Be it economic crises, or uncontrollable epidemics, they influence the world and bring about new rules that challenge communities and businesses to sink or swim. Within only recent years we’ve faced the spread of SARS, the Zika virus, Ebola, and now － COVID-19. Every time the outbursts are unpredictable and fateful. In response, every business must think strategically to be able to react in a timely way and adapt to the changes. In fact, it’s not only a matter of staying afloat. It’s about companies keeping up with the ever-changing modern world.
Digital products development and business automation are processes that have the power to be the business response to crises and shape the business future.
This article about How to Launch a Digital Product and Win in a Crisis was originally published on Django Stars Blog. Written by Nataliia Peterheria - Project Manager at Django Stars
Practically every routine human activity has moved online. Executives, managers, employees, teachers, and students are now managing their responsibilities remotely, as the virtual world is now the reality in which we function. For entrepreneurs, the main demand in this environment is to be adaptable and nimble enough to make weighted decisions at sonic speed.
We can already see changes and shifts occurring in the digital world and in related businesses. According to the findings of the 2020 Digital Marketing Expo & Conference report, digital industries will shift their approaches to work after the pandemic ends. The study indicates that remote work options will expand and become more widespread; the importance of digital collaboration tools will increase; companies will be more focused on digital transformation; online conferences and meetings will become an even more popular practice; and data security and protection will grow in importance and raise the bar to ever-higher standards.
The high-tech world, which creates an ecosystem for modern business, is itself a real-time tool for working. It makes it possible to communicate and interact with people who, on the one hand, are thousands of kilometers from one another, but at the same time are just a click away. It enables closed calls with a high level of security, allows us to send sensitive information quickly, easily, and securely, perform banking operations, and sign legally valid contracts.
“The world has changed in the last few weeks. The measures we’re now all taking to fight back against the coronavirus are affecting the way we interact, live, work, and take care of our finances.”
James Green, deVere Group’s Divisional Manager of Europe
The opportunities created by digital products and today’s real-world conditions prove that, without digital transformation, launching a product successfully is almost impossible. And his notion is becoming more and more applicable in realms that were once squarely situated in the offline world.
If your service is not online yet, there are many factors you have to weigh before launching it. Naturally, the gravest concerns will be associated with the rationing of finances in such a turbulent time. Money is often in short supply during the crisis period, and the big question is whether it is rational to finance a launch either with your savings or with the support from investors. Especially, when it is neither guaranteed nor even clear whether it will reap any profits.
However, there is a pragmatic way to face this Shakespearian dilemma. If we analyze the diagram of change in the industries currently occupying the market, we can see that online education, telehealth, and online software have become the demand leaders, while the car-sharing and sharing economy have largely failed.
If you’re going to work in industries in the green zone of the chart, you can assume it’s safe to launch your product right now. If not there, you should consider how to optimize the product. Just look at the current crisis as a chance to find new business opportunities.
According to Forbes, the list of sectors most affected by coronavirus are:
- Air transportation, airports, and trucking services;
- Event management, culture, leisure, and entertainment;
- Fitness and sports;
- Travel agencies and businesses that provide tourism services;
- Post-graduate and informal education organizations and non-governmental educational institutions;
- Organization of conferences and exhibitions;
- Domestic services (repair, washing, dry cleaning, hairdressing, and beauty salons).
As you can see, the businesses that are suffering the most during the lockdown are providing services that involve physical interaction with a client. The option here is to either innovate the service so that it is accessible online or (the safer option) offer products your user can access online.
Evidently, people tend to use more online services because there are simply no equivalent offline options. In this situation, it’s important to analyze and identify the needs of the people who have to stay home. They have been forced to change their routines and habits, as they have no access to their usual lifestyle.
In general, having identified the need, think of how to solve it. This is the standard rule for successful startups. Another reason that the time is right is that people’s needs have become much greater and diverse. There several reasons for this:
- The crisis and the lockdown happened suddenly;
- People were generally unprepared for such a dramatic lifestyle change;
- The changes are so significant that they will not end after the quarantine ends.
