With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing businesses of all types into remote work environments, much has changed across the digital landscape. Even the most traditional brick-and-mortar establishments have embraced the remote way of working, including offering their products and services through digital/contactless means. Software development in Sri Lanka has therefore seen a rising trend in shifts to the cloud, as enterprises scramble to set a foundation that will enable them to operate remotely. It’s therefore safe to say that the pandemic in itself has been a disruptor, as it has pushed businesses that are otherwise strictly brick-and-mortar to accept ways of functioning that are more tech-savvy. As these businesses consider whether they wish to continue their remote work environments well after the pandemic subsides, there is one key element that needs to still be focused on – business continuity.
Although a buzzword that was gaining traction well before the pandemic took place, business continuity has become an even bigger hot topic – and for good reason, understandably. But what constitutes business continuity, especially during these unprecedented times? Businesses have mostly been focused on ensuring that what took place at the office or factory on a daily basis, takes place in just the same way through a remote work environment. In addition to that, ensuring access to product offerings for customers has also been crucial, thereby inviting more plans to make this possible digitally.
The facilitation of a digital product that enables the smooth purchase and delivery of a company’s product/service offerings is what constitutes as digital product development – especially during these times. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that your products and services are still conveniently available, for your customers. The right digital application will help you facilitate that. So how do you get started? On top of that, what pitfalls should you avoid to ascertain that your product development endeavour is a success?
Before getting to the nitty-gritty of what constitutes great digital product development, it’s wise to harp on something very important:
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is concerning to note just how many brands/businesses are guilty of doing just the opposite. Focusing on pushing a product out through stringent advertising and marketing efforts before having a high-quality product available is more common than one may think. Hastening the recognition of a premature or poorly thought out product can have a number of negative consequences, such as a bad product-market fit and a loss of investment. Pandemic or not, this is why it is imperative to first have a product that will confidently add value to the lives of your customers, before talking about it in the market.
The below tips are general rules-of-thumb for digital product development, but they will be applicable for any business, regardless of the economic climate. They will help your team understand how a product idea can be made into a business model that is lucrative and sustainable. Read on to know more!
Just like business continuity, customer experience (also known as CX for short) is widely spoken about. What with the pandemic around us, CX doesn’t just become more important than before – it also invites a whole host of newfound variables that businesses need to address. Irrespective of COVID-19 and subsequent economic downturns, a highly consumerist business landscape and the steady proliferation of digital products have created many options for customers to choose from. In other words, there are multiple options for pretty much anything out there. As a result, customers are spoilt for choice. So even the slightest lags or hiccups will cause the typical customer to jump ship – and move over to the competition.
With the onset of this pandemic, there have been severe lapses in customer service as well as accessibility to products. In situations like these, today’s customers aren’t afraid to shy away from a brand that is unresponsive or unattainable – especially when the purchase of essential items are involved. As a business/product owner, this is something that you definitely don’t want. Which is why it is imperative to build a customer journey that is reliable as it is rewarding.
In order to do this, you need to truly listen to your customers’ needs. This may be an oversimplified statement, but understanding where gaps lie in the market and how they can be filled is a good starting point. Empathy is key, and whether or not your competitors are committing themselves to it, your brand is bound to benefit by it. Better understanding of your customers can be done by observing your existing products (digital or not) and determining who the ideal target market is. As an established business, you may already have this information at hand. The next step is to gather relevant teammates from across your organization to gather a varied set of opinions on what should constitute healthy CX, as a company.
In the case of this pandemic, your goal may be to deliver your products digitally to your customers. If your product base was mostly sold offline, this may prove to be a challenge. But outlining a user journey that is easy to access and consists of as less steps as possible is something that can keep your sales afloat during these turbulent economic times – but is one that can be continued well after things return completely to normal. Even after you release your user-centric digital product, improving on CX should be an ongoing process. Be mindful of how your users are receiving your product, and identify any glitches to be corrected. This will sum up as customer feedback, which when welcomed consistently, will lead to optimum CX no matter how complex your product may be.
