by Bob Barr

Stop creating merely viable products; develop products people love

Feb 14, 2017
Digital TransformationEnterprise ApplicationsIT Leadership

It’s no longer acceptable to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP). If you’re going to really ring the registers, think minimum lovable product (MLP).

I recently served as master of ceremonies for a digital B2B conference in Europe. Of the many great presentations, one that caught my attention described how one scopes, develops and delivers minimum viable product (MVP).

MVP is a product state that is purposely designed to do the basic job. It is viable, but also minimal in its extra features, functions and overall look and feel. Regardless of whether a website, mobile app or kiosk is used to promote a brand or sell a physical product and collect payment, delivered as a MVP, each would be initially launched with minimum capabilities and provide a simplistic look and feel.

Why MVP?

The concept of minimum viable products was introduced as a way to get a product into a market fast and with low risk. The product is quickly designed and launched, followed by refining and improving the product based on feedback garnered from the customers using the product. This quite formulaic approach allows companies to churn out products as quickly as possible. More important, if they were to fail, the process would be faster and cheaper.

MVPs have served their purpose thus far and are still embraced by many organizations. But when it comes to building products or services, I believe it’s time to rethink its position in our product development life cycle. Here’s why:

In with the new: lovable products

Organizations should consider going beyond delivering an MVP and strive to develop minimum lovable products (MLP).

An MLP is a product or service that a customer, citizen or employee would characterize as providing an experience that is so great that they “fall in love with it.” It has never been more important for brands to aim beyond delivering average or even good experiences. The reason is that consumers are becoming digitally dizzy. They are experiencing a proliferation in digital touch points and services to engage with but have limited time to actually do so. And there is a limit to the number of brands and services consumers can connect with and feel affectionate towards.

If a product or brand is to succeed and survive, it must beat customers’ increasingly liquid expectations from the start. Because if it doesn’t, someone else will deliver experiences that aren’t merely viable, but go straight into people’s hearts. When an experience is particularly fresh, relevant, engaging, social and or helpful, as indicated in recent research on brand love, customers will come back time and time again.

How does one engineer a product or experience that satisfies these criteria?

Developing a MLP requires a customer-centric, design-led approach. It starts with a clean sheet of paper or a pristine whiteboard. Rather than technology or channels, it tries to get to the bottom of what kind of experience people desire. This experience is imagined and designed from many forms of direct customer engagement, including interviews, usability labs and workshops, social media monitoring, and competitive benchmarks. It is informed by research on customer journeys from the first contact through sale, post-sales service, support and renewals.

While these are not processes or artifacts that are necessarily new, it is appreciating that the imagined target state is not a minimum viable product, but rather a minimum lovable product. All too often when the target state presented to senior management is a MVP, it becomes the final product. Other priorities will soon consume new budgets and mindshare. And so as long as the product works, who cares?

Today we know that this way of thinking would have never persuaded people to pay a premium for same-day delivery or get in a taxi cab with a stranger that isn’t the traditional yellow cab. Going forward, consumers will increasingly look to a lovable product more so than one that’s only viable.