Fail Fast or Pivot. On Importance of Collecting Feedback and Monitoring User Behavior

Love it or hate it, failure is an integral threat to any startup owner. “Fail fast,” they say, and some startups obey. For obvious economical reasons, investors and startup owners want the endeavour to fail at an early stage rather than at the final one. But what they struggle for when they start a business is to never fail at all. Easier said than done.

Top reasons why startups tank are lack of expertise in market needs and poor product quality. More often than not, a startup team creates a product that the market simply does not want. Maybe they have invented a solution to their own problem and failed to realize that other people never encountered the same problem, too; or maybe the market is just not ready for this product yet. Sometimes, a startup idea seems brilliant, yet it falls on face because the co-founders did not actually know what they were doing. And, in both cases, the team often does not care to receive their users’ feedback or monitor the behavior of the users in a given system. This is the biggest miss, which could cost the startup’s life.

Top 8 Reasons Why Startups Fail

Founder’s lack of expertise in market needs

Poor product quality

Failure to monitor user behavior

Neglect of user feedback

Redundancy of the product on the market

No need in this specific solution

Market is not yet ready for the product

Poor implementation of the startup idea

Collecting User Feedback

This is always the users who matter: they should navigate the startup team in the long and troublesome journey for a perfect product market fit. Thus, collecting user feedback of all possible kinds is important. Product owners should particularly value the feedback of actual users, i.e. the ones who already tried installing and navigating through the application or visiting the website. This could concern both the idea and its implementation. The team should find out whether their product meets the market and the users’ needs. Moreover, they should realize whether their idea got a nice implementation by asking their users to evaluate the product’s usability, functionality and/or design.

Granting users a tool to share their feedback is the foremost task of every startup team. These tools comprise but are not limited to feedback widgets, e.g. chat or Contact Us forms, both in-app and e-mail surveys and questionnaires, social listening and interviews. A more sophisticated embedded mechanism of seeking feedback requires a user to shake their phone to reveal an otherwise hidden feedback form in an app. By implementing a feedback mechanism within the app itself, the startup team makes it easy for the targeted users to provide immediate input for the product. Based on the feedback collected from the users, the startup team could further improve or re-design their application.

Infographics with Launching a Startup Scheme

Monitoring User Behavior in a System

Apart from collecting feedback on the products from its actual users, startup teams are recommended to research user behavior in the software products to make further decisions on scaling, adding and removing some pieces of functionality. One of the most popular and effective tools to monitor the user behavior in an app or on a website is freemium analytics service by Google, Google Analytics. Here at Logicify, we do use Google Analytics in combination with other tools for our double-sided system of user behavior and system condition monitoring of the custom software solutions we build for our clients.

Standard Google Analytics metrics allows to record the number of users interacting with the app or web-site, the duration of their sessions, and the screens they visit. A bit more gimmicky yet equally flexible instrumentation would show how exactly the users interact with an app/web-site, which pieces of content they share, which files they download and which actions they complete. The collected data, when analyzed and interpreted properly, helps a startup team to understand user behavior within the system and change it accordingly to improve the conversion rate.

In some web apps we develop for our clients, we use a combination of open-source tools - Graylog and Grafana - to track existing users' behavior.

Reorientation of a Startup’s Focus Based on the Insights

A businessman or an entrepreneur could not always adequately evaluate the market situation and its needs to offer a truly competitive product. So, flexibility is an essential skill for a startup to survive as, sometimes, the team should make a considerable decision about pivoting, i.e. reorientation of the startup’s focus. This is where user feedback and the insights of monitoring come in handy. They are to signal a startup to timely change the business direction and fare well in the long run.

This was the case with one of our recent clients, a food startup, whose owner came up with an idea of an app collecting employees’ food preferences. Initially, the users were prompted to complete a questionnaire on their food tastes, including most and least favourite products or the food they were allergic to, and thus find out the food preferences of their colleagues. However, what seemed like a funny experience to the startup founder, turned out to be of zero interest to the users. According to the feedback given by the app’s first users, they did not care much whether the colleague next door was a vegan or preferred a medium-well steak. Moreover, the data collected by Google Analytics hinted that the back-end implementation of the founder’s idea was not that much of a success. It took too long for the app to load, so users often lost their patience before they were done with answering the final question of the food preferences questionnaire. This fastened the startup’s CEO idea to re-shape the application.

When Logicify team came onboard, the startup’s focus was shifted from individual to corporate food preferences (from B2C to B2B market). After one more iteration, an automated personal web-assistant allowed for an easy food choice for catering during corporate meetings, conferences, outdoor activities. All in all, the startup got a chance to survive and succeed because the founder was far-seeing to collect and interpret the feedback received from target audience and Google Analytics and, based on these findings, re-orientate the startup focus.

Studying the Lesson of Failure

Just as no one goes into their wedding day planning a divorce, no one starts a business thinking it would mess up. Success is the best motivator as nobody wants to fail. Yet, every day numerous startups sink, in particular because of their overweening conceit, lack of market expertise, or failure to collect their users’ feedback and interpret the data of user behavior monitoring. While some teams fall victims to setbacks and wave the white flag, others learn from them and succeed. Flexibility and feedback “interpreting” skills are essential for a startup to find the right niche in the market and switch the focus in the right direction.

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