Every product requires improvement. For social media apps, comments get moved and reactions become more realistic. For eCommerce fashion accessory sites, virtual reality try-ons boost sales. And for B2B software, products move upmarket or tackle additional tasks for a business role.

No matter what sort of product your team is building, you need to improve it. Adapt or die, right?

In this article, we dive into the top pitfalls with making product improvements, the different categories of product improvements, and how to discover and prioritize which changes to make.

The art and science of making product improvements

Many users hate software updates. When given a chance, they’ll procrastinate OS updates, and 14% will never update their mobile software. Ever.

But many product teams don’t have to require action from the user. You’re able to release updates to your web app, website, or mobile app all on your own. This means you’re essentially pushing your update on the user. 

Some users bemoan any change. They struggle to get used to something new. And yet, you have to risk some frustration in order to grow. 

High-performing product teams deploy new code 200X more frequently than low-performing teams. The world’s best apps and websites are updated anywhere from once a day to 100 times a day. 

Fixing bugs logged by expert testers and customer support reps ensures that the product experience is meeting expectations. Doing so will keep your add from sliding back into a poor experience, but it won’t drive it forward.

To figure out which product improvements are top priorities and which can wait, you’ll need to use a combination of art and science. You can use product analytics to find features with low usage or user flows with big gaps and drop off. But you’ll also want to rely on customer research, competitor research, your knowledge of the market, and even your intuition.

Types of product improvements and how to uncover them

Below, we detail key categories of product improvements and give you tips on how to find the ones you need to prioritize. 

Discovering product improvements requires a mix of data analytics and qualitative research. 

Essential UX improvements

Perhaps a new feature isn’t as user friendly as it could be. Maybe a core feature that has been available for a long time isn’t as successful as you thought it was. 

One of the highest priorities for product improvements should be making your essential features even better: easier to use, more intuitive, easier to complete, etc. 

How to uncover them:

  • High volume of rage clicks (Hotjar)
  • Lower-than-normal customer sentiment (Hotjar)
  • High volume of feature-related support tickets (Zendesk)
  • Low rate of flow, funnel, or conversion completion (Mixpanel)

Retention increase levers

You should also prioritize product improvements that will increase customer retention. After all, US companies lose nearly $140 billion each year due to avoidable consumer switching

You’ll want to figure out which product updates will be the most likely to increase customer retention. This can be difficult to suss out. It’s important to look at your product data and external sources of information, such as negative reviews.

How to uncover them:

  • Low rate of completion for important onboarding flow (Mixpanel or Userpilot)
  • Low rate of completion for any feature or flow (Mixpanel)
  • Feature that customers assume you have, but you don’t (read negative reviews on G2 and Capterra, send a survey to customers after they churn)

Increasing results from popular features

When you improve the results of popular features, you can also increase customer retention. But this type of product improvement is worth a category of its own because it’s an easy place to find high-priority updates. 

Rather than brainstorm new features to build, you’ll want to figure out how to improve the results users get from the core features of your product. For example, a social media scheduler might include a calendar that helps users get an overview of their upcoming content. During interviews, you might find that your power users who post frequently would love to see a weekly view, instead of just a monthly calendar view.

How to uncover them:

  • UX research 1:1 interviews to discover what would make the feature more successful
  • UX research surveys to discover what would make the feature more successful
  • Competitor feature research to learn about add-ons and feature sets
  • Customer research in what they achieve with these features and what else they would like to achieve

Competitor-driven building

Copying your competitors isn’t a sound strategy. Your competitors might be targeting a slightly different audience, or they might be building with far less or far more capital than you. So while you don’t want to copy them exactly, it is a good idea to know what they’re up to.

Making competitor-driven product improvements helps you ensure that you’re not losing customers because of some critical features that competitors offer or because of their UX improvements.

How to uncover them:

  • In surveys sent to customers after they churn
  • Competitor feature research 
  • Competitor UX research
  • Competitors’ positive reviews in G2 and Capterra

Common ancillary requests

So far, we’ve looked into ways that you can improve the product that you already have: UX adjustments, feature updates, flow fixes, etc. 

But what about product improvements that are very different from your core offer? 

How can you discover which brand new features are worth building and which ones are best avoided, lest you want to commit feature overwhelm?

When it comes to new features, you’ll want to look for volume with requests and prodding from customers. There are always a dozen directions that a product could go, so many possible futures. Check for strength in numbers, and only entertain feature requests that you’ve seen again and again. Otherwise, you risk wasting money and confusing your user base.

How to uncover them:

  • Feature requests (Zendesk and Hotjar)
  • Comments on blog posts or videos about your product roadmap
  • Requests or comments in your Facebook group or other customer community

Improving your product is a team effort, and so should uncovering and vetting opportunities. Get your product team involved and see what you can find together. 

Testlio helps enterprises provide amazing customer experiences. Learn more about Networked Testing.

Dayana is a QA engineer turned technology writer living in Milan, Italy. She's always down for a smoothie.
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