Apr 21, 2014

Minimum Wow Product (MWP) - a slight twist to MVP

Much has been written about Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - its relevance, expected outcome and its pitfalls. There have also been many variations of MVP, among which I personally like these two - Minimum Viable Transactions and More Valuable Product.

One of the attributes of a product manager that I personally like is that a PM should have a view of the world. It needn't be a fool-proof theory or a validated hypothesis but something you frame in your mind, which will obviously be based on your previous learning, ideologies and biases. So here's my view of the MVP concept.

The primary idea behind an MVP is that it allows you to test the waters with minimum effort. You want to validate your idea/hypothesis with a sample of the target market and get a better sense of the reaction, which helps you to formulate your future course of action.

Looking at it from a customer/user perspective, he comes across *yet another* new product/app. With information overload from so many sources, people are already feeling the cognitive drain, which in long term, can even lead to obesity (read this insightful post by Kathy Sierra).

Getting users' attention amidst this chaos is a humungous challenge. But it gets a little easier if the idea is radically new and users don't have an equivalent mental model to compare. An important personality trait which is closely linked to gathering new experiences is "novelty-seeking". This trait can push people to try out a new product/app, especially if it calls out to their dominant personality.

On the other hand, if the product/service is an improvement (however big or small it might be) over existing offerings, then the resistance to switch is quite high. This can be attributed to a behavioral economics concept called the "endowment effect".

"people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them"

Though the verb "own" is not quite relevant for most technology products, the investments that users have made in the form of time, information and connections will decide if the switch to a new product makes sense.

In both the cases, the user should feel a sense of "wow" when he tries out the new product - something that doesn't just appeal to the cognitive abilities but touches a chord at the emotional level. That's precisely the reason why I would go for a MWP - a minimum wow product.

What is the minimum work you need to invest in your V0.1 that make your users go "wow"?

A MWP should trigger a positive emotion from the very first experience, which gets reinforced during subsequent visits. The subtle messages, the intuitive interface, visual elements and outside-the-product experience (emails, notifications etc) all provide ample scope to get a "wow".

The more time spent in understanding the problem statement of the consumer, the better the chances to identify the scope of creating "wow" moments in the overall product experience.

For instance, though the travel e-commerce space is well established, there are multiple ways by which a "wow" experience can be brought in, by focusing on little details. Hipmunk's search results page was one such experience, thanks to schedule focused, color coded calendar layout, which was new and caught attention.

A few ways I could think of, related to leisure travel, that can bring about a "wow" experience:
- send a list of things to do in the city, the weather, the local events, what/where to buy return gifts, emergency contact details - all neatly presented in a printable format (or even mail a hard copy to the address if possible)
- provide possible comparison options between various places to visit in the user's consideration set. If I'm planning a vacation at the end of May and I have narrowed down to 3-4 places, help me decide which one is the better choice, given various parameters such as activities to do, distance, accessibility, on/off season, cost etc
- display pictures of happy travelers next to the hotel / city monuments to bring in more authenticity and personal touch to the whole booking process. Or maybe display the number of travelers who booked a specific hotel from the site (something like "900 travelers have booked this hotel so far through us")

Would like to hear your thoughts/comments on MWP and if it resonates with you or not.

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