We are on the verge of a new way of life, which means that any product that has been developed to deal with the needs of our present situation will probably be useful for a long time to come.
A good illustration for the said above is the list of recently funded products issued by TechCrunch: a network for healthcare analysis, a platform for deskless work, video chat API service － that’s just a few to mention. And all of them serve, improve or help to deal with the new reality we’re in together. This to be said, if the product fulfills the existing demand, it has chances to succeed both in investment raising and in gaining profit.
A business transformation or initialization undertaken during a crisis can have a good chance of success even though it can be a huge challenge － and there are good reasons why. The market is waiting for new solutions. The winners in this situation will be the ones who can work out strategies to launch new products during a crisis and offer cheaper, faster, better ways to solve problems for customers and businesses.
It should be stressed here, that we’re not saying about spending all your savings on the development of the product that probably will be successful (or not). We explore the opportunities the crisis can bring. It’s worth mentioning that our company was established in 2008 when the financial crisis crippled the world economy. But if you have a verified business plan, validated idea and a good nerve, your chances of success are higher.
To develop a roadmap, you may find it useful to research the upcoming tendencies pandemic crisis will end up with. We’ve performed analysis of what’s happening now, compared it to our experience and Here’s what tends to happen during and after a crisis:
People want innovation
To be sure, the Covid-19 crisis has caused a lot of problems. Investment in innovation has slowed because of them. CB Insights reports that VC funding declined for 9% in Q1 2020 if compared to Q4 2019. But it still is higher for 12% than the one as of Q1 2019. That opened up opportunities for bold and creative startups.
“Right now, the virus seems like an accelerator for digital change that was already underway . . . the surprise has been to see the resistance to this digital change suddenly evaporate. What organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation.”
Michael Hendrix, partner and global design director, Ideo for Fast Company
People want to save money
If you’re a flexible and featherweight company, you can win over the clients of massive companies that aren’t prepared or able to adapt to change quickly and reduce their prices. People are looking for more affordable options. If you can adapt your strategy to this need, you have a chance to obtain a huge client base.
The incumbents are vulnerable
The heavyweight market players are in an extremely vulnerable state, as the stakes are higher for them and they can’t adapt as rapidly as agile startups. The Wall Street Journal notified that almost one-quarter of the U.S. economy shut down in the wake of the Covid crisis. Among the ones who struggled the most are representatives of an “offline” economy. Meanwhile, those incumbents who are eager to adapt may win over. Budweiser, for instance, is investing in e-commerce since the crisis affected offline demand. Thus, now there’s an opportunity for you to experiment and innovate, if you’re planning to digitize. While for startups, their flexibility and willingness to take risks may become a market advantage.
Good people are looking for work
Bad times force companies to sacrifice even the best people working for them. As BBC reports, in the result of the pandemic crisis 195 million of full-time workers left without a working place. If you’ve managed to introduce your product and scale your business, you will definitely have to expand your staff. Naturally, most of the talent is already taken when there’s no turbulence. Today, your chances of finding brilliant minds who are also available are much higher.
Things are cheaper
It will be cheaper and easier for you to bargain for everything you need for your business when all participants of the market are in the same boat and are more eager to make concessions for their partners, for instance, for the goods you might need to start or to adapt your business. Plus, you don’t have to maintain an offline office. The same idea works for your employees; currently, they are not demanding as many workplace benefits as they would in normal conditions.
You will have fewer competitors
Speaking about the startup field, every player is willing to introduce their products when the times are good, the economy is stable, and the investors are many. However, in a crisis context, the number of startup Bravehearts shrinks, which means you’ll have fewer competitors when your product is out there.
As you can see, although the economy is down, new opportunities come along with it. You need to keep them in mind as you devise your product launching strategies.
