What Is A Product Development Strategy?
November 22nd, 2021

It’s a process to bring any great digital product to market, from concept creation to building a prototype, testing feedback, and crafting your marketing approach.

A product development strategy is essential if you intend to launch a digital product.

Having one allows you to set out your methodology with a step-by-step roadmap to help keep the project moving forward, following a logical journey from initial concept to final launch.

Without a comprehensive plan, it's pretty much impossible to rationalize each design element or know whether there's sufficient demand for your product.

You may be wondering, what is a product development strategy, and do I need one? The answer is that it's a crucial framework designed to ensure any new digital product is ready for market, and it’s critical to implement into your development plans.

Benefits Of Product Development Strategies

Your product development strategy sets out a sequence of events, giving you control over each stage with a predefined structure.

It's vital for several compelling reasons:

  • Big picture goals - your strategy incorporates practicalities and strategic aims, informing each decision and giving you a baseline to come back to when you're dealing with a product development challenge.
  • Market validation - an incredible digital product with zero demand is destined to fail. A development strategy includes focus testing to help evaluate when you've landed on a golden idea and when you need to pivot or spend more time working on functionality.
  • Efficiency - clearly defined product development strategies help you allocate resources, predict timeframes, and determine which tasks take priority, so your team can work cohesively.

Product design and development vary between businesses, but having that strategy to underpin the process is key to success.

How To Build A Product Development Strategy

It's common to come at product development or improvement from a design thinking perspective.

The problem here is that design is just one component of a high-growth digital product. It needs to also:

  • Be empathetic to your target user group.
  • Resolve a problem.
  • Offer real-world solutions.

Therefore, when you start working on your strategy, you need to build in critical steps to ensure any design concept fits consumer needs.

Let's run through what a product development strategy might look like.

Identify The Need For Your Product

Start with your concept, and apply it to lived experiences to see whether there is a problem to be solved.

For example, tablets were built to bridge the gap between static devices, bulkier laptops, and screens on smartphones that were too small.

Retractable vacuum cords were invented when manufacturers watched a customer use their product and realized that long, cumbersome cables were awkward to use.

There's often room in the market to develop a competing offer, but if there is an existing product, yours needs to offer an improvement or resolve a user challenge.

Develop Product Prototypes

Next, market surveys are integral. 

Any prototype you develop needs to reflect collected data determining what people like and what ongoing problems they want to solve.

That information will clarify:

  • Existing user pain points
  • Key issues to prioritize

Cross-functional product development teams can then apply that knowledge to creating a prototype, basing decisions on quantifiable research.

Ideally, you want to have a minimum viable product outline, which assesses the most prevalent pain points. 

Once you've got that basic framework, you can look at the amount of time, budget, and resources required.

Solution Testing

Once your prototype is ready, the next stage is to work on small runs of market testing.

Experienced digital product designers often include “yes/no” metrics in the product development strategy to clarify the required actions.

For example:

  • If 30% of users test the product and give it a score of 10 or above, will you consider your product viable?
  • Will you launch without further revisions if you have an approval rating of, say, 80% or more?
  • Do you need to achieve metrics indicating 100% of product testers would buy it to proceed?

Of course, those figures might look very different depending on the nature of your digital product. 

Still, it's helpful to have defined outcomes built into your strategy so there's no confusion about the correct way to move forward.

If you need to make adjustments before mass production or commercializing your product, you'll revisit this step, usually as many times as required, until you're hitting your metrics.

Using Product Development Strategies for Existing Products

This type of strategy applies just as much to redeveloping existing products if you're:

  • Introducing new features
  • Rebranding
  • Launching complementary product lines

Most digital products will, inevitably, plateau at some stage, resulting in diminishing business revenues. 

At this point, you'll likely bring in new product lines, revisit your marketing plan, or implement product-led growth initiatives.

In any case, a product development strategy is indispensable since it determines how your product design should look, the needs it should address, and the functional priorities that matter most to your customers.

Screening ideas, testing products on real-life users, and seeking honest feedback are key. Once you've been through the process, you'll know you have a winning product ready to take the market by storm.