In order to better understand users—their wants and their unique problems that need proactive solutions—it’s crucial to involve data in every step of the product-development process.
Jessica Wagner believes that building products should be a user-centric process from beginning to end. Her career in digital product and strategy has taught her that products only succeed when they offer solutions that users actually need.
As an expert in product-innovation strategy, she is well versed in how data operates in the product-delivery process, the intersection of growth and product, and how to gain client buy-in for product analytics.
Tai Rattigan: What’s your role at Fueled?
Jessica Wagner: I’m a lead product manager at Fueled, a digital product agency in New York that specializes in cutting-edge design and technology for mobile apps, websites, wearables, and blockchain. I’ve spent my entire career in product strategy, so this is a very organic progression for me. My role entails working with all sorts of clients across a whole bunch of industries to define, build, launch, and grow digital products.
TR: What are your thoughts on the intersection of product development and growth?
JW: Product and growth shouldn’t be conceptualized as two separate service offerings. Instead, they need to continue in parallel into the product’s future. The topmost goal is to launch a successful product that sees long-term, exponential growth.
During product execution, all your different teams need to be working cohesively. While designers are wireframing, applying visual design treatment, and putting together Sketch During product execution, all your different teams need to be working cohesively. files, developers will begin setting up their code infrastructure. The PM or product strategist will build up the data blueprint based on the KPIs, working hand-in-hand with the developers on feasibility and level of effort. The growth team fits into the picture by facilitating a coherent strategy that focuses on SDK integration, analytics platform development, and automated marketing framework creation.
Consider that there’s a corresponding set of product and growth activities involved in every step of the product delivery lifecycle. In the beginning, you’ll have some combination of a design sprint and a workshop that captures core business objectives. This helps us understand all facets of the product and what its future development process will look like.
While the aforementioned actions are traditionally very product management-centric, they’re also incredibly applicable to growth. If you don’t have the upfront context from the kickoff that’s used to guide the product strategy, you can’t come up with your KPIs, which determine what content we put into the data blueprint, as well as which metrics that we monitor during and after launch.
The next step in the product delivery lifecycle is the actual execution of the product. This phase requires strategic observation and must identify not only the characteristics that make up a growth stack but also the tools that will provide the most unique value for a client.
TR: How do you establish KPIs that balance product and business objectives?
JW: Throughout my career at four mobile-focused agencies, I’ve noticed that product and business KPIs often become convoluted. The story usually starts with a client who has an unsuccessful business. Despite seeing a steady flow of customers and profit, they’re not digitally based, yet want to enter into the realm of digital transformation by developing an app.
This type of customer often also claims that they have insight into their goals and KPIs. It’s difficult to emphasize how the product must fit into a picture that surpasses and evolves personal business objectives. How will it expand on the objectives already at hand? How can we then hone it down and translate it into product KPIs?
Coming up with a refined set of product-focused KPIs is usually more fruitful than Coming up with a refined set of product-focused KPIs is usually more fruitful than forcing the product into a predefined set of business KPIs. forcing the product into a predefined set of business KPIs. For instance, there was one client who, while proposing a large, primarily web-based productivity solution, wanted to add on some additional mobile components. They were a fairly new company that wanted to increase profit by selling to as many companies as possible. While making money should align with the overall business goal, a mobile product should focus more on saving users’ time and producing a seamless experience.
If you happen to set a KPI that you can’t consistently meet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s something wrong with what you built. It’s more likely that your KPI is unrealistic or should be recalibrated to better fit your product’s current maturity, along with other external factors.
TR: How do you educate clients on data-driven product and growth decisions?
JW: Building a product is expensive, so educating clients on the process is extremely important. Unlike a product that we develop in one bundle, growth costs are ongoing. You have to spend additional money on a monthly or even yearly basis for essentially an indefinite amount of time. Without a clear vision, that’s a much harder sell for any agency-style business like Fueled.
To counter this challenge, we simply focus on the benefits of analytics involvement: it Because we introduced the data as a stepping off point for action, many of our clients have embraced that it is the key to product improvement and optimization. helps maintain product health while driving broader business, product, and marketing decisions. Because we introduced the data as a stepping off point for action, many of our clients have embraced that it is the key to product improvement and optimization.
We use analytics and behavioral tools like Amplitude to recognize the actionable insights that can improve the product—when we catch a weird blip in the data, it’s easier for us to diagnose and tackle the problem right away.
When clients aren’t immediately convinced of the value of data, we tend to take a different approach that we call “30/60/90” reports, which are essentially health checks that occur 30, 60, and 90 days after launch. In these lighter reports, we give clients a glimpse of product analytics by showing them a thorough report of user activity, so that they can then consider our recommendations with a broader perspective.
TR: What role do data and analytics play after an app goes live?
JW: Whether it’s identifying bugs, addressing UX issues, or analyzing drop-offs during a certain conversion event, data and analytics help you understand what’s not working. They are the best tools that equip the product team with a diagnosis of the problem, along with a more efficient solution.
On the other hand, data is a great way to understand what is working and why users are Data is a great way to understand what is working and why users are satisfied with your product solution. satisfied with your product solution. Those positive insights allow us to build a future version of a product with features that align more closely with user needs.
Keeping tabs on App Store reviews is a simpler but more effective way to collect user insight too. Negative reviews offer a fairly fool-proof way to identify what parts of the app need to be repaired—but what’s arguably more important is paying closer attention to positive feedback. Users can be relied on to highlight all the successful areas of your app that you might not notice otherwise, which can be just as powerful as product data itself.