Continuous product discovery

We explore the process and benefits of continuous product discovery, a product development framework for gathering ongoing customer feedback and insights.

Product Management
Continuous product discovery

We all know that understanding the needs of your users is crucial for creating successful products. That's where product discovery can help. It's the initial stage of product development where you find out what users need and decide what product or feature to build to address those needs. 

However, traditional product discovery methods can be limiting, as they only provide a snapshot of user feedback at a specific point in time. Continuous product discovery is all about having regular touchpoints with customers, gathering feedback and insights, and continuously improving your product to stay relevant to your customers’ changing needs. It can help you overcome common product-building challenges, increase agility and flexibility, and even lead to more innovative ideas.

So, whether you’re a product manager, UX designer, or tech lead, continuous product discovery is worth exploring. This article provides valuable insights and practical tips on how to improve your product development process through continuous product discovery. We explore Teresa Torres’s continuous product discovery framework and look at the process, challenges, and adoption strategies.

By following the steps and principles of continuous product discovery, you can create products that are more valuable for your customers.

Continuous product discovery

Product discovery meaning

Product discovery is the initial stage of product development. It helps you determine what the needs of your users are and whether to build a specific product or feature to meet those needs.

Product discovery helps you figure out:

  • The value of your product or feature.
  • The target market.
  • Your customers and their needs.
  • How your product differs from the competition. 
  • Your business and product goals. 

Gathering user feedback at the start of a project and then moving into the delivery stage has its limitations, though. It means that product teams might not have access to the most recent information on user needs and preferences, which could lead to developing products or features that don't align with customer needs. 

Continuous product discovery helps to solve this issue and offers an iterative approach to user research that allows for ongoing customer input throughout the entire developmental lifecycle of a product.

What is continuous product discovery?

Continuous product discovery is a framework that allows product teams to gather customer feedback and insights on an ongoing basis, rather than only at specific intervals. It’s an iterative process that helps teams understand real-life scenarios and come up with solutions they might not have thought of otherwise.

The goal of continuous product discovery is to find a creative meeting point between what’s possible in terms of technology and what customers are looking for.

It was popularized by Teresa Torres, an internationally acclaimed coach, speaker, and author of Continuous Discovery Habits. In her continuous product discovery framework, Teresa suggests weekly touchpoints between the team building the product and customers, with small research activities conducted in pursuit of a desired product outcome.

In a nutshell, the continuous product discovery framework includes the following steps:

  1. Identify your business goals.
  2. Find specific product outcomes that will lead to those business goals.
  3. Conduct weekly conversations with customers, led by the product team trio – this is usually the product manager, the design lead, and the tech lead.
  4. Map our customer stories and find opportunities, for example based on customer pain points, desires, and needs.
  5. Focus on an opportunity and map out solutions.
  6. Choose three solutions to experiment with. 

We’ll get into what this looks like in more detail below.

By speaking to customers at least once a week to gather feedback and insights, the framework encourages product teams to continuously improve products and stay relevant to their customers’ changing needs.

Continuous product discovery

Continuous product discovery benefits

Continuous product discovery offers several benefits for product teams. For example:

  • It provides a method for thinking, visualizing, and acting on ideas, reducing conflicts, bias, uncertainty, and risks.
  • It helps to improve the viability and quality of decisions and reduce wasted time, resources, and effort.
  • It allows you to stay relevant to customers and be able to respond to insights about their changing needs.
  • It allows for the development of innovative product ideas and the ability to challenge or confirm assumptions.
  • It builds customer opinions into the design process, encouraging customer-centric ideas and enhancing team member expertise.
  • It helps to avoid the “curse of knowledge”. By maintaining a continuous feedback loop, you can help customers adopt your products and reduce time to value (TTV) and churn.
  • It improves the user experience by making products accessible, credible, desirable, usable, useful, and valuable for both the customer and the business.

Digital products are never perfect or final. For example, Facebook started as a social media site and grew into Meta, a social media, augmented reality, and virtual reality integrated platform. Continuous product discovery can help you overcome the ambiguity of the future, changing behaviors, competitor strategies, and the ever-evolving technology landscape.

Collecting regular customer feedback doesn’t mean that customers tell you what to build. It means that you can listen for unidentified or unspoken needs and validate the value you’re providing, which can help you to reduce expensive mistakes.

Continuous product discovery adoption

According to UX Design Lead Kome Sideso from CcHUB Design Lab, adopting continuous product discovery in your organization requires a willingness to adapt your approach. He suggests adopting a framework, then adjusting and refining this based on your capacity, weaknesses, and tools.

Continuous product discovery

To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Identify your business goals. For example, increase customer retention by X%.
  2. Translate these goals into relevant product outcomes. For example, decrease TTV by X%. You can also think of behavioral metrics that can improve product outcomes, e.g. encouraging new customers to test features and add-ons. 
  3. Create and automate weekly customer touchpoints. This might involve 30 minute interviews with customers to understand their desires and pain points, or other user research methods like prototype testing, five second testing, or preference testing.

