Productive app updates while prioritizing the customer
|Richard Harris in Android Monday, February 25, 2019|
Publishing app updates keep developers innovating their product, but if you don't listen to users and stay mindful of important feedback you could be spinning your wheels.
Product innovation is essential for companies that want to have a high-performing app. Top companies that stay ahead of the curve are constantly changing, experimenting and creating new ways for users to engage with products. However, when implementing new app features or experiences, customers need to be at the center of the innovation process.
Companies can use testing, research, and consumer feedback to inform product decisions, and product teams can leverage their unique position as the juncture of customers and the development team to create a great product. When companies make experience changes without keeping users at the center of the innovation process, there is always a risk of alienating your user base. The best companies know how to balance innovation with customer expectations and experience.
In a recent conversation with Scott Ings, who holds an MBA from Stanford, and is the VP of Product at Apptimize, he talks about the problems when sending updates to your app stores products, the risks of not listening to your users, how to implement a feedback system, and more.
ADM: What are the common roadblocks product teams face when implementing a new app feature or experience?
Ings: The first roadblock is that there are never enough resources or enough time to do all the things that are on your roadmap. Prioritization is extremely difficult especially when you’re not sure what is going to succeed.
The second hurdle is that product teams tend to have trouble defining the scope of the work. What should be included in a Minimum Viable Product? Where should we draw the line on what makes it in the initial release?
The third issue is that product teams often aren’t disciplined about clearly defining and documenting the goal of the new app or feature. This means once it’s been released, there is a lack of clarity around whether it was successful and what to do next as a result.
ADM: How can companies prioritize the customer when creating a new app or adding new features to an existing app?
Ings: Customer research is really important, but you also have to test the hypotheses that you’re making. If a customer tells you that they have a certain problem or that a part of your app is confusing, you can’t assume there is an obvious solution. You need to combine user feedback with analytics to help you generate ideas on how to improve the experience. The next step is to test the hypothesis either with a Minimum Viable Product of a new feature or sometimes just making a simple tweak and then proving the hypothesis with A/B testing. You learn from the results, make adjustments, and repeat.
ADM: Why should companies use consumer data and insights to inform app UX?
Ings: At the end of the day, you’re creating experiences for the customers that use your app. If you don’t listen to them (either to their words or their actions), how can you build a product that is engaging/useful to them?
ADM: How can companies adapt to customer feedback when implementing new app features?
Ings: Being agile and iterative is the key. We see that the top performing companies that stay ahead of the curve are constantly changing and experimenting. They try new things really quickly. If the new thing sticks, then they iterate to improve it. If it doesn’t, they scrap it quickly and move on.
ADM: What are the risks of implementing features without understanding how your customer uses your app and what they’re looking for in the app experience?
Ings: There is always a risk of building something your customer doesn’t like. It’s often difficult to do all the research before development and create the perfect product spec before launching. At Apptimize, we usually see that successful teams strike a delicate balance between a deep understanding of customer problems and a willingness to rapidly iterate on different potential solutions. They also plan ahead and build in safeguards that allow them to disable a risky feature if it’s buggy or customers aren’t responding positively.
ADM: How can product teams effectively advocate for app features to the C-Suite?
Ings: A/B testing is a great way to do this. I’ve seen a lot of teams be really successful with creating a lightweight version of the new feature or idea, releasing it to a subset of users, and measuring the impact. If the feature is a great idea, then you have the data to prove that it’s worth more investment.
ADM: Why are product teams well-suited to drive innovation within a company?
Ings: Innovative ideas can come from anywhere, but product teams sit a critical juncture between the customers and the development team. Our jobs are to translate what customers into what it’s possible to build.
About Scott Ings
Scott is the VP of Product at Apptimize where he leads product strategy for their cross-platform experimentation tools. Previously, he was VP of Product Management at Applied Predictive Technologies, a retail analytics and experimentation company that was acquired by MasterCard in 2015. He has an MBA from Stanford and a BSE in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Duke.