Effective product development teams know that great products are never done. Great teams use continuous product discovery habits to generate new ideas for their product, get feedback from current and future users, and iterate based on that feedback.
Everyone knows that they should be doing this work, but staying connected to the customer takes work. Once you have collected user feedback, you need to share it beyond the product team. Designers, engineers, marketing, and even execs benefit when they are closer to the needs of the customers.
If this sounds like a big endeavor, you're not wrong, but we're here to help.
In this post, we'll:
Dive into the five most important benefits of continuous product discovery
Share strategies for building product discovery loops into your existing workflows
Break the continuous discovery process into five (manageable) stages
Share free templates that you can use to test your assumptions and determine whether those assumptions are leading to desired outcomes
Give you questions to use in unmoderated or moderated research sessions to reveal your user's pain points, needs, wants
Provide examples of companies that are doing this really well and as a result building really amazing products.
What is Continuous Product Discovery?
Continuous product discovery is a process in which a product development team continually identifies and prioritizes new product ideas and features, gathers feedback from customers and stakeholders, and iteratively develops and tests those ideas in order to create a product that meets the needs and desires of its target market.
Putting continuous product discovery into action requires collaboration and communication among team members, as well as a focus on rapid prototyping and experimentation in order to quickly validate or invalidate ideas. These continuous product discovery habits are often used in agile product development, and help teams quickly iterate and adapt to changes.
Why is Continuous Product Discovery Important?
Continuous product discovery brings you closer to your customers, but processes are critical to make sure it prioritizes the actionable feedback that comes out of it.
Here are five important benefits that can help get your colleagues on board.
Five Reasons Why Building Continuous Product Discovery Habits is Important
- Customer-driven Development
Continuous product discovery allows teams to gather feedback from customers and stakeholders on an ongoing basis, which helps ensure that the product being developed meets the needs and desires of its target market.
By continuously gathering and acting on feedback, teams can quickly adjust their product roadmap and pivot their development efforts as needed in response to changing market conditions or customer needs.
- Improved Efficiency
Continuous product discovery can help teams avoid wasting time and resources on features or ideas that are not viable or valuable to customers. By rapidly prototyping and testing ideas, teams can quickly validate or invalidate them and focus their efforts on the most promising ideas.
- Improved Product Quality
By continuously gathering feedback and iterating on the product, teams can ensure that the final product delivers the highest value and meets the needs of its target market.
- Increased Competitiveness
By continuously gathering feedback and adapting to changing market conditions, teams can stay ahead of the competition and create a product that is more differentiated and valuable to customers
How to Get Started with Continuous Product Discovery
Want to start implementing a continuous product discovery process at your organization? Here’s how to get started.
Define your target market to understand their needs and preferences, and ensure that you are developing a product that meets their needs.
Gather feedback from potential customers and stakeholders through methods including surveys, interviews, or focus groups. This will help you understand what problems your product should solve and what features and functionality it should have.
Based on feedback, identify and prioritize product ideas based on their potential impact, feasibility, and alignment with your business goals.
Rapidly create prototypes of your top-priority product ideas and test them with customers and stakeholders. This will help you validate or invalidate your ideas and gather additional feedback.
Now that you have feedback on new ideas, iterate on your product and refine it until it meets the needs and desires of your target market.
Once you’ve gone through the cycle of continuous product discovery once, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop! Set up a regular process for gathering feedback, identifying and prioritizing new product ideas, and prototyping and testing those ideas to help ensure that your product development efforts are continuously aligned with the needs and desires of your target market.
This can include a continuous product discovery framework that is set up once and continuously runs to collect insights over time as users are in the product. It’s a hands-off process except that researchers, product teams, and cross-functional groups (even the CEO!) are regularly checking in, curious about the results. These surveys give people across the organization insights as to what’s going on with users, what can be actioned on, and what needs to be dug into further with in-depth, tactical research.
Five Stages of Continuous Product Discovery
- Discovery Research
Discovery research, sometimes referred to as exploratory research, helps identify problems or issues with a product or feature before or after it is released. By conducting discovery research, teams can identify pain points or issues that might prevent users from taking desired actions, and address those issues before they become a problem in the live product. This can help shorten the product development process by avoiding unnecessary work and identifying the most effective solutions early on. It can also solve for issues including improving conversion or fixing critical growth funnels. Discovery research helps teams create better products more efficiently.
