So you’ve come up with an idea for an app and you’ve started hearing the buzzword “MVP” or “Minimum Viable Product” being thrown around. What is an MVP? Why should it be important to you?
According to lean startup guru Eric Ries:
“The minimum viable product (MVP) is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
This process is all about testing your assumptions and learning about your target market.
Many people are tempted to throw in every bell and whistle into their app idea as they feel the feature in question is a “must-have” and “absolutely essential.” This can prove to be a costly and time consuming mistake.
Breaking your app idea down and stripping it of all unnecessary features can be tricky. However, it is essential if you want to build a lean mobile app. This will save you time, money and effort in the long run.
Let’s assume that you’ve managed to generate some user interest for an app that promises to deliver alcohol purchased via the app within one hour.
You’re now looking to build an MVP to further test your assumptions and generate some revenue as early as possible. Your end goal is to build full-fledged mobile apps that list your product catalogue.
Customers around the country will be able to place orders through the app and have your products at their doorstep within the hour with live delivery/order tracking. Finally, all your orders will be visible on a web-based admin panel.
Building the mobile apps, admin panel and taking care of all the logistics, warehousing and delivery will take a considerable investment of your resources. It’s most likely not worth coughing up the capital required to establish something like this at such an early stage in the process.
This is where the MVP idea comes in to play.
We will use the idea of an MVP to test your assumptions and evolve/tweak your idea if required.
So let’s try and break this idea down into the core components and find a way to test the assumptions.
The two key components for this particular idea are:
These two core components should be the driving features on which your MVP is built. Anything else (for the moment anyway) is superfluous.
To allow customers to purchase alcohol in the app, we need a way to show what products we have for sale and then allow them to place orders.
For the MVP you could build a simple app that has a product catalogue and an order/checkout feature.
Initially, only offer a small selection of the most popular beverages on the market (with more to come in the future). This is primarily to make it easier for you to fulfil orders (which we’ll discuss in more detail later).
Customers will be able to place an order through a basic checkout system in the app. Once payment is made, the order is then emailed straight to your inbox. That’s right… emailed. No need for a fancy admin panel to view orders just yet.
You can now fulfil the order yourself with the details provided by the customer. You will also have the customer’s email and a means to contact them to get feedback about what they thought about the app, the ordering process etc.
If this sounds very simplistic, you’re right. It is. The good thing for you is that it’s meant to be. The whole point of the MVP is to keep things as simple as possible whilst testing your assumptions and learning about your customers.
– TIP No.1 –
Focus on one platform initially. As tempting as it might be, don’t try and build for iOS, Android and the Web simultaneously. It’s a costly and time consuming task.
Pick one platform and stick with it for now. As mentioned earlier, you might choose to go with a very basic mobile app (Android or iOS). This app would contain a minimal number of screens and be as simple and straightforward as possible.
In fact it could essentially be distilled into a product catalogue screen, ‘add to cart’ buttons and a simple checkout order form. As great as it would be to have features like ‘live order tracking’, they are not necessary for the MVP.
Just make sure that your app looks good. Just because you’re building an MVP doesn’t mean that you should skimp on quality UI/UX design. Users want elegant, easy to use applications.
– TIP No.2 –
Forget about country-wide orders. Focus on one city or ideally just a handful of suburbs. Think small. If the idea works at this level, you can look to expand to more suburbs and grow organically.
Following this, your platform should only accept orders from the areas you have designated.
– TIP No.3 –
Worried about how you’re going to manage your fleet of delivery trucks, drivers and warehouses? Well I’ve got news for you – don’t.
When starting out, you’re not going to have the customer demand that necessitates a logistics operation of this size (unless you’re incredibly lucky!). Ideally, you want to be sourcing and delivering the product yourself. Yes, you will be out there buying from suppliers and delivering to your customers!
If you have a co-founder, get them to help out as well. This will give you a first hand experience of what it is like to deliver to your actual customers.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about your target market right from the sale all the way to delivery of the goods into their hands.
Now that your MVP is ready to go, it’s time to hit the ground running. You’ll be looking to test your assumptions quickly and apply the knowledge you are gaining back into the product.
As mentioned earlier, this could result in an evolution of your product, a pivot or shelving the idea altogether.
Whatever the outcome, you should be able to quickly figure out whether your product is viable by trying to build a customer base and generating revenue as fast as possible.
In summary, if you have a great idea for an app, you can save valuable time and money by applying the MVP approach. Keep things simple initially and delight customers with your product.
As demand grows and you learn more about your customer base, you will be in a strong position to make a decision as to what direction you want your app to go.
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