Building software products users love isn’t optional
Why we started building Shipright — a tool for software businesses to track product feedback in one organized place.
We’re living in an age where the Internet causes tremendous transparency. It gives customers of software products all the leverage. They can find what others think about a product within seconds, and they can find alternative solutions for their needs just as fast.
In addition, cloud services became the norm. Trying and switching to new tools means a lot less headache than in the past. We’re moving from a world of ‘buy before you try’, to ‘try before you buy’, to quote Des Traynor, co-founder of Intercom from his talk on ‘building the right thing’. It’s all part of a thriving subscription-based economy.
All the while, technology became way more accessible, causing a rise in software-based businesses. As a consequence, it’s not only easier to find alternative solutions and to switch between them, markets are also getting increasingly more competitive.
“If you make product decisions on gut feel, you’re either lucky or wrong”
So what does that all mean? Well, it means it’s putting pressure on any software-based business. As a consequence of these developments, businesses will need to become more user-, and product-focused. Great support, amazing sales pitches, and ingenuous marketing can’t make up for sub-par products anymore. To stay ahead, companies will need to understand and deliver what users need on a continuous basis, faster than anyone else. That’s the only way to stay relevant.
Where previously this was more of a nice-to-have, it’s becoming a necessity. Companies have less bandwidth to be wrong, and need to be well-informed on what to improve, so they aren’t just lucky when they’re right.
“To stay ahead, companies will need to understand and deliver what users need on a continuous basis, faster than anyone else.”
Doing proper product management and design means being well-informed in regards to strategic business objectives. But maybe even more so on how your users behave within your product (quantitative behavioral data), and the needs and wants your users implicitly or explicitly express (qualitative data).
The two latter help you define what to build next, for what user segment, and why. It helps define better solutions (so you’re not wasting valuable resources), which will then help the company reach its goals. Prioritizing the right solutions, and maintaining quality of a product can mean the difference between success and the demise of a software business.
From first-hand experience and research, we found that a lot of companies are doing rather well on utilizing quantitative behavioral data. They’re using tools like Mixpanel and Amplitude, just to name a few. This really helps uncover what your users are actually doing within the product.
Yet, getting a grip on all of the qualitative inputs still seems a challenge. Actually collecting qualitative feedback from users doesn’t even seem to be the toughest part — it might be for some. It’s about what you actually do with all the qual data that’s already collected. Besides the more pro-active user research (e.g. sending out surveys and doing user interviews on a particular subject), a lot of valuable qualitative feedback comes from the various channels that a company uses to interact with customers.
Think of sales people, customer success managers, and customer support representatives, and the variety of tools used by any of them (live-chat, e-mail, support desks, CRMs, note-taking tools etc.).
We found that 71% of 500+ product managers of B2B software companies, find all of that feedback highly valuable for informing product decisions and prioritization. Yet, they struggle to get a proper data-driven pulse on it. The main problem being that this data sits in various different places, while volumes received are significant and unstructured in nature. It just makes it hard for employees looking at things from a product perspective to see what matters most to what type of customer and why.
This is why we started working on Shipright. We’re aiming to enable these software companies to learn and understand what to build next faster and more effectively.
Where we see some roadmapping tools incorporate ‘feedback’ as a small part in an extensive planning suite, we believe taking qual and quant data as a real starting point, without a lot of manual effort, is the real future.
We’re starting out as a simple and lightweight tool to help software companies get all of their product feedback in one place (and see what matters most to whom and why).
However, this is just a simple start. We hope to continue the journey for a long time, and we’re excited to share more of what we’re doing along the way.