WHAT IS A DIGITAL PRODUCT?
As product professionals, we create a product strategy and product roadmap; we manage the product backlog; we release minimum viable products and product increments; and we are responsible for achieving product success. But what is a product? While it might seem a trivial question, it is surprisingly hard to answer for many organisations. But a poor understanding of this fundamental concept can lead to unclear roles and responsibilities and result in ineffective product management practices. This article offers my definition of what a digital product is and how it differs from features, components, projects, and the user experience.
In simple terms, a digital product is one that exists only in digital form. Some people might also describe it as a product lacking a physical form that you sell online. These simple definitions, however, do not give a full idea of what a product of this nature is. You don’t necessarily have to sell an intangible product before it can be viewed in this light. For example, a website from which you get useful information that you don’t have to pay for is a digital product.
Product is about value. Therefore, the digital version is anything that exists in digital form and delivers value. Pledge Parental Leave founder Jules Ehrhardt describes it simply as “a software-enabled product or service that offers some form of utility to a human being.” Of itself, a digital product might not make money directly for a company. But it could help to sell another product or service by its maker or earn money through advertising.
Google Search, Facebook, Uber app, and Sonos speaker app are good examples of digital products. Some exists independently while others are a digitized form or part of a physical product or business.
Digital product work aims at creating digital touchpoints for a product or service. A digital touchpoint is an interface through which a user interacts with a product. These products can come in different forms with the most popular being web and mobile. However, this does not always mean the forms constitute different products.
Take the case of Facebook that has both web and mobile apps. The two options provide access to the same product; the mobile app may only have less functionality. Also, the social network has apps for different mobile operating systems.
Digital touchpoints have traditionally been visual. But there now appears a shift toward conversational interfaces – Amazon Echo is a good example of this. Several fields are involved in the delivery of effective digital touchpoints. Apart from engineering, product management, marketing, design, and data science, teams are among those that play a part.
Digital Product, Projects, and Features
It may be worth mentioning that a product is not a project – people confuse the two sometimes. A project is a temporary undertaking that is deemed a success when it produces a release. A product, on the other hand, is a long-term venture involving ongoing work to achieve market-fit and reach business goals.
A feature is another thing that more people can easily confuse with a product, thereby leading to wrong PM practices. This is only a capability that users make use of in a product. Several features are usually necessary for a digital product to be deemed valuable by users. Features or functionality of a product influences what the overall user experience would be.
Just as a feature is not a product, a component can also not be viewed the same way. These are merely building blocks that enable you to deliver value with your product. It should be stated, however, that a feature or component can become a product on its own. We get a good example of this from Facebook with its creation of the Messenger app from the main product.
It is also possible to lump multiple digital products into one, in which case we have a product bundle. The Microsoft Office suite that offers products like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in one is an example.
Digital Products Change Continuously
Product managers must bear in mind when working on digital offerings that they are not anywhere as static as physical products. Failure to pay adequate attention to this is a major reason these products can fail.
You don’t approach digital products with the mindset of creating a “finished product.” That is a thing for physical products and not even in every case of such. Your work is not done when you ship a product.
Digital products evolve continuously. You continue working to fine-tune what they offer as you learn new things about customer behavior and needs. The products make possible customized offers that you can tailor based on the data you’re getting. Fresh releases of code bring something new. Physical products, on the other hand, don’t evolve in the same way. They typically become obsolete with time and are then replaced.
Commoditization isn’t so much a thing with digital products as it is with their physical counterparts. Digital enables you to differentiate your product with the aid data that show what customers deem valuable.
Types of Digital Products
Digital products have many advantages as we have discussed earlier. Here are some of the following types of digital products with examples;
E-books are a common example of digital products that are popular among people. It’s because the creation of e-book is very simple and easy, and it’s comprised of written texts and graphics. After its creation, the distribution and marketing of e-book requires an online stores and advertisements.
When the e-book is ready, then people can buy it via online stores and read it on their smartphones, tablets, and Kindle readers.
If you’re an internet user, then you must be familiar with the software applications, online downloading, and internet updates. Online software industry sells its products, plugins, and updates and helps millions of people every day. According to an estimate, 28% of all online sales are comprised of software applications. If you multiply it, then it would become a huge figure.
The interesting thing about the software industry that it’s big, growing and most importantly, it’s diverse and it has opportunities for everyone. Like it requires a programmer, coder, decoder, graphic designer, writer, business managers, and investors; all of them play their certain role to complete and deliver the final product to customers.
Software industry comprises of web development, mobile apps, online stores, browsers, editing apps, video games, and software engineers are working to create and develop more and more fields. The possibilities in this field are many, and they’re keeping on changing.
Videos are a very popular format of conveying information online. They could be educational, informational or entertaining. The reason videos are more popular than written information is because people can consume it easily. All they have to do is to sit back, relax and watch. The presenter would explain everything to them.
If you are a good speaker and have an interest in the field of communication, then you should learn to edit because online videos would be a great field for you.
Podcasts are usually comprised of a series of online audio lectures, discussion, audiobook, lessons of some book, or debate that people can download it on their smartphones and listen to it later.
Guides or tutorials fall in the category of how-to user guide videos, where they teach certain guidelines step by step. Such tutorials videos provide both in the form of audio and text written on the screen. Images/visuals plus texts are usually more effective than just visuals or audio.
High pixels photos are greatly demanded by the blogger, website owners, and online stores. Even some online platforms sell quality photographs. Some other platforms offer royalty-free images to the public.
The challenge comes with downloading an image from any platforms that you don’t know whether a particular image is offered for free, or it’s the property of someone. For instance, you download an image and start using it. But you’ll find out months later that the image which you’ve been using is the property of someone, and you never had the permission to use.
Templates are systematic graphs, graphical guidelines, formula, recipe, criteria or sequence of certain complicated things. Such templates provide you the guidelines of unlocking or finishing a certain task, and you wouldn’t be able to understand or solve it without the template.
A document comprises of a written piece of information that people want and require. It could be a report, plan, quiz, assessment or anything worth reading and knowing what’s inside. Documents are usually shorter than e-book because the information they contain is classified and formal.