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CX ENGINE | The Magazine For Digital Leaders

5 Stages of Digital Product Evolution: Where are you today?

The team at Massive Rocket has worked on a range of projects, from early-stage prototypes to scaled businesses. Delivering product workshops, iterating on products to hit product/market fit, helping companies with product strategy and scaling organizations’ product and engineering teams. We have also worked on the support, maintenance, and upgrades of high scale legacy products.

The products we have worked on go through 5 key stages.

Each stage comes with its own set of challenges, processes, technologies, and solutions. Knowing which stage you are in is key because it allows you to know what you should be thinking of, how to set your goals, what tools to use and how to get to the next stage.

Disclaimer: These stages are a lot more granular and different across products and industries. Some of these stages deserve a book of their own.

Stage 1: Problem Fit

Do your customers really have the problems that you want to solve?

With every exciting idea comes a number of assumptions. Some of these are riskier than others. So you really want to validate your assumptions early and at low cost before getting to the next stage. Early stage customer interviews can save you a fortune in Engineering.

Joost Lobbes, Product Innovation at Rabobank

In this stage, you really want to get a deep understanding of who your customer is, what are they trying to do and how do they do this today. More and more companies have been using frameworks like Jobs To Be Done to capture this information (read more here).

You actually DO NOT want to build anything until you have clear answers to these questions. It is really easy to forget this, start building too early and end up with a solution that is looking for a problem or something that exists already.

Getting a deep understanding and validation of the problem early on will save you a lot of pain later down the line.

Common Stage 1 Challenges & Questions

  • How do I avoid building at this Stage?
  • When should I start building?
  • Who should be part of the initial team?

Stage 2: Solution Fit

Does your solution actually solve the problem your prospects have?

Our biggest challenge is understanding whether all the needs of our prospective customers are met by the product or service we are offering.

Harriet Coates, Product Owner, Ishka Global

In the Solution Fit stage, you want to build and break stuff super quickly to validate your hypothesis. This can be quite daunting, releasing an ‘incomplete’ product can result in frustrated users, you’ll often find early adopters are the most vocal. Your priority is to ensure that the solution and approach you have is the right one. Prioritize speed and get your product our there as quickly as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Only build what you really need to test your hypothesis and core business. It is very easy to start building out loads of admin functionality or features you need to scale. These are problems for later. Focus on value for your users. Get feedback. Measure what matters. Keep your costs low.

Common Stage 2 Challenges & Questions

  • Do I need a CTO?
  • What should be in my first release?
  • What should I be measuring?
  • How many users should I test with?

CUSTOMER STORY Ishka Global, a UK-based Aviation Financing company, used Massive Rocket to get the first iterations of their SaaS platform in front of potential customers early on, then go trough rapid iteration to ensure that the product centred around the highest value elements for their prospects and customers. Read the full story here >

Stage 3: Market Fit

Test the market demand for your product.

Even before you launch a product, you need a data strategy in place so that when you do launch, you can measure product performance from the get go. Without measuring milestones in your product like activation and retention metrics, you won’t have a clear sense of what to focus on to improve adoption and grow.

Kevin White, Growth Marketing at Segment

In the Market Fit stage, you should be in rapid experimentation mode running weekly experiments that are measured in real-time based on very clear goals. Keep a close eye on customer activation and retention. Revenue is always important (and you need a plan) but from a product point of view, you want new users to get to value super quickly and continue using your product every day.

This is also the place where you want to start designing the early stages of your Customer Experience Engine: collect data about your users, understand them deeply and start sending them relevant lifecycle communications as they progress through your product.

Stay focused on activation and retention. Don’t spend all your money on acquiring huge volumes of users until you are sure that they will get value from your product, convert and start generating revenue for you.

Build and test your plan to monetize your product. You want to be ready to fund your growth and raise your next rounds. Make sure that you test your pricing, price packages, business model and conversion points.

Common Stage 3 Challenges & Questions

  • How do I get new users?
  • How do I start gathering data?
  • What do I need in my growth stack?
  • How do I measure activation and retention?

CUSTOMER STORY Ekwateur, a France-based Green Energy company, used Massive Rocket to design their first lightweight growth stack and build it into their processes in order to make rapid, data-driven decisions at low cost. Read the full story here >

Stage 4: Growth

Scale, get more users and serve them better.

Tina Yazdi

The point of the experiment should be to generate data, learn and make decisions. Experimenting without data is not very useful. Without that rapid, closed loop, you are wasting a lot of resources. Build, Measure and Learn. You have got to close that loop.

Tina Yazdi, Growth Team Lead at Amplitude

The Growth stage is about scale and acceleration. You have something special. Time to get as many users as possible before competition shows up. Focus on hiring the smartest people possible, figuring out your product and investing in a proper growth stack that enables your team to move fast and deliver next-generation Customer Experiences.

Once you start getting more investment, you will still be a little resource tight. There is a physical limit to the time you and your team have. You want to be sure that they are working on the highest impact problem. Prioritize effectively. Get the core business right.

You will also want to start looking into the best ways of automating and tweaking your customer lifecycle marketing efforts (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referrals). Read more here.

PEOPLE: Get your teams aligned behind a clear overarching goal and make sure that goal is measurable, shared and tied to your business growth. This is important as you start adding people to your team in order to keep them aligned, focused and motivated.

PROCESS: Make sure that you keep experimenting and innovating fast enough. Adding people means adding processes. You need to make sure that your processes help you grow and don’t end up slowing down your team.

PLATFORM: Select tools that allow you to make super quick decisions, stay agile and move fast. You want to make sure that you are only building the things that are critical to your business and help you scale. Don’t build things that exist already on the market. Use proven out-of-the-box solutions in order to move faster.

Common Stage 4 Challenges & Questions

  • What should I be measuring?
  • What should my growth stack look like?
  • What is my customer journey and where can I improve?
  • What is my core business and what should I outsource?

Stage 5: Enterprise

Increase revenue, give more value to your customers and stay ahead of the competition.

David Berlin

We are the #1 sports app in the world by consumer spend, according to AppAnnie and recently announced that we are to rapidly expand to more than 200 countries and territories. However, if you want to make a significant and smart investment in engineering, you need to make sure that you are getting the right returns. We do this by basing our product decisions on data and test everything.

David Berlin, VP of Product, Engagement, Mobile & Internal Tools at DAZN

In this stage, you will need to put in a lot of work to make sure that you don’t slow down innovation. You will need to look out to the market for what the disruption could be. Be open to being disrupted. Keep assessing new technologies. Understand what you can use to impact your customer experiences and generate new streams of revenue.

With your existing customer base, you want to focus on getting to know them better, serving them better and increasing user engagement, retention, re-acquisition and preventing churn.

Getting the right balance between quick wins and long term plays is extremely hard, you need to do both. The problem with long term investments is in the name, it takes time to get results and deliver value to your customers.

Common Stage 5 Challenges & Questions

  • How do I stay relevant to my customers?
  • How to I keep innovating?
  • How do I align my teams around the same goals?
  • How do you fight inertia?
  • Building the right things and outsourcing what is not core business.

CUSTOMER STORY OAG, a UK-based Flight Data company, used Massive Rocket to accelerate their high scale front-end customer experiences on mobile and web. They used Massive Rocket in order to keep their internal teams focused on the core business (data and analytics) while with working with Massive Rocket to innovate on the customer experience side. Read the full story here >

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