Everpix ran into problems quickly when they spent the majority of their budget on development and never properly invested in marketing.
After failing to secure enough users, and eventually further funding, Everpix was forced to shut down in 2013, just two short years after it started. There are quite a few factors that pop up when Everpix’s failure is discussed but failing to market their product is considered the root cause of their problems.
It may sound obvious, but an effective marketing campaign is going to decide whether or not your product becomes a success.
It’s important to generate anticipation and excitement for your product before it launches. That’s why it is always good to create a marketing strategy that focuses on pre-launch, launch and post-launch.
Understanding your customers, choosing the ideal platforms to advertise on and create a space for your brand in your customers’ minds all play a large part in any effective marketing campaign and ensuring the growth of your product.