- Concept Testing
Discovery research can also be used to identify and evaluate multiple concepts for addressing product issues related to engagement and adoption. A concept test is a research method that does just what it sounds like — it tests various concepts to assess the user appeal and viability. By conducting a concept test, teams can narrow down their options to the most promising concept and ensure they are investing their time and resources wisely before building the product or service. The goal of a concept test is to quickly identify the best concept before moving forward with development.
- Usability Testing
Usability testing involves participants completing a series of tasks using a prototype or a live website or app to make sure the product works as intended and identify areas where the user experience can be improved. During usability testing, participants are asked to "think aloud" as they complete the tasks, explaining any questions, hesitations, or challenges they encounter. This feedback is used to identify points of friction and surface opportunities to improve the user experience. Usability testing is a valuable tool for identifying and addressing any issues with the usability of a product or service, and for gathering insights that can inform future design and development efforts.
- Post-Launch Evaluation
The work of improving a product or service doesn't end with its launch. After launching new features and flows, it's important to measure customer satisfaction and compare the results with previous data to ensure that the changes had the intended effect. This allows teams to understand the impact of their product changes and identify any areas where additional improvements may be needed. Continuous measurement and analysis of customer satisfaction is an important part of the product development process, as it helps ensure that the product or service meets the needs and expectations of its users.
- Continuous UX Measurement
As companies grow and expand their research efforts, it can be beneficial to continuously monitor the user experience in order to identify unexpected problems that might not be on the product team's radar. This type of research doesn't have to be time-consuming or complex. Simple in-product surveys on common pages that measure metrics like net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) can often provide valuable insights and "aha moments" for the business. By regularly collecting and analyzing this type of data, teams can stay informed about the user experience and identify areas for improvement.
- Bonus - Discovery Research
This type of discovery and research never ends. There are always places to iterate and metrics to improve. By constantly measuring and analyzing how products are doing after launch, there will always be new opportunities. And, in business, especially tech, there's always something new to tackle. It's especially important now, with all the agile development going on and teams sometimes pushing out new products every few days. Companies that know how to do user research well are way better equipped to handle change and keep their customers happy, engaged, and retained.
Companies that have Built Continuous Product Discovery Research Habits
Square acquired Weebly in 2018 with the goal of providing its users a more advanced website builder to bring their brick and mortar businesses online and reach more customers. This meant making adjustments to the existing Weebly platform to meet the needs of Square sellers, as well as migrating Square sellers using its previous website builder to the new, more advanced Square Online Store created by Weebly.
Square’s head of research used in-product surveys to enable the Square eCommerce team with relevant in-product insights for product managers, designers, and marketers within days.
Garrett Groszko, Director of Design at Noon Academy, and Ale Argenio, formerly head of UX Research at Noon Academy, needed an easy and efficient way to receive user feedback, and target certain groups of students during specific interactions in order to uncover the obstacles to student participation and social interaction within the study groups. Increasing these numbers was critical to helping them achieve their mission of creating a social, collaborative e-learning program, and solidifying their differentiator in the e-learning marketplace to increase adoption and revenue.
They used in-product surveys to understand how students were experiencing the groups. This helped them determine if the student-led groups feature was furthering their mission to provide a collaborative environment to encourage deep social learning. Were students using it? If not, why not? How could these groups be more effective?
Shift wanted to get feedback from users who were actively browsing for cars on the Shift website, rather than users who had submitted their email address – signaling that they were at the tail end of their shopping journey and submitted a request to purchase or test-drive a car.
To do this, the team leveraged Sprig’s web delivery which allowed them to surface their customer satisfaction survey to eligible users while they were actively browsing for cars on the Shift site. To qualify, users needed to:
Land on Shift’s car browsing directory
Spend 2+ seconds on the page
Have not submitted an email address to Shift
Shift’s customer satisfaction survey was then continuously delivered to 5% of users who met these qualifications (Shift has a lot of users!) – directly within their browsing experience.
Continuous Product Discovery Tools
Continuous product discovery is a critical part of any product manager’s role but finding the time can be difficult when you are pulled in multiple directions at once. These tools make it easier to collect feedback and action on it.
Customer feedback tools: These tools allow you to gather and manage customer feedback, such as through surveys, interviews, or online reviews. Examples include Sprig and User Interviews (check out our integration here!)
Collaboration and project management tools: These tools allow you to manage and track the progress of your product development efforts and facilitate collaboration among team members. Examples include Notion, Asana, and Jira.