Good Product Strategy is the cornerstone of every successful app. Our in-house Strategy team collaborates closely with our clients and their users to consistently deliver high-quality, engaging app experiences.
We sat down with our Head of Product & Design, Sarah Preston, to discuss the important role Product Strategist’s play in building a successful app.
So, what is Product Strategy?
In a nutshell, Product Strategy is all about making sure our clients achieve their business goals and objectives for their digital product.
What skills and qualities are important for a Product Strategist?
It’s vital to have an analytical brain. A big part of Product Strategy is being able to interpret data like behaviour reports and competitor analysis, and asking “Why is this data good here but bad there?” Then, it’s about finding creative ways to improve and achieve our client’s goals.
Research skills are important too. This means exploring analytics, studying competitors, understanding the market, and talking to stakeholders and end-users. You have to dive into this information to uncover the right insights and build the right strategy.
Research and analytics are essential for identifying opportunities. Much of our work involves finding gaps in the market and pinpointing opportunities to fill those gaps. Take Uber, for example; they initially started as a ride-sharing app but, through research and analytics, spotted an opportunity in the food delivery market. They expanded into it, resulting in increased revenue from two different streams – private transport and food delivery services.
Having business knowledge is also valuable. We collaborate closely with clients to understand their overarching business objectives and how digital products or technology can help achieve them.
As a Product Strategist at a company like Sonin, you also need to be well-versed in technology and its possibilities. For instance, emerging tech like AI plays a significant role. We use Product Strategy to explore how we can leverage AI and other emerging technologies to meet our clients’ goals.
Can you explain where Product Strategy fits into the typical stages of an app development project?
We always start a project with a clear strategy, and this involves addressing key questions such as:
- What gap exists in the market for this product? To answer this, we conduct thorough market research.
- What are the specific needs of that market gap? We determine this through a product discovery workshop where we collaborate with the client to define the product’s business objectives.
- What functionality should the product have? We establish success criteria before beginning development to create a clear roadmap.
By the end of the discovery stage, we should have a comprehensive understanding of the market gap, how to address it, and a roadmap for product development.
During the development phase, we keep an eye on market dynamics and competitor activities, as someone else may have also recognised the same gap. This enables us to adapt quickly and speed up our time to market. Alternatively, we can advise to our clients on the best time to release their app to maximise its value.
Considering how Product Strategy could help your business?
What does the day-to-day role look like as a Product Strategist in an agency?
The amount of time spent on data analysis varies depending on the product’s lifecycle stages.
When a product initially launches, a significant portion, around 70% of your time, is dedicated to deep analytics. This involves understanding user behaviours that lead to long-term engagement, identifying potential bugs within the app and their specific locations for quick fixes. The remaining time is allocated to engaging with users, gaining insights into their experiences with the app, understanding their pain points, and noting their likes and dislikes.
As the product matures, we shift towards conducting more regular competitor and market research. In this phase, it becomes crucial to base our decisions on data-driven facts and evidence to ensure the product continually progresses in the right direction.
At Sonin, we maintain regular communication with our clients through a structured series of meetings and workshops.
- Monthly Updates: We conduct monthly meetings to keep our clients informed about the progress of their product. During these sessions, clients can also share any changes or developments in their business that might affect the app.
- Quarterly Reviews: These are like mini discovery workshops. Their purpose is to ensure that our strategies and actions align with our client’s broader business objectives. We use these reviews to stay in sync with the client’s business direction and goals.
- Annual Workshops: At the end of each year, we organise annual workshops to lay out the strategy for the upcoming year. These workshops play a pivotal role in shaping the product’s future direction.
These meetings and workshops are core to our daily work in Product Strategy. We must be well-prepared for these sessions, ready to answer questions about the product, and provide valuable suggestions for new specifications and enhancements.
What challenges do you face in Product Strategy, and how do you overcome them?
The challenges we face in user feedback can vary depending on the product. For consumer-facing products, one common challenge is engaging a diverse group of users to provide feedback. Additionally, people tend to focus more on negative aspects than positive ones. While constructive criticism is essential for product improvement, it’s equally important to identify what’s working well and enhance those aspects.
To overcome these challenges, we employ various feedback methods. For instance, we conduct brief interviews and offer incentives such as monthly discounts, ensuring that users find value in sharing their thoughts.
Another challenge arises when there’s a disconnect between what the business wants and what users desire from the product. This poses a significant challenge because if the product doesn’t provide value to users, achieving business goals becomes difficult. In these cases, research and data analysis play a pivotal role. We need to constantly ask ourselves: What do users want, and how can we align these desires with the business objectives?
There is a risk of ‘dirty data’ (where data can be faulty in some way) – this can happen for a variety of reasons and skew results. We can eliminate this causing issues by thoroughly analysing research and looking at what is happening and why. We can never take data from the surface. When we look deeper, we can see where the ‘dirty data’ sits and where the true results sit.
Product Strategy is the cornerstone of a successful app.
Do you have any advice for people who are starting off their careers in Product Strategy?
I would recommend that you consider:
- Gaining a Business Qualification: Start by getting a business qualification. Understanding how businesses operate and their goals is crucial. It enables you to contextualise the product, use industry jargon, and engage in meaningful conversations with CTOs and CEOs, who are key stakeholders in any business.
- Learning Data Analysis: Take courses in data analysis, such as statistical analysis courses. These courses help you apply data analysis tools effectively, learn how to use them, and extract relevant insights. For instance, at Sonin, we partner with Mixpanel, and our Product Strategists take Mixpanel partner courses so they know how to use and run reports with it.
- Developing Interview and Research Skills: Acquire interview and research skills to conduct effective user interviews. Many interviewers struggle because they don’t ask questions in the right way or fail to ask the right questions. Learning how to ask open, non-leading questions can turn research into valuable information.
- Seeking Internships: Consider internships as they provide opportunities to work alongside experienced professionals in the field. Internships offer valuable tips, advice, and hands-on experience.
- Exploring Mentorship: Explore mentorship programs or platforms. Experienced Product Strategists can provide guidance, help with interviews, and introduce you to potential employers.
- Staying Updated: The tech industry is continually evolving, making good Product Strategy increasingly important. Staying updated ensures that your product aligns with client goals and adapts to changing user needs over time.