in Product Research

A road trip for a roadmap: self market validation and MVP case study

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There’s always some momentum in the creation and launch of a company when you need to ask yourself the right questions & make the right decisions. Those that will define your initial execution plan and, ultimately, that would lead you to be or not to be at the right time and at the right place with the right solution.

 We’re getting closer to launch Onbrowse in open beta. Today I’m about to share with you our own case study of how we are getting there, hoping that it can be instructive and helpful!


It all starts with the Idea

Any online service, as good as it can be, is worth nothing without customers.

Based on this assumption, we made our conviction that online businesses, in a sharply competitive environment, need to build an engaging experience for their users & customers, in order to generate loyalty, retention, and recommendations.UX is booming, and every employee within a company gets to interact in it’s own way with the customer: product, support, marketing, etc …

What if you could get every piece of insight you need on a user and their usage of your product, in a single solution? If it could be used as a cross-company common ground to drive and validate a product strategy, prevent errors and discover opportunities in your product development?That’s the purpose of our product Onbrowse. 


Minimum Viable Feelings, or MVF

 When I decided to commit myself to Onbrowse, I knew I was going to build a sophisticated product that will solve complex problems. What was clear is that I was going to build the product I had dreamed of in my previous work environments.

I had to tell the idea to close friends, people in my network & colleagues who understood the market need for such a solution. One person who felt the need was Maxime, he became my co-founder and together we just validated the MVF. 

At this point, the question was about the manner in which we could deliver the aforesaid promise in a unique, simple, efficient but yet powerful way. 


Building the Prototype

We moved on to prototyping the MVP.

Instead of creating a landing page, wireframes or interfaces, we jumped into Research & Development. We needed to have a clear overview on which data points Onbrowse would be able to collect, with which risks & efforts on both our side and our customers’ side. That would strongly help us understand what we can truly deliver from our original promises; aka our value propositions. 

We quickly decided on two basic and easy-to-deploy integration solutions:

  1. a simple Javascript tracker that gathers tens of data-points, from which we could detect, interpret and understand the navigation, behavior & context for each single user.
  2. a single API method that puts together these usage data-points with our customers’ specific user data.

Right away, in a simple manner and for almost no cost, we were able to invite and involve as many early adopters as we wanted to participate in our project.That is how we convinced 10 websites owners to deploy our tracker before having anything to show. To date, none of them removed the tracker. First sign that “we have something here”.


Building the MVP 

When talking about MVP there are various definitions and strategies. No general rules apply except that you need to concentrate on your core features and ship the first iteration of your product as quickly as possible. Isn’t that right?

Well, not so fast: more haste, less speed. The faster you try to do something, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

Inspired by the Lean Startup Methods, my vision is that building a MVP is the process of crafting and refining your Business Model Canvas (BMC) until your value propositions are met.

Which means, your MVP is ready to launch when your customers say so.

The good: Our roadmap priorities versus our customers’ needs

Keeping your objectives aligned with your users’ and market needs together is key. I would recommend to use the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop methodology. 

At Onbrowse, we started working actively with our 10 early adopters through almost daily communication. We created interfaces, visually delivering the intelligence we generated from the data. We were iterating and grabbing feedback, gradually. Ultimately, we started receiving requests for improvement, feature requests and encouraging messages on our updates. 

“it’s way more intuitive than google analytics”, “it rocks”, “it perfectly suits my need”, “i love this new feature”, etc … 

The more we have been working on the MVP and the more we understood how great the challenge we were facing was. Our roadmap became crazy big (for a MVP), time was ticking, and we faced a growing risk to disperse ourselves.

We needed to put a strong focus on what mattered the most.

The better: Meet the market, refine the roadmap

At this point, Maxime and I decided to get back to the basics: go for a session of market research, by meeting a wider audience in our industry: our future customers, users, and partners. 

The idea behind was mainly to understand:
  • if and how they address the question of User Experience in their daily job
  • what tools and methods they use today for this purpose
  • how much value and benefit they see in a solution like Onbrowse
  • what features, metrics or insights they would need, or like to have

We booked ourselves a ~3 week road trip across France (we are native French) coming with 10 hectic working days, resulting in 40 meetings in 5 different cities (Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille and Paris). Our audience was diverse enough, from UX consultants to managers in large corporate groups, to cover all the scope of our market targets.

We spent the meetings discussing the UX topic, addressing the questions above, then introducing our product without showing it.

We received incredible feedback, insights, questions and interest.

Here is an overview of our trip in figures.

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The first outcome of this trip is: we validated a fit with our market.

The second outcome is the visibility we now have on:

  • what features matter to people in our market
  • where we will have to be outstandingly performing to beat our competition
  • what is actually the V (viable) of our MVP and what is not / what needs to be temporised
  • which companies we address (or not) and the profiles in these companies that are the most likely to be interested by our product

If you get the chance to get through a similar process, do it! It is never too early to meet your customers, you don’t even need a product or something to sell. The output is proven to be extremely valuable for your company.

It’s definitely not enough to shout victory. We had business relations that facilitated obtaining our 40 meetings, which took place exclusively in France, and that could be too little to get a fair overview depending if you address a $100M or $100B market. Also, these were “only” 10 days of outside communication, where the ideal is to meet people every week to continuously build a better product. All-in-all, most of the work is still ahead of us.

But these direct benefits drive us re-focusing on the product, next development steps, planning ahead the roadmap, investment needs, and knowing when and how we will be ready to market.

This is where we stand today!


Launch, Address the world

From our experience, it usually takes time to deliver a solid MVP.Even if you think your product is ready, there is no way to fend off that mixed-up feeling between doubt and excitement when you hit the “launch” button. Quite suddenly you face yourself in one of these (simplified) situations:

  • it’s a miss: you get no traction, your time-to-market is wrong, your product is not really solving a market need, or your place in the market is not yet acknowledged;
  • it’s a match: your product delivers just right & you’re getting traction already;
  • it’s a hit: your product delivers more than expected, you not only fulfill a market need, but furthermore the signs show you can gain market authority. #dream #on

If you’ve done your things well so far, then odds are that your product will be a match or a hit. Fingers crossed for you … and for us 🙂

 

Thank you for reading 🙂 We’d love to read your comments.


ps: we would like to send a special thank you note to all the people involved in this project so far, including our early adopters and companies that opened their doors to us!

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