How to Validate Your Product or Service

I recently attended a session hosted by iconic UX guru Jared Spool on Why Concept Testing is Hard. As a UX designer who has created more than her fair share of speculative prototypes, I was all ears.

Why concept testing?

When companies are considering whether or not to launch a new product or service, they often test their ideas first with high or low fidelity prototypes (aka concept testing). They do this to avoid two risks:

  1. The risk of building something customers don’t find valuable (and thus won’t buy) and
  2. The risk of NOT building something that customers DO find valuable (leaving money on the table).

Unfortunately, concept testing today rarely uncovers either of these risks. The reasons for this are rooted in the way concept testing is done. Asking customers what they ‘like’ about the concept or asking them to predict their future behavior is not going to lead to accurate results. Viewing a prototype or concept out of context can also lead to false findings.

How should I validate my concept?

There is an alternative to concept testing – and it comes down to understanding two factors:

  1. Who are your target customers, and
  2. What problem or problems are they trying to solve.

Strategic research to the rescue

Strategic research will help you answer both these questions. Let’s focus on the second question though, as we’re talking about concept testing. Understanding what the current experience is like for your users today is key (and yes, that means talking to actual customers). This is where service blueprints and customer journey maps come into play. These tools document your customer’s actions and emotions while they are interacting with your current product or service, capturing both moments of satisfaction and areas of discontent.

Target customer outcomes, not features

Next, think about the customer outcomes you want from your product or service. We’re not talking about features – we’re talking about how your product or service will improve your customers’ lives. For example, a good customer outcome for a travel planning app might be this – a young family, embarking on a multi-country trip, confident that all their travel plans are readily accessible on their phones.

What is the problem to solve then?

It’s the gap between the current experience and your desired customer outcomes. It’s what the user can’t do to achieve the outcome. In the example above, the current customer journey map showed that customers were frustrated by having to manually enter confirmation numbers of hotels and airlines into their itinerary (no one’s definition of easy). The team would then go about building the solution to this problem, taking their customers one step closer to their desired outcome.

The beauty of this approach is that if you do your strategic research right, you may not need concept testing at all. You’ll have enough info to go straight to the solution.

Ready to ditch concept testing?

Not quite sure how to approach strategic research? Unsure about creating a customer journey map or service blueprint? Contact 3Create – we’re happy to help!

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