Having spent a large portion of my career in the product, digital services, and eCommerce spaces, I’ve watched the digital era unfold with great intrigue. I’ve witnessed its gradual journey from the pre-dot.com days when companies were creating brochure-ware websites to today where digital products are ingrained into the everyday.
When we think about how convenient and accessible digital products such as websites, apps, and media are, it’s easy to see why these products have become such a commanding fixture of our everyday lives—all within a fairly short time period.
For product leaders, this growth only marks the beginning of what’s to come.
First came the product, then came the analytics
The digital world exploded onto the scene over 20 years ago. In those early days, we saw companies storming online to establish their eCommerce presence, racing to create websites that evolved past the static, brochure-ware sites from early days of the internet.
Then, as eCommerce began to really take flight, and people became more accepting of online purchases, traditional brick-and-mortar stores realized they needed to establish presences online. We began to see more teams leverage data for innovative insights, especially around online revenue.
Insights at this stage were largely marketing-focused—measuring the effect of the marketing campaigns that drove consumers to their website and understanding how those consumers make online purchases. The customer experience was in its early stages, and early metrics like daily visitors and session time felt revolutionary.
When history repeats itself
As different as technology is today, in many ways we’re reliving this past era when it comes to digital products. What do I mean by that? Well, just as they were in the early dot.com days, today’s companies are still trying to figure out how—exactly—to measure and understand their digital products.
This time, the focus on insights isn’t so much about commerce and marketing, though those slices of data remain important. When we think about where the future of digital products is headed and how it’s going to get there, the insights companies need today revolve around understanding the intricacies of product-market fit.
While the obvious focuses are product engagement and retention, for today’s product-led companies this kind of intel has the ability to help the entire company operate more successfully.
A commitment to the digital journey
Companies today are building digital products at unprecedented speeds, but (in my humble opinion) we have yet to see enough companies deliver world-class product teams that can provide clear, strategic insights into their digital products.
As a dad to two boys, I think about this issue a lot. As any parent knows, you’re never truly done raising your kids, no matter how old they are. Sure, their needs will change, and your relationship with them will evolve in different ways, but you’ll never stop guiding them.
In the early days, you guide your kids through the quality time you spend with one another. As they enter middle and high school, you begin to blend qualitative feedback, such as daily check-ins and dinner table discussions, with more quantitative measurements, such as report cards, to help shape their future steps.
A similar mentality applies to digital products. Once a product is launched or handed over to the company from a digital agency, the journey doesn’t just end there. It just began! To continue to provide value, companies need to make continuous improvements to their applications—to continue to guide their company’s journey.
Moving forward, committed and consistent insights are needed to intuitively guide product launches, measure their outcomes and customer feedback, and then steer the product’s evolution until it achieves product-market fit.
2020 is just the tip of the iceberg
In the coming years, I anticipate that we’ll finally see companies doing more with product insights. We’re going to see product leaders look to their analytics, tools, and talent to better understand how their customers engage with their brand and where to evolve their product roadmap.
In particular, I’m excited to see what this year is going to bring. We’re seeing more product teams use data to build great products, and we’re starting to see more emphasis placed on using that same data to find product-market fit and deliver product-driven insights.
As I reflect back on where our industry came from and where we’re going next, I’m excited about the impact that our ecosystem of industry, solution, and integration partners can make in the years ahead.
As we hit the ground running in 2020, I’m especially excited to see the digital space evolve in the coming years. Its tremendous growth over the past two decades has led to an open road of opportunity for companies focused on building revolutionary digital experiences.