Product validation

The process of testing and evaluating a product idea before investing developer resources.

What is product validation?

Product validation is the process of testing and evaluating a product idea before developing it. It’s about ensuring your product resonates with your target audience and solves real problems they face. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of building a product nobody wants and maximizes the chances of success.

Product validation answers the question, “Is there really a market for a product like this?” before you build that product.

Why is product validation important?

Launching a product without proper validation can be disastrous. You could waste development resources on features nobody wants, experience low adoption rates after launch, or even face product failure due to a lack of product-market fit. Validation helps you achieve this fit by identifying customer pain points and ensuring your product offers the right solution. It’s crucial to validate your product idea early on to make informed decisions and build a product that truly resonates with your target audience.

What is the cost of skipping product validation?

Let’s look at two real-world examples, one success story and one cautionary tale, to illustrate the importance of product validation.

Product validation success story: Slack 

Slack saw a massive inefficiency in how corporate communications had evolved over the decades. Namely, disjointed communication across emails, instant messaging platforms, and project management tools (just to name a few). Its founders proposed a tool to integrate the functions of communication and collaboration tools into one.

To validate this product idea, Slack conducted extensive user research through interviews and focus groups with professionals. The researchers discovered a strong need for a centralized platform for team communication that was easy to use, searchable, and integrated with other popular workplace tools.

The well-known outcome: Win! By validating the problem and tailoring its product to address it, Slack achieved phenomenal success. It revolutionized workplace communication and became a billion-dollar company within a few short years.

Product validation flop: Wearable tech

A search engine giant invested in hands-free communication and information access through wearable technology.

To validate this product idea, the team primarily relied on internal development and limited user testing. They focused on the novelty of the technology itself rather than understanding user needs and behaviors.

The well-known outcome: This wearable tech product met analyst and consumer criticism for privacy concerns, limited functionality, and awkward appearance. After developing this, it went unused and was ultimately pulled from the market.

These contrasting stories illustrate the extreme importance of product validation. Despite being a startup, Slack quickly grew into a multibillion-dollar company by understanding user pain points and building a product that solved them. In contrast, the wearable tech product failed to properly validate the market need and user behavior, resulting in a product that was not well-received. 

How do I validate a product idea? 


The product validation process: A step-by-step guide

We can view the product validation process as a series of questions that you must answer (honestly) about your product idea, the market in which it would compete, and the types of users/consumers for which I might solve a problem—and then finely honing the specific, target audience that would find it appealing. 

Step 1: Define your product idea 

  • What problem does your product solve? Clearly define the core problem your product addresses.
  • Who is your target audience? Identify the specific group of people who will benefit most from your product. 
  • What are the product’s core features and functionalities? Outline the key features that will deliver value to your target audience.
  • How does this product align with your company’s goals? Ensure your product idea fits your overall business strategy.

Step 2: Conduct market research 

  • What are the current industry trends relevant to your product? Understanding industry trends helps you identify opportunities and potential challenges.
  • Who are your main competitors, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Conduct a competitive analysis to learn from existing players in the market.
  • Is there a clear financial opportunity for your product? Assess the market size and potential revenue streams to determine financial viability.
  • Resources: Utilize tools like Google Trends and industry publications to stay informed about market trends.

Step 3: Conduct user research

Beyond general market research, delve deeper and understand how potential users perceive your idea:

  • What do consumers of similar or adjacent products/software think of your new idea?
  • Find these consumers/users: Consider online communities, social media groups, or targeted surveys to connect with potential users.
  • Get their input/feedback: Conduct user interviews, surveys, or usability tests to gather valuable insights. With in-app feedback capture, you can ask users what they’d value. You can also filter by user segment, like NPS “Detractors” or super users, to get granular feedback into user groups.

Step 4: Identify your target market

Focusing on a specific target audience is crucial in the early stages:

  • Benefits of a defined target audience: A well-defined target audience allows you to tailor your product and messaging to resonate with specific needs.
  • User personas: Creating user personas helps you understand your target audience on a deeper level, informing product decisions.

Step 5: Decide if the idea is a likely winner—or a flop.

Finally, using the detailed quantitative and qualitative data gathered in steps 1 through 4, assess whether your product will be profitable if brought to market as envisioned. Honesty is crucial here. No matter whose pet project it may be, if the cost of developing it will exceed the return (whether in monetary or other measurement terms), the idea should almost certainly be deprioritized (if not scrapped altogether).

How valuable is user feedback in product validation?

User feedback is the cornerstone of effective product validation. It’s the voice of your target audience, providing crucial insights that can make or break your product’s success. By gathering early and ongoing user feedback throughout the validation process, you can:

