As entrepreneurs, we strive to provide innovative solutions to everyday problems through products. Most of these products begin as ideas transformed into products after brainstorming, finding a product-market fit and prototyping. Early versions of such products are called MVPs. However, like all “first drafts”, MVPs must be validated against the target user group. The reason for this is that an MVP is a culmination of your ideas, concepts and hypothesis, but it may not be what your customers are looking for.
Why is it essential to evaluate your MVP or Minimum Viable Product?
Evaluating your minimum viable product is an excellent way to ensure that the product you’ve created works as intended and will be acceptable to your end-users. The internet is full of stories about countless products that failed (add a link to our blog here) to make their mark because they did not fit their intended purpose. Knowing how to evaluate an MVP reduces the amount of risk you face as an entrepreneur and gives you time to go back to the drawing board and rethink our product journey in case of a problem with your initial product.
To explain this in the tastiest of terms, imagine a use case of a bakery/confectionery shop that wants to create a new dessert. With customers being tired of sweets, cakes and pastries, there is scope to create something new, something interesting. As the head of product management, you want to create something innovative, so you think of making a fried cake with a hole in it. You christen it as the “donut”. You try various recipes and find the perfect product-market fit—a cinnamon-sugar dusted donut that everyone loves. You then place your stand outside the cinema hall at half-time and validate your MVP. You take down customer reactions and finally produce the delightful product everyone loves—a chocolate-dipped, toffee sprinkled cinnamon-dusted donut that is taking the world by storm.
In this process, you thought of an underserved need, hypothesized what customers would want, and created an MVP. You validated your MVP to people by selling a basic version of the product to them, gathered their feedback and finally created your delicious donut, which you constantly iterate and improve on to make new flavours, dinkies and so on.
Well-known brands such as Airbnb, Uber, Groupon and many others started as simplistic MVPs and graduated into full-fledged billion-dollar products that are known the world over.
Validating your MVP
MVP development best practices state that you must validate your MVP to ensure success. There are many ways to validate your idea when you are building an MVP. Companies like Groupon used a simple WordPress page, Foursquare made a single feature MVP instead of the entire product, and Dropbox created an explainer video. No matter what approach you take, it is important to use the learnings from the validation phase to create a genuinely innovative product the world loves.
7 ways to test your MVP
Here are seven easy yet proven ways to validate your MVP before transforming it into a full-fledged donut product. These validation methods must be a part of your minimum viable product checklist to ensure end-product acceptance.
1. Customer interviews
Interviewing potential customers is the best way to validate your MVP. Customer interviews allow you to get feedback from actual potential users of your product. You can gather valuable insights from these interviews about their gripes and expectations of your user base and improve your product before launching it in the market.
Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo help innovators create MVP prototypes funded by interested people who contribute to these projects. The benefits of crowdfunding include an existing user base interested in your product and the funds to make it through to production.
3. Explainer videos
If you do not have a product yet, an explainer video is the next best thing to a corporate presentation. Dropbox did just that with their explainer video, where they showcased the functionality of Dropbox to a large audience through YouTube. Their video was simplistic—yet hit the spot, causing a surge of signups that helped Dropbox reach where they are today.
4. Landing pages
Landing pages can give you a lot of information about your potential user base. Using tools to capture user analytics can help you gather metrics that will determine user interest and see how they interact with your page. Landing pages are informative for both the customer and the developer of the MVP and can help steer a product in the right direction.
5. A/B tests
A/B tests help you determine the better version out of two. For example, you can create two web pages to showcase two different versions of your MVP. You can then gauge user inputs from A/B MVP testing using Google Analytics and Unbounce, etc.
Pre-orders are very similar to crowdfunding, except that they will get the version they order as customers buy a product. Finished products often go the pre-order route to gauge requirements before commencing large-scale production.
7. Concierge MVPs
Concierge MVPs deliver a highly customized service to a select number of customers, giving rise to the name concierge. A company called Rent the Runway is an online dress rental business. They provided in-person service where anyone could try a dress before they buy it. This helped to spread the word and validated their MVP hypothesis—would women rent dresses?
Your questions answered—FAQs and more
Here are the answers to some common questions about MVPs
What is an MVP?
An MVP is a scaled-down version of your product with enough features to attract early adopters and validate a product idea.
Why are MVPs important?
MVPs allow startups to test the waters before launching a full-fledged product—resulting in reduced costs and fewer resources before product validation.
What is the best example of a minimum viable product?
Popular MVP examples include Amazon, Zappos, Groupon, Airbnb and Dropbox, among many others.
What is the difference between POC and MVP?
A POC or a proof of concept showcases that a product is “buildable”.
How long does it take to build an MVP?
According to a survey by Kinvey, the average MVP takes about 18 weeks to develop. This, of course, will also depend on how complex your MVP is.
How much does MVP development cost?
The cost of an MVP can vary greatly. Generally, apps with one or two usable functions cost within $15,000. However, note that the location of your development team plays a significant role in the cost of your MVP.
What if your MVP fails?
The great thing about MVPs is that even if you fail, you can analyze the reasons for your failure and transform your MVP into a product that customers need. This is the basic tenet of MVPs—they allow developers to pivot and create products iteratively.
How to measure MVP success?
There are many ways to measure MVP success. Popular methods include-
- Download numbers
- Customer acquisition cost
- Percentage of active users
- Percentage of paying users
- Average revenue per user
- Market share
What are MVP use cases?
MVP use cases define the functionality of your MVP from a user’s perspective. Every use case is a description of a user action and corresponding response. Use cases illustrate and clarify MVP behaviour to simplify development.
Have you finished the donut? Oh wait, I forgot we were past that phase already! MVPs are a handy tool for entrepreneurs and innovators so they can test the waters before launching a full-fledged product. MVPs make it easy for an entrepreneur to transform their idea into a product without breaking the bank.
Do you have an innovative idea in mind and don’t know where to start? Don’t worry—we’ve all been there! Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with me to know how I can help you transform your idea into a product. At Volumetree, we have helped many innovators take the entrepreneurial plunge by creating world-class MVPs for them. Until then, happy innovating!