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Pretotyping a Product That Doesn’t Yet Exist

Product
Roadmap
Users

1 June, 2021

Shay Mandel, Engineering Group Manager at Next Insurance, uses “pretotyping” in order to gain some sense of what the market is actually looking for.

Problem

Before we set out to build a product, we should always be asking ourselves: what do people really want to buy?

What is “pretotyping”? Essentially, you are testing the waters with a group of people in your chosen demographic. The product that you wish to share with them does not yet exist. This is even before you build a prototype. The purpose of the exercise is to see what they still need but are not getting from yourself or the competition yet. Through these means, you are able to test the viability of more disruptive, innovative ideas that would never gain any traction without data to support the potential for product-market fit.

We sell different types of insurance to people, and wanted to know what type we should prioritize next in terms of development. We utilized the “fake door” method of information-gathering to learn more.

Actions taken

How we went about this was through the use of a landing page — it looked like a website, but, really, was just a “fake” door” facade with nothing actually behind it. On it, there was a menu that presented the visitor with several options of insurance. They were prompted to select the choice that they would be most interested in purchasing a policy for. Traffic was brought in through Google keywords that we had bought. It wasn’t cheap, but the insight that we gained was invaluable.

What would have been much more expensive would be going through all of the time and labor of actually building a product, just to find out that nobody is interested in. We were able to see which options drove the largest amount of our foot traffic, what people would choose on the page and so on. Based off of this data, we were able to decide what we should be developing first.

This comes before the prototype — there was no product at all. We had successfully used our fake door to see what people would be interested in and which option to actually build implementation behind. You can do the same thing with features inside of an existing product, as well. You present the reports to your teams and product managers, and you make it easier for them to see where the company should be moving toward.

Lessons learned

  • Gathering feedback can be as simple as adding a “like” button to items in an e-commerce context. You get to see if people are actually interested or not. If they’re not interested enough to click a button, why build anything behind it?
  • You can provide value in this way without wasting resources on a product or feature without any real product-market fit. Gathering insight will show you where you may be better off, or where you should be dedicating more time.
  • When looking to partake in this sort of experiment, define your hypothesis clearly and establish metrics to be looking for while you set out to prove it.

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