Everything You Need to Know about Product Discovery – Part Two: Hypothesize

Last week, I talked about empathizing with your users and customers. If you’ve just stumbled onto this article, you may want to read the first article in this four-part series on product discovery. It’s the most important step in this process and one that a lot of product teams overlook.

You should talk to your customers and users at least once a week. This shouldn’t be a one-time activity, but a continuous process.

In this second of my four-part series on product discovery, I’ll review the importance of creating a customer journey map followed by developing your hypotheses.

How to create a customer journey map

If you read the first article in this series, you should recall that a key activity after conducting your interviews is to do a brain-dump of everything you observed into some type of repository (Google Sheets, Trello, etc). Now you’re ready to move onto the really fun work of creating a customer journey map.

There are many types of customer journey maps. Many companies create customer journey maps to identify all the touchpoints a customer has with their product and business. There are also experience maps which are used to show the emotions and thoughts a customer typically has as they use a product or perform a certain task.

For product discovery, I recommend creating a customer journey map based on a ‘day in the life’ of your customer. This type of journey map enables you to tell the story of your customers’ experience over a period of time. If you did your customer interview homework, you should have several Day in the Life interviews already conducted.

In terms of tools, I prefer keeping things simple and use Post-It notes, but you could also do this exercise with a flowchart app such as Lucidchart, Vizio or OmniGraffle. I’ve also seen design agencies create the most beautiful customer journey maps using fancy apps such as Illustrator. I encourage you to keep the effort needed to create your customer journey map as minimal as possible. You should be able to do a thorough customer journey map in less than half a day. If you get bogged down using apps that require a lot of time, you risk losing steam during a very important aspect of the product discovery process.

Since I prefer using Post-It notes, I’ll refer to these throughout my example. Start by drawing a line across a whiteboard that is broken down into some type of time component (i.e. “start of the workday, late morning, after lunch” or you can use hourly time durations). Referring back to your notes, write the first activity your customers tend to do. For example, let’s imagine you’re a product manager for Domino’s. Based on your customer interviews, you noticed that the first thing customers do is talk to their family members/roommates to see what kind of pizza everyone wants for dinner. In this case, you would write “Decide on the type of pizza to order” on a Post-It and put it on the wall under 6 p.m. Go through all the customer interview notes and jot down all of their activities, one per Post-It note and stick them on the wall below the corresponding time of day.

Although this may sound like a lot of work, you can get through it quickly, especially if you have a team that can help you. In fact, I highly recommend you turn this into a team exercise so that everyone puts themselves in the customers’ shoes.

Here’s an example of a simplified pizza ordering customer journey map by Abby Covert that shows the process for ordering pizza in conjunction with different locations.

Depending on the number of target customers or personas you have (i.e. users and buyers), you may need to create multiple versions of your customer journey map. Once you’ve completed this exercise, capture it for future reference.

Assumptions and Hypotheses

As you step back and look at the big picture you’ve just created, you should be able to get a sense of your customers’ needs and pain points. If you haven’t already done so, bring in your team members and tell them the narrative about a Day in the Life of your customer based on the journey map. Ask everyone to identify when and where the customers experience problems or moments of joy.

It should flow naturally from your conversation about how your company could make it easier for the customer to perform a specific task. You’ll likely hear people say things like “What if we…”, “Wouldn’t it be great if they could…”, “I think the customer could do this faster if we…” If your team is struggling to come up with ideas, prompt them by asking “How might we help our customers …” This is the beginning of the hypothesis phase.

A hypothesis is an assumption, an idea that is proposed for the sake of argument so that it can be tested to see if it might be true. A hypothesis is usually tentative; it’s an assumption or suggestion made strictly for the objective of being tested.

Merriam-Webster Dictioinary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What does a hypothesis look like in the context of product discovery? Let’s continue to use Domino’s Pizza as our example. You’ve talked to several customers and realize that many are browsing the menu with the Domino’s app, but are not completing their order with the app and instead place an order by phone. You might formulate an assumption that they want to know if there are any specials they can take advantage of and they think the best way to find out about specials is by talking to a Domino’s employee. Maybe customers think the app has no way of knowing what the local specials are. As a Domino’s product manager, you know that if you can get more people to complete their orders using the app, you can reduce the operating expenses associated with each store. You may form a hypothesis such as “If the app made it easier to see what specials and coupons are available, more people would place an order within the app (and the store will save money by not having to answer as many phone calls).” This is an example where it would be useful to marry the qualitative research you did with your customer interviews with the qualitative data you have from your app.

Before moving on to the next step, prioritize your list of hypotheses so you can focus on the most important one. Once you’ve determined the hypotheses that might have the biggest impact, it’s time for step 3, ideation!

Stay tuned for next week when I discuss the ideation phase where you get to think about solving your customers’ needs with your product.

Have you tried using the discovery process before? Have questions about how to do this? Get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

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