It’s time to think about digitizing your existing business or launching a new business based on global prospects and trends and the new directions that development is taking.
If you’re wondering how to launch a new product during the coronavirus crisis or digitize the existing one, the first thing to do is prepare. Before starting any project, do the planning and consider the following aspects to minimize mistakes, since any error can be fatal:
- To be competitive and relevant in the current situation, the product must solve a problem or simplify a process; it must be useful to a specific group of consumers. The larger its audience, the more chances you have of becoming successful in a short time.
- Identify your target audience and double-check that the problem that your product will solve is relevant to them.
- Analyze the scalability of your product.
- Think through a user-friendly interface. Make sure the product is simple. There is no need to overthink the UX at the start of the project. However, it must be understandable and easy for the user to grasp from the point when they start solving their problem. Get it tested － first by your own team, and then in beta-testing.
Clearly, to be competitive in the current market, you have to act at sonic speed, and you can’t make any mistakes. Further, we’ll reveal how to make it in the most efficient way with the smart resources allocation.
The big advantage of the discovery phase is that it precedes the development stage and provides an opportunity to validate the idea, analyze the market and competitors, and create a roadmap. As a result, you end up with a solid amount of targeted developed documentation and enough information to make decisions about the future of your product.
For people in the business world, it is often extremely difficult to think about the project through and through from the technology point of view. We recommend initiating a discovery phase at the beginning of your work with IT companies. Within a week, they will clearly understand what your product will look like, see the set of functionalities that is minimally necessary to enter the market (MVP), and figure out the terms of implementation. Of course, you need to get to know the company and the team with which you plan to develop your product.
The discovery phase must be concluded by solving one of the most challenging tasks: prototyping and forming a set of product features and a backlog – namely, its first version. At each stage of the product life cycle, the priorities can and should shift in accordance with the type and orientation of the tasks.
When the first stage is complete and the product is available to the general public, you need to change your tactics for working with the product.
We suggest that at the first stage (Stage 1) of product delivery to the market, your efforts should be concentrated on developing new features following the Product-Market Fit concept.
After the second one (Stage 2), as the product begins to grow consistently, you should dedicate significantly less time to new features. At the same time, it’s important to concentrate on satisfying your users according to their feedback and using the metrics you’ve collected to increase conversions.
Stage 3 is characterized as the stabilization stage. Here, after successfully launching a new product, you need to pay equal attention to new functionalities and feedback, as well as concentrate more and more on technologies, technical solutions, and product quality.
The blessing and the curse of the coronavirus crisis is the fact that you’ve no choice but to adapt to brutal market conditions. One threat in this situation is that you may not have enough manpower because of the lockdown and your dwindling financial resources. Since it’s clear that your business must be digital to survive, it follows that it should also be automated and be easy to maintain.
That’s why you need to think about all the processes you can optimize or automate. Here’s what to consider if you want to optimize your business:
- Articulate the needs of your business in terms of processes and resources;
- Identify the goals for the optimization. Pinpoint what you want to see as results;
- Prioritize the processes you plan to automate;
- Define models of business processes and rules which the business automation software must apply.
Again, make sure to follow these steps so that they improve your business results and reduce costs. If you want more examples on how this can be done, check “Software” section in our case studies where we share our experience on CRM and other business automation software development.
As apocalyptic as it may seem at first sight, the Covid-19 crisis is actually a time of opportunity. If you don’t see any yet, look at it from a different perspective. The opportunities are not the typical ones businesses are used to seeing. The economic climate changed, and it definitely made the stakes and the prices of mistakes dramatically higher. However, it also created an entirely new pool of consumer needs, which always equals opportunities to create new products to address those needs. And if you do it right, they will thank you for it.
Finally, the competition among startups is lower, since not everyone will gamble and launch a new product during a crisis. So, if you do enough planning, summon up enough confidence, and assemble a team you trust, you have a great chance to capitalize on the new opportunities.