The software-as-a-service business model has become a growing trend in recent years, empowered by advances in the cloud and other agile technologies. By providing solutions to specific technological needs, SaaS providers can drive success through recurring revenue from a loyal user base.
However, this approach only works if you get your actual product right. As such, it’s vital that you prioritise developing effective SaaS products before anything else. The following six tips should help you to develop outstanding products that truly deliver value to users.
1) Identify Real Needs & Provide A Solution
The first step in developing any SaaS product should be to work out its core purpose and value proposition. It’s no good to just invent this on the spot, though – you need to identify a real need among your target audience and work out how your product can meet this need.
This involves carrying out comprehensive market research. Start with your core niche of target users and find out what their common issues and pain points are with existing SaaS products in the same sphere as you aim to develop your product.
Social listening can be a great way to do this – communities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be a valuable source of user opinions and ideas to inform your product. Another important aspect of your research should be competitive analysis; to beat the competition, you need to know what they already offer and how your product can distinguish itself.
Carrying out robust market research should help you to identify specific customer needs that your product can make its core focus. In doing so, you can focus your development process and concentrate on creating a product whose value will be immediately obvious and appealing to your potential users.
2) Implement Robust Analytics
Even once you’ve finished your initial market research, you should still work to collect as much useful data as possible in order to gain further insights that can drive future product development. As such, you need to ensure your product, website, and any other channels you operate through have robust analytics built-in.
Doing so will enable you to capture key usage data from your user base when your product launches, along with valuable data for marketing and other business processes. By using analytics to gain insights from your user base, you can answer key questions that drive development.
Which features are being used most in your product? Where are errors and pain points occurring? Are customers using the product efficiently, or do you need to streamline its processes to increase ease of use? Analytics can help you to answer all of these questions and more.
A data-driven approach to development will yield significantly better results than simply guessing at your users’ needs and expectations. Utilising analytics efficiently means you can identify the essential steps you need to take to ensure your product is an effective solution to the problems it’s designed to solve.
3) Follow A User-Centred Design Process
While it can be tempting to lead SaaS product development according to your own grand ideas, in reality it’s much more fruitful to put your users at the center of the design process. Successful SaaS products are designed with a specific type of user in mind, so you need to put this user type’s needs and expectations at the heart of your development processes.
One way of doing this is to collect feedback at every stage of development to find out what users think of your product in its current form and what improvements they’d like to see. Doing so enables you to implement updates that deliver greater value to your users, rather than simply adding features blindly.
Proactively seeking users’ input also avoids becoming a “feature factory” – where you keep adding features blindly to a product and inadvertently make the user experience worse by diluting the core purpose of the product. New features can be useful, but only when they’re informed by actual user needs and not just developer brainstorming.
4) Test & Validate Your Product Properly
Every time you launch a SaaS product or new feature, you need to properly test and validate it to ensure that it effectively meets its core purpose. This again centres around seeking information from your target users.
Beta testing new features or products with a select group of target users can yield valuable insights into how effectively it meets their needs. By conducting multiple rounds of testing and continuously fine-tuning the product, you can more effectively meet expectations and deliver a more useful product.
You can also gather feedback from existing users as discussed previously, or utilize usage data analytics to find out how well each iteration of your product has been received. Core metrics include usage time, the time to first use of new features, and workflow efficiency, all of which can help to validate whether new features have truly added value to your product.
5) Don’t Go Overboard On Features
As mentioned above, becoming a feature factory can be a danger for SaaS providers. Bombarding users with new features that they don’t necessarily want or need not only doesn’t help make a better product, it can actually end up making it a worse product.
When new users see your app for the first time, it can be off putting to see a huge list of different features. Your product will appear bloated and complicated to use, even if it serves its core purpose perfectly well. On the other hand, a focused product that emphasizes the core features users need will immediately convey and prove its value to users.
As such, make sure to focus only on features that will add proven value for your users. You’ll enjoy much better conversion and retention rates from a focused product than a bloated one.
6) Set Up An Effective Support System
When your SaaS business starts out, email and phone support systems may be sufficient to handle your initially small user base. However, as you scale up, you’ll need to invest in more efficient ways to track, manage, and fix user issues.
The standard approach (and often the best) is a ticketing system that allows users to easily submit detailed support requests which can be assigned to support staff and efficiently managed. Whatever system you end up using, however, it’s essential that it allows you to address customer pain points quickly in order to maintain a positive user experience and high retention rates.
It can also be helpful to implement analytics into your support system. Doing so will allow you to more easily identify common pain points and product errors, enabling a more responsive development process that accounts for your users’ needs.
If you implement the above tips into your SaaS business, you’ll soon be developing better SaaS products that effortlessly prove their value to your customers.
The recurring theme is that you should always put your users’ needs first – there’s no point developing a product that doesn’t adequately meet user expectations, so make sure you put customers at the centre of all your SaaS product development decisions.