What are ship products?
Ship products are incomplete but usable versions of a product/service that a product/service owner releases to gather initial consumer feedback. This product/improvement approach differs from product/service beta testing in that ship products/services are released to a mainstream market, i.e., a ship’s products are made available to an established customer base and not a select few end users.
User needs, expectations, and preferences derived from ship product feedback are then used to develop a better product/service. Typically, ship products are released in a series of iteration-specific versions before unveiling a final product/service.
Basis of Ship Products
Ship products are an integral part of an iteration-oriented workflow whereby product/service improvement is achieved through gradual consumer-centric changes to an initial product/service offering. Product/service development teams implement this iteration-oriented process by creating a basic version of a product/service, releasing it to an existing/established customer base, and then using the end-user feedback to achieve customer-focused product/service improvement.
Releasing multiple iteration-specific versions of a product/service enables an improvement task force to realize two product/service-specific and customer-centric objectives, namely:
- To gain practical insights into product/service function/feature shortcomings, limitations, faults/glitches derived from observed user needs, complaints, recommendations, preferences, and expectations.
- To implement consumer-focused refinements on product/service features, functions, and use parameters that considerably enhance product/service value proposition to would-be consumers.
Viable examples of product/service improvements that a development team can realize through a ship product approach include:
● Removing glitches and bugs from software products, e.g., runtime errors occurring during the execution of objective-specific tasks, platform-specific compatibility issues, etc
● Adding new features to an existing product/service, e.g., incorporating a product/service-specific blog to an existing website
● Increasing the functionality/usability of existing features, e.g., enabling crypto-currency payments on an e-commerce site
● Implementing design/deployment/distribution improvements to an existing product/service, e.g., rebranding, display box design changes, switching to sustainable packaging, etc.
Ship Product Challenges and Benefits
While ship products make achieving value-enhancing product/service improvements easy, this development/deployment approach has its challenges. Improvement teams have to tread a fine line between unveiling a ship product that is too basic and offering a product/service that is too feature-rich.
The first ship product outcome is undesirable because an offering too limited in functionality, features, and usability can fail to achieve beneficial customer engagement. Consumer interest in the ship product is so low that few take time to give feedback. Furthermore, offering an initial ship product that is too basic typically entrenches negative consumer perception towards future releases of the same product/service.
On the other hand, unveiling a ship product with too many distinctive features/functions can overwhelm end users, making it hard for consumers to give valuable feature/function-specific feedback.
Ship Products Take Away
When done right, the iterative-centric ship product approach allows a business to realize products/services that avail a considerably high-value proposition to would-be consumers. However, product/service improvement teams must actively avoid adverse market outcomes from ship product offerings.