There has never been a greater example of the importance of being able to adjust, change and adapt quickly than the disruptions caused by COVID-19. In a matter of days and weeks, businesses were forced to send employees home to work remotely, close their doors temporarily (or in some drastic cases permanently), and get creative on how to serve customers virtually. With so many unknowns about the future of our economy and workforce, making the decision to drastically change business operations, or pivot existing offers is scary, however, this is where MVP methodology thrives.
You may have heard the term MVP referenced in sports, which stands for Most Valuable Player. In the business world, however, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product and describes a development technique in which a new product is developed according to the least amount of functionality required by the end customer. In other words, the idea is to quickly develop the most basic version of a working product. The final version of the product and additional features are then developed after testing the product in the market and considering feedback from users. The point of following the MVP mindset is to focus on the core objectives of a product and to quickly get it to market, without wasting time developing additional features. In the case of MVP, the speed in which you can get a product to market is more important than creating the perfect product, with the goal of establishing a product roadmap to evolve over time. A great example of a company using the MVP mindset in action, is Bulk Barn. Bulk Barn, a traditional brick and mortar retail store selling bulk food products, was deemed a non-essential business, and was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19. In an effort to remain open for customers, the company made the quick pivot to selling online – in less than 48 hours.
Bulk Barn: A MVP Success Story
Bulk Barn is a traditional retail business, selling bulk food products such as candy, baking items, nuts and more to customers through a self-serve model. Although prior to COVID-19 Bulk Barn had an online presence, the company’s website acted strictly as a retail store locator, pointing customers to the closest store in their geographic area. Not deemed an essential business, Bulk Barn was forced to close its doors to the general public to help flatten the curve. This is what led the company to start considering ways in which it could still serve customers. In order to provide options for online sales, the company used the MVP methodology to quickly set-up a functioning eCommerce site with curb-side pick-up.
MVP Approach to eCommerce
Unlike traditional eCommerce stores, which take months to develop and cost thousands of dollars, Bulk Barn was able to provide enough functionality to sell to customers online within 48 hours. The site was transformed with functionality for customers to choose their location and then fill out a simple online order form with information about product and order quantities. Following the MVP development technique, this online form was simply that - an electronic form not integrated with any database and with no real-time inventory management. Once a customer submits the form, an email is sent to the appropriate retail location where an employee can pick the order for customer pick-up. This approach to eCommerce allowed the company to achieve its goals in a very short period of time. And even though the website does not include any bells or whistles (or even any features), it still allows customers to place orders and is therefore helping to keep Bulk Barn open for business.
It’s easy to get caught up in features, advanced functionality, and the aesthetics of developing a new product. However, following the MVP methodology allows you to first and foremost come up with a working product that customers actually want and need. This helps set you up for success down the road, without wasting valuable resources and delaying time to market.
As Charles Darwin famously said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” In these uncertain times, learning more about the MVP technique and how you can apply it to your business products and services can help you quickly adapt to market changes.