  • Refine your product concept: User feedback helps you understand how users perceive your initial idea. They might point out flaws you haven’t considered or suggest alternative features that better address their needs.
    • Example: Imagine you’re developing a fitness app with a focus on personalized workout plans. User feedback might reveal a desire for a built-in meal planning component or a community feature for recipe sharing and motivation. This valuable insight can help refine your app to offer a more holistic fitness solution.
  • Identify pain points and unmet needs: Users are the ones facing the problems your product aims to solve. Their feedback helps you understand the specific pain points they experience and how your product can alleviate them.
    • Example: You’re creating a new project management tool for freelance creatives. User interviews might reveal frustrations with existing tools, such as difficulty managing client communication or tracking project timelines. This feedback allows you to tailor your tool to address these specific challenges.
  • Validate feature ideas: User feedback helps you determine which features are most valuable and likely to be used, saving you from investing resources in developing features nobody wants.
    • Example: Suppose you’re considering adding a complex data visualization feature to your financial planning software. User testing might reveal that your target audience prefers a simpler interface focused on budgeting and goal tracking. This feedback helps you prioritize features that offer more value to your users.
  • Improve usability and user experience: Early user testing allows you to identify any usability issues in your product prototype. This ensures your product is intuitive and user-friendly, creating a more positive user experience.
    • Example: While developing a new mobile game, user testing might reveal confusing navigation or unresponsive controls. Addressing these issues based on user feedback can significantly improve the game’s playability and user satisfaction.

By incorporating user feedback throughout the validation process, you can ensure your product is genuinely user-centric and addresses the needs of your target audience. The result is a higher chance of product success after launch.

What techniques can I use in my product validation testing?

There are various techniques to validate your product idea and gather valuable user feedback. Here are some of the techniques that tools like Pendo Listen can help you with.

User interviews and focus groups: Discuss your product idea with potential users to understand their needs and pain points. User interviews and focus groups provide in-depth qualitative data that can be targeted to specific user segments. This can be crucial for shaping your product concept and ensuring it resonates with the right audience. Tools like Pendo Listen can facilitate this by enabling polls and information capture, within your application prototype or minimum viable product. Users can provide real-time feedback via text boxes, or indirectly through session recordings and playback, for a more user-friendly experience than traditional methods.

Fake door testing: This technique lets you gauge user interest in potential features without actually building them. Instead, you create mockups or prototypes of features and observe how users interact with them, tracking metrics like clicks, scrolls, and time spent to understand user interest. Use Pendo Listen to create and validate realistic prototypes to understand user behavior. This data can help you identify areas of confusion or high engagement, informing your decision to develop or further refine the feature.

Landing pages with lead capture: The idea here is to generate interest and collect email addresses from potential customers by showcasing your product concept on a landing page, then use this outreach data to gauge market demand. Use analytics to understand which elements on your landing page are most engaging and identify any areas that might be confusing visitors. You can also use Pendo Listen to capture email addresses from potential customers who express interest, giving you a targeted audience for future outreach.

Early bird discounts: Incentivize pre-orders and gather valuable feedback by offering early bird discounts on your product. Early bird discounts can help you gauge user interest and secure early sales. You can use Pendo Listen to collect in-app feedback from these initial users, then send targeted in-app surveys or feedback prompts to gather insights on their experience. Collecting input from early adopters allows you to identify any issues or areas for improvement before a more expansive product launch.

How do I choose the right product validation techniques?

The best product validation techniques depend on several factors, including your specific product and stage of development. Here’s a breakdown of the techniques mentioned earlier and some guidance on when each might be most appropriate.

User interviews and focus groups are best for early-stage ideas or concepts that need in-depth exploration. For example, you’re developing a new mobile productivity app. User interviews can help you understand common workflow challenges and identify features that would be most beneficial to potential users.

Fake door testing is best for testing specific features or functionalities before investing significant development resources to build them. Say you’re considering adding a social media integration feature to your e-commerce platform. A fake door test can reveal user interest in this feature and how they envision using it within your platform.

Landing pages with lead capture are best for generating early interest, gauging market demand, and collecting contact information from potential customers. If, for example, you have a pre-launch concept for a fitness wearable, a landing page can showcase the product’s design and core functionalities. Capturing email addresses from potential customers interested in early access helps you assess market demand while building an audience for future outreach.

Early bird discounts are better during later-stage product development when you have a minimum viable product (MVP) ready. Maybe you’ve developed an MVP of a language learning app to compete with Duolingo. Early bird discounts can encourage pre-orders while allowing you to collect feedback on the app’s interface, learning methods, and overall user experience—not to mention what they like better (or less than) that big-name competitor.

By understanding each technique’s strengths and ideal use cases, you can choose the right combination to validate your product idea at every stage of development. Remember to consider the resources available, your target audience, and the specific insights you hope to gain when selecting your validation techniques.

How can Pendo help me with effective product validation?

Pendo is a product experience platform that enables user research for product validation, product discovery, and product adoption suite that empowers you to gather rich user data and feedback throughout the product validation process and the entire product development cycle. Pendo Listen can supercharge each product validation technique mentioned earlier.

  • Pendo Listen helps you to gather and understand large pools of user feedback directly within the prototype or MVP of your software application. This user-friendly approach allows users to interact with your product concept while providing feedback layered in with your qualitative and visual data. 
  • With Pendo, you can validate product ideas by creating Idea Tests and monitoring how users respond. This data provides valuable insights into user interest before development begins, informing your decision to develop the feature or refine it further.
  • Close the feedback loop by creating user segments and targeted in-app communication to users that participated in feedback. You can also add validated ideas and feedback to your roadmap within Pendo Listen, giving leadership and other internal stakeholders insight into what you’re planning, and why.

By incorporating the Pendo product experience platform—and specifically Pendo Listen—throughout the validation process, you can make informed product decisions based on real user feedback, ultimately leading to a more successful product launch.

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