What is continuous product discovery? All you need to know

10 min read
May 25, 2023

Identifying your users’ needs and tailoring your product to them is crucial for its success.

Providing value for your users is essential if you want to avoid failure – 80% of apps fail in the first year after launch.

The key to a successful launch of your minimum viable product (MVP) is a well thought out product discovery process.

The key to turning a successful launch into sustained success is continuing the discovery process i.e. implementing continuous product discovery.

This blog will explore what continuous product discovery is, why it’s important and how to do it.

Let’s dive in!

What is continuous product discovery?

So, what exactly is continuous product discovery?

To use an analogy, let’s imagine you’re building a house.

Product discovery is equivalent to laying the foundations, designing the floor plan and building the walls.

Continuous product discovery, on the other hand, is equivalent to regular maintenance and upgrades to your home.

Just like how we’re never really finished with decorating and upgrading our home, digital products are never truly finished with development, either.

The worst mistake you can make is letting your product stagnate or adding features that don’t provide value to your users.

That’s where continuous product discovery comes in.

Implementing it will give you a clear view of what your users need and will help your teams decide on which features to add as well as identify solutions to any problems your users might face.

What you need for a successful continuous discovery process can be summed up in 5 words: research, research and more research.

Successful Continuous Discovery Team

source: product talk

Successful continuous product discovery is driven by three key mindsets, as pictured above:

  • It should be collaborative
  • It should be continuous
  • It should be experimental

Continuous discovery is not just a framework for product development you simply implement, it’s a shift in your approach to product development as a whole.

Why is continuous product discovery important?

Now that we’ve explained what continuous product discovery is, let’s take a look at why it’s important.

Three of the standout reasons why it’s important are because it:

  • Helps you adapt to your users’ changing needs
  • Allows you to take advantage of new opportunities and trends
  • Helps you with feature prioritization

Let’s discuss each one in more detail.

Helps you adapt to your users’ changing needs

As we’ve established, meeting your users’ needs is key to a successful product discovery process.

Your users’ needs are unlikely to stay the same forever, though, and will evolve over the lifecycle of your product.

Your job is to keep in sync with their needs and introduce features that will continue to fulfill their evolving needs.

Jonathan Widawski, CEO of product discovery platform Maze, explained in simple terms what continuous product discovery is about: “It’s the belief that a product is a living, breathing thing and that users are central to shaping it.”

Business needs and user needs

source: UX design institute

While balancing between business and user needs might seem challenging, it’s actually quite simple – when you prioritize user needs, business needs are met as a result.

Digital products in particular have to constantly evolve to meet their users’ changing needs.

With the competition being as fierce as it is in the digital product market, being able to consistently provide value for your users is absolutely critical to your product’s success.

Continuous product discovery gives you the tools to be able to provide that value to your users.

Allows you to take advantage of new opportunities and trends

The key to growing your business is being able to quickly seize opportunities and take advantage of fresh trends in your particular market.

Opportunity

source: Eos

If you’re doing continuous product discovery right, you’ll be well-prepared to do exactly that.

Let’s say you’re looking to improve your user experience (UX) and you’ve started researching UX design trends.

Deciding to just implement them blindly might work out well for you but it’s far from a sure thing.

For example, augmented reality might seem cool and interesting to you but your users might find it unnecessary and distracting.

Your product’s success depends on your users’ continued interest in what it has to offer and adding unnecessary features they didn’t ask for is an unnecessary risk.

It’s not just trends you might be able to take advantage of – the continuous product discovery process can unearth new business opportunities for your company.

Keen-eyed members of your discovery team will be able to recognize patterns in the user feedback you’ve received and may come up with new product ideas.

Insights gained from the market research you’ll be conducting during your continuous discovery process will also help you identify and take advantage of fresh business opportunities.

Continuous product discovery doesn’t only provide value for your product’s users but can, if leveraged correctly, provide additional value to your company as a whole.

Helps you with feature prioritization

Correctly determining which features you should add next to your product is crucial to its success.

The features you add should provide value to your users and meet their unfulfilled needs.

Continuous product discovery is a very useful process to use for improving your feature prioritization.

There are numerous feature prioritization frameworks you can use, such as:

  • RICE (reach, impact, confidence, effort)
  • Kano
  • Story mapping
  • MoSCoW method
  • Opportunity scoring
  • Value vs. effort
  • The product tree

Here’s an example of the Kano model.

Kano prioritization model

source: windmill digital

Naturally, you should use the insights you’ve gathered during your continuous discovery when using these frameworks.

Even a simple question posed to your users during your regular research about which features they want can be illuminating – in the end, your users know best what they want.

