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The Lean Startup Methodology, what is it?

The Lean Startup Methodology is a method for startups to maximize customer value under uncertainty. The Lean Startup Methodology takes the idea of building a minimum viable product (MVP) and going through a process of validated learning and development. The idea is to figure out what customers want and are willing to pay for and building the product for them. Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

Since it’s introduction by Eric Ries in 2008, the Lean Startup Methodology has grown in popularity and adoption due to its principles of using feedback to boost efficiency. With limited resources, the Lean Methodology is designed to help startups maximize value creation. Other key benefits of implementing Lean Methodology into mobile development includes:

  • Faster time to market
  • Lower Cost Overall and Upfront Cost
  • Less Financial Risk
  • Build a Better product that customers want.
  • Less wasted time

Building an MVP

A minimum viable product is a product with only the core features. It’s developing a fast and decent enough product to be released with the purpose of testing the market. The MVP is deployed for testing among early adopters whose feedback will be collected for further customer discovery. The MVP is a way to test the market with the objective of answering four questions:

  • Do consumers recognize that they have the problem you are trying to solve?
  • If there was a solution, would they buy it?
  • Would they buy it from us?
  • Can we build a solution for that problem?

If the answer is yes to all four of these, you have a business. Building an MVP is a way to collect feedback, market response, and test the waters.

The challenge of building an MVP can be a bit more difficult on mobile. There’s a higher bar for mobile apps. They have to be a bit more refined as people are less patient on mobile and there’s a much lower tolerance for bugs. It’s even a bigger headache on iOS with Apple’s rules. Fortunately, Testflight exists to ease beta testing for mobile apps. Now with Apple acquiring Testflight, the process will likely improve and it’ll become much easier to implement a lean strategy of development on iOS.

Feedback is key

At the core of the Lean Startup Method is the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop. Each feature built are like experiments to see how users adopt and engage in the product. In the early stage of building a product, it’s extremely important to talk to your customers. The early adopters, beta testers, and evangelists are key for customer discovery. Do your core proposed product features solve their problem? Data gathered from your first group of beta users is key for figuring out what features to focus on.

“Over-engaging with early users is not just a permissible technique for getting growth rolling. For most successful startups it’s a necessary part of the feedback loop that makes the product good.” – Paul Graham, Founder Y- Combinator

feedback lean startup

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Qualitative and Quantitative Metrics

As highlighted before, feedback from customers are extremely useful and comes in both qualitative and quantitative forms. There are certain key metrics to focus on that will demonstrate health. One of the most important focus for both mobile and web is to measure engagement. Nothing signals stickiness and that you have something with your MVP than to have good engagement in your app. Some hard metrics that shows engagement in mobile includes:

  • Active Users – Number of active users a day/week/month is essential for measuring
  • Session Length – How long do your users spend in your app. The time they open to the time it close.
  • Session Interval – How long in between each session of usage
  • Screen Flow – Interactions in your app between each screens, duration on each screens, and the total number of occurrences in each screen.
  • Retention Rate – the percentage of users who return to your app based on the date of their first visit.

Useful tools for measuring quantifiable metrics of engagement includes Localytics, Flurry, and Mixpanel. In addition to these quantitative forms of measuring engagement, it’s also important to observe and watch users engage in your app for UX purposes. But beyond hard metrics, it can be hard to know where to improve on. In that regards, direct communication from users may be best for clear feedback on your app.

For further reading, check out this Mashable article.

Many of your early adopters want to give you direct feedback on your product. Make it easy for them.

Improving the qualitative feedback process on mobile

feedback statistics app store

Considering how crucial it is in the beginning to receive feedback, it’s extremely beneficial to have an easy process for collecting and monitoring qualitative user feedback as much as quantitative. Reduce friction and make it as seamless as possible for your users to communicate their thoughts with you. Having a native communication channel such as in-app messaging for customers can drastically remove the challenge and incentivize more users to give feedback. The feedback channel should be integrated into the app keeping users fully engaged with minimal effort for users to share insights and report bugs.

A prime example of a useful tool for this is using Helpshift’s mobile customer support software. Being an SDK within the app, Helpshift provides in-app messaging to easily reach users as well as see device information, see previous app sessions, and more. Leverage an in-app mobile helpdesk/CRM like Helpshift for better implementation of the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop by:

  • Easily collect user feedback, feature requests, and bug reports
  • Track the frequency of the types of feedbacks
  • Gage product confusion with FAQs activity
  • Monitor and segment customers by app usage, device, LTV (lifetime value), ect.
  • Directly communicate with users in-app.

“Customer feedback is key to us. We’re interested in their thoughts for product development and negative reviews can hurt. With Helpshift’s features, users can easily report bugs and give us feedback. “ – David Senior, CEO & Co-founder of Lowdown

“Investing in support practices are key when building an app because a user can really understand the features if support is done well. “ – Nicolas Bayerque, CEO of Gone

Any user data points gathered, both qualitative and quantitative, can be extremely beneficial for a glance at user behavior to learn and provide direction for product development. It is crucial to track user behavior, feedback, and use the information when building new features. This is all part of the Lean Startup Methodology. Leverage the right tools to do it, measure, learn, and keep shipping.

TLDR: Make it easy as possible for users to give feedback. If your product is a native mobile app, the feedback channel should be native, mobile, and seamlessly integrated into the app. Collect feedback and monitor for key insights into user behavior. Learn, measure, and develop your mobile app around what your users want.

Published September 17, 2014
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