So you’ve been inspired by something you saw, or had a sudden business idea – and want to make it a reality. Initial thoughts might seem viable (even exciting) from every perspective, thereby making execution and deployment also seem equally free of any loopholes. But is it really the case? This isn’t to say that an idea flash may never be appropriate, but it is crucial to take a magnifying lens to your initial concept and observe it from multiple angles – ideally with others whose opinions you trust.
In order to create a lucrative business model, your idea needs to consist of form and function. A lack of one of these elements can mean a weak foundation for your concept – something you don’t want, obviously. Sitting down with your team to discuss the viability of any potential business concepts with no bias and an openness to constructive feedback can open doors to enhancing what someone had initially conceived at heart.
It is tempting to gain a sudden burst of ideas after seeing something that your competitor just did, or by watching something online. But it is important to stay rooted to the fact that your product needs to fulfil the needs of your customers – something that has already been elaborated on, above. It’s always sensible to focus on the core specialties of your business, and how you can roll your products out in more profound ways with the right digital applications. This should always be the crux of your discussions – irrespective of the many ideas that are brought to the table.
In consideration to today’s economic climate following the pandemic, many businesses are keen to close the gap between products sold offline, by implementing a robust digital application. This application will make it possible to purchase your products from any device, or facilitate subscriptions and enrolments to services. Today’s advancements in mobile application development make it easy to test new ideas in the marketplace. With an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), you can release a basic version of your application and then gauge how users respond to it. Further enhancements can be made based on user feedback, which can then increase the capabilities of your app. This way, you’ll offer a suite of tools and features that haven’t been included based on assumptions, but through comprehensive, user-backed analysis.
How much you’ll need to spend for product development is a valid concern to have. While this depends on the nature of your digital product, it is important to neither over nor under budget expenses. On top of that, you’ll need to scale your product up or down, for which a budget needs to be planned out that’s feasible in the long-term. If your digital product idea is a relatively new one (and it’s also relatively safe to assume that most apps in their infancy are), it’s wise to start small. Aim to spend as less as it is possible, while making sure that the quality of your app is not compromised. As you release your MVP and focus on improving it over time through user feedback, you will be able to determine the overall profitability quotient of your digital product.
Another key factor that determines how profitable your application will be includes the rate of revenue you earn. In turn, this can be a sign to increase budgets for your application, especially if you’re looking to scale up. This way, there’s no need to block a large amount of funds during the beginning stages of your product implementation; it can only cause deficits in other areas of your business, while also possibly causing losses lest your product idea doesn’t pan out the way you intended.
On the other hand, cloud computing providers now offer a plethora of tools to build effective applications that are hosted over third-party infrastructure. They also offer payment plans that clients can choose from, depending on which one is the most affordable. Therefore, a combination of the right business decisions in terms of expenditure, as well as tools from leading enterprise technology vendors can be ideal for planning a powerful digital product on a budget.
While many spoke of product development before the onset of this pandemic, discussions are still on – but with a twist. For one, as most businesses have settled into working remotely, they’re also just as keen to offer their products online – especially if they’ve been dependent on offline sales. Business continuity has become more important than ever before (even after lockdowns have eased) since many continue to operate remotely.
Having the right digital product to continue selling products that you otherwise sold offline is now an essential, as fierce competition is raising the bar for businesses to stay afloat. Add to this the increasing rates of customer abandonment; with so many options available out there, customers are spoilt for choice. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a customer to move over from a brand that is cumbersome to interact with, and straight towards the competition.
That’s why it is imperative to focus on customer experience (CX) to ensure that you’re developing a product which truly meets the needs of your customers. This can be done via sourcing user feedback on an ongoing process, and then building your product based on the insights obtained. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) also massively helps to build based on user feedback. With a basic preliminary version that can then be improved with every iteration, this ensures a final product that is based on user experience and analysis.
While your digital product needs to revolve around the way your target customer base typically interacts with it, an initial concept needs to be established. In other words, it’s imperative to formulate a product concept that is functional, and not just aesthetically or sentimentally appealing. Conducting a brainstorm session to identify viable ideas and expand on them is a good place to start. Last but not the least – budget intelligently. Just like an MVP, it’s sensible to start small and then scale up or down, based on the progress of your digital product.