If you’re struggling to decide which feature to prioritize even after using some of the aforementioned prioritization frameworks, even a simple question posed to your users can help you make the decision.

Asking your users to pick the feature they want the most in a multiple choice question or asking them to rank them in order of preference could solve the prioritization puzzle for you.

Adding features without making sure they’re what your users want is a recipe for failure.

Continuous product discovery minimizes the risk of that happening to your product.

How to do continuous product discovery?

Now that we’ve discussed and defined what exactly continuous product discovery is and the reasons why it’s important, let’s discuss what you need in order to do it.

The following three steps are critical to the success of your continuous product discovery process:

  • Building a dedicated discovery team
  • Having regular touchpoints with customers
  • Focusing on outcomes over outputs

Let’s explore them in more detail.

Build a dedicated discovery team

The first step to implementing continuous product discovery is building a dedicated discovery team who’ll be running your continuous discovery process.

The core discovery team is usually formed by the product trio:

  • Product manager
  • Product designer
  • Lead engineer

Here’s a visual representation of these 3 roles.

Product trio in product discovery

source: Maze

These three roles will be at the heart of your discovery process.

In the past, product discovery followed a linear process – product managers would write the requirements for the product, designers would create mockups and engineers would produce working software.

But the paradigm is shifting.

Product discovery in general is moving towards being a fully collaborative process where the product trio works closely together when developing a product.

Such close collaboration results in your product being better – a product trio that’s fully committed to working closely together on a product will create a better product than the trio that’s disconnected from one another.

Continuous product discovery simply takes that collaborative principle and applies it continuously during your product’s entire lifecycle.

Naturally, depending on the product, your discovery team might include more members than your product trio, such as:

  • User researchers
  • Data analysts
  • Engineers 
  • Business analysts

Getting different perspectives and buy-in from the rest of your team can be invaluable for the success of your continuous discovery efforts.

In any case, your product trio should form the core of your dedicated discovery team with other members joining them when necessary.

Have regular touchpoints with customers

Customer feedback is central to the success of your continuous product discovery process.

Gaining insight about your users’ frustrations, pain points and needs on a continuous basis will make your product better and is central to the continuous discovery process.

image 30

source: hubspot

So, how frequently should you have touchpoints with your customers?

Teresa Torres, author of Continuous Discovery Habits and product discovery coach, defined continuous product discovery as follows:

““At a minimum, weekly touchpoints with customers by the team building the product, where they’re conducting small research activities in pursuit of a desired product outcome.”

Engaging with your customers every week will ensure you always have your finger on the pulse of your customers’ issues and you’ll be able to promptly respond to any unexpected developments.

Torres also added the following:

“A digital product is never done. So we want to make sure we’re getting constant feedback from our customers about whether or not we’re building the right things.”

There’s a variety of ways you can gather customer feedback, some of the most common being:

  • Focus groups
  • Surveys/questionnaires
  • Feedback forms
  • Social media listening
  • User interviews

You don’t have to use each method every single week but the weekly cadence is a must if you want your continuous product discovery process to be successful.

Focus on outcomes over outputs

Outcomes and outputs are two terms that are sometimes used interchangeably.

Though they may in some cases denote the same thing, as a general rule they shouldn’t be used synonymously to avoid confusion.

Semantics aside, what exactly is the difference between outcomes and outputs?

Outputs are the features and deliverables that make up our product.

Outcomes, on the other hand, are the differences we make with our outputs like changed user behaviors, pain points we’ve solved and new opportunities we’ve identified for our product’s further development.

image 29

source: crisp

The goal of continuous product discovery is to set and obtain favorable outcomes for your company – outputs are the building blocks we use to achieve those outcomes.

Your outputs can be well-thought out and technically flawless but if they don’t meet your users’ needs and won’t be used, you won’t get the outcomes you want.

It’s not just your users who benefit from outcome-focused product development – you can improve your bottom line by understanding your customers and creating user-centric products.

By implementing continuous product discovery, you’ll be able to shift your focus towards setting and achieving favorable outcomes for your product instead of just focusing on cranking out one output after another.

Continuous product discovery: summary

Continuous product discovery is a framework that helps you make product decisions that focus on your users’ needs.

Creating user-centric products is critical to achieving success in a crowded, competitive market.

To summarize, we’ve discussed the reasons why continuous product discovery is important:

  • Helps you adapt to your users’ needs
  • Allows you to take advantage of new opportunities and trends
  • Helps you with feature prioritization

We’ve also discussed how you can do continuous product discovery:

  • Build a dedicated discovery team
  • Have regular touchpoints with your customers
  • Focus on outcomes over outputs

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our blog on the best practices in continuous product discovery or contact us about our product discovery process.

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Written by

Karlo Mihanovic

Tech Advisor

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