    The purpose is to understand customer desires, needs, and pain points. If you’re interviewing, ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me about the last time you used our product”. This allows you to collect stories that reveal behaviors, challenges, and other important details. Avoid speculations – direct questions may not get you the details you need from the customer.

    If weekly interviews sound overwhelming, gradually increase the frequency of contact you have with customers from bi-monthly to monthly, for example. You can also automate the recruitment process (more on this below).

    The product team trio leads these weekly discovery sessions, although different team members might be involved depending on your focus. While involving more people can slow down the decision-making process, it can ultimately improve the quality of the decisions you make.
  4. Identify the opportunities to address. Map out what you discover from customers and visualize them on an opportunity solution tree. Focus on opportunities that will provide value for customers and, in turn, value to the business.
  5. Choose an opportunity and focus on three solutions. Generating multiple solutions for the same opportunity can help you make better decisions by avoiding cognitive biases and the tendency to stick with ideas because you’ve invested resources in them. By considering multiple options and evaluating them in relation to each other, you can more objectively determine which one is best. 
  6. Build and test prototypes. The product team creates and tests prototypes to assess potential solutions.
Continuous product discovery

Strategies and solutions for continuous product discovery

Continuous product discovery tips

While continuous product discovery can be a valuable process for product development, it doesn’t always work. Factors like stakeholder support and customer engagement play a crucial role in its success. Some teams are stuck in linear discovery process thinking. Others may lack the time and budget.  

Often, companies who implement continuous product discovery need some time to see its impact. Kome describes it this way:

“Continuous product discovery is not a pill or a magic wand. It’s a process.”

Two common challenges when adopting continuous product discovery are stakeholder pushback and customer unresponsiveness

Let’s look at these challenges and how to address them.

Stakeholder pushback

Some executives and team members may not support the continuous product discovery process or agree with the ideas it generates.

To address this, you can work on co-creating with stakeholders and gain support by involving them in the process and soliciting their feedback and opinions. Instead of insisting on a specific solution, focus on finding the best path to reach desired product and business outcomes. 

Customer unresponsiveness

Let’s face it. It's hard to recruit user research participants. But here are some ideas to automate and simplify your interview schedules.

For B2B markets, work with client-facing teams – ask them to schedule interviews on your calendar during conversations they have with senior managers and C-suite executives. Define triggers based on your focus. For example, if a customer is going through a particular kind of problem, ask if they’ll meet with you for an interview and offer an incentive like free credits or early access to new features.

For B2C markets, recruit customers while they’re using your product or visiting your website by creating an interview request pop-up linked to your calendar. Offer a gift card incentive to those who sign up. 

For niche markets, consider creating a customer advisory board and inviting valued customers to take part in one-on-one interviews as part of their participation. However, it’s important to remember that this strategy may not work if the addressable market is too small or hard to reach. And it should be avoided when the market is larger, as this can lead to building products for a small section of the market.

Remember, it takes time to adopt new ideas and influence corporate culture. So while you’re pushing for continuous product discovery, be patient and open to pushback. Keep the customer in mind. The bottom line isn’t just the process you’re adopting, but a new mindset and goal to create ongoing value for customers and for your organization.

We’re rooting for you. 

Want to collect ongoing feedback from your users? UsabilityHub has all the tools you need to test prototypes, run design surveys, and conduct five second tests, preference tests, first click tests, and more. Sign up to a free UsabilityHub plan to get access to unlimited active tests.

Continuous product discovery: A person working at a laptop holding sticky notes.

Frequently asked questions about continuous product discovery

What is continuous product discovery?

Continuous product discovery is a framework that allows product teams to gather customer feedback and insights on an ongoing basis, rather than only at specific intervals. It’s an iterative process that helps teams understand real-life scenarios and come up with solutions they might not have thought of otherwise.

What are the benefits of continuous product discovery?

Continuous product discovery is a framework for gathering ongoing customer feedback and insights in product development, which improves the viability and quality of decisions, allows you to stay relevant to customers and developing innovative ideas, build customer opinions into the design process, and improve the user experience.

What steps are involved in continuous product discovery?

The continuous product discovery process involves identifying business goals, translating them into relevant product outcomes, and creating and automating weekly customer touchpoints to understand customer desires, needs, and pain points. You then identify opportunities to address these opportunities, focusing on three solutions, and building prototypes and testing them. This process is led by the product team trio – a product manager, lead designer, and tech lead – and allows for better decisions to be made by avoiding cognitive biases, to evaluate multiple options objectively, and test potential solutions with customers.

Stephanie Inabo Moses is a freelance writer for B2B and SaaS platforms. She has worked as an editor and run a social impact initiative in the work and learning space. When she's not writing, she's having fun trying out new recipes for her family. You can connect with her on Twitter @inabo_stephanie and on LinkedIn @Stephanie Inabo.

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