The benefits of MVP development, or “Minimum Viable Product” are well known in the tech world. However, we find that the worlds of fmcg and Consumer Healthcare use MVP thinking less. This is a substantial missed opportunity as we believe that using MVP thinking in innovation can give product development much-needed momentum, with significantly higher ROI.
So what is an MVP?
As quoted in Forbes by Maksym Babych, an MVP is a term coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries, founder of the ‘Lean Startup’ methodology. According to Ries, an MVP is the version of a new product that allows the team to gather the maximum amount of proven customer knowledge with the least amount of effort.
In our words at Untapped, an MVP is a prototype that performs all of the core jobs to be done or ‘hard points’ (functional and emotional), and no more. Adding on incremental features or ‘soft points’ may possibly make the product more valuable to the end user, but then the prototype is no longer a minimum viable product. The trick is to know the difference.
Why is having an MVP increasingly important in the worlds of fmcg and consumer healthcare?
Benefit 1: Sustainability
According to Deloitte (2022) ‘frequent and essential purchases drive the greatest consumer interest in sustainable and ethical values’. Although we would love users to be able to tell us specifically how to make more sustainable fmcg and healthcare products, we find continuously that consumers need help in order to imagine what new solutions might be. With laser-focus on the target consumer, and on their most high priority needs, it allows product designers to be able to strip out redundant product or packaging attributes to create target-specific MVP’s. By default, these MVP’s will become more sustainable AND still address the core needs of the target user.
Benefit 2: Cost of goods = cost of living
One of the biggest drivers of pricing strategies is the cost of goods or total delivered cost at the point of purchase. According to fmcgceo ‘Almost half of adults have purchased less food in the past fortnight due to higher prices, a new report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed’. It is more critical than ever that R&D and product design groups see the cost of goods as a critical design attribute. By stripping out lower priority or unnoticed design elements, and investing only in the elements that the user group highly prioritise, it allows for a faster, more cost-effective route to market, and a more responsive pricing strategy at the point of sale.
Benefit 3: Emerging targets and user groups
According to David Panos from Year Zero in the recent Untapped webinar with Sally Kemkers, emerging target groups such Gen Z, typically desire a more ‘stripped back’ aesthetic when compared to the more Instagram-perfect approaches of Millennials. In addition, they require high levels of transparency and authenticity from their brands of choice (CM group, 2022). By undertaking an MVP approach to innovation, it ensures that only what is needed is used in the product life-cycle, which garners significant support from the market of tomorrow.
Why are there barriers to using an MVP approach in the worlds of fmcg and consumer healthcare?
We find that the worlds of fmcg and consumer healthcare use MVP thinking less than the tech sector due to 3 main barriers:
Barrier 1: The ‘base’ formula
Many new products in fmcg / consumer healthcare start from what is known as a ‘base formula’ with a number of well-known ingredients. A well understood chassis has advantages especially predictive stability profiles, manufacturability and safety / regulatory compliance, amongst others. However, with emerging tools such as in-silico testing and computational modelling, the credibility of simulations are playing a greater role in new product design, and are already accelerating the introduction of new ingredients or packaging components. Applying this thinking to the reduction of design elements in both new and pre-existing products, allows for more stripped-back, cost-effective solutions to reach the market faster.
Barrier 2: ‘Broad spectrum’ benchmarking
Many new products set extremely high bars for internal and external benchmarking. Product design specifications are frequently designed to meet or exceed the performance of pre-existing products as anything less is deemed to be vulnerable to competitive claims. As product design evolves to become more attune to the needs of more specific target groups, the specifications relevant to these target groups can emerge more clearly, and can therefore be prioritised. This means that requirements for other target groups can be reduced or eliminated in the new development.
Barrier 3: Culture and habit-adoption
As many companies do not innovate with ‘MVP Thinking’, preferring instead for a more ‘belts and braces’ approach it means that existing innovation systems and stage-gate processes are not set up to encourage a more entrepreneurial MVP development approach. According to James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’, ‘you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems’. Therefore, for organisations to truly embrace MVP thinking, the innovation systems and processes in place must measure, nurture and reward it.
5 Top Tips for MVP definition
1. Start with your target and their unmet needs (both functional and emotional),
2. Identify their ideal product experience and corresponding product attributes,
3. Prioritise the most critical elements (also known as ‘hard points’) from their ideal product experience and corresponding attributes,
4. Question your ‘base formula’ and ensure everything in the MVP prototype experience addresses the highest priorities for your target user experience,
5. Question your ‘broad spectrum’ benchmarks. While competitive mapping is important, be clear on which competitors and experience attributes are most critical to your target user.
If you want to learn more about how to develop an MVP with Untapped, please get in touch via:
– Our website
– Our Innovation Gym program with a menu of training options including MVP development
– The Untapped webinar where Sally Kemkers interviews David Panos about future trends shaping innovation, including specific references Gen Z consumer needs.