“Strategy” is a loaded word. It is also often not articulated when it comes to digital products. On top of that, because we access digital products through websites, we often confuse a digital marketing strategy with a digital product strategy. While both have to do with your online presence and align with your overall business strategy, they are not the same.

At NextWAVE, we believe that a good digital product strategy:

  • Should be supported by evidence
  • Follows from your business strategy
  • Works in concert with your digital marketing strategy
  • Is the foundation for how you will achieve your vision
  • A lot of digital products fail because they didn’t get clear on their strategy upfront.

There are three core elements of an effective Digital Product Strategy*:

  1. Understanding both the problem you wish to solve as well as user needs, motivations, behaviours and values (through user research)/underlying problem you want to solve
  2. A solution to the problem (this is your strategic kernel)
  3. A set of design principles to support the stated solution (this sets the UX design direction for the solution)

1 Understanding The Problem Space

All too often, we identify a problem and jump to the first solution that comes to mind. We’ve all done it. It’s a pretty common human trait. But it is also one that can be costly when deciding to build an app or digital product. Jumping on the first solution or the CEO’s idea is an incredibly common challenge for smaller organizations. the leader has a vision and pushes the team to implement it. The flip side of this is the so-called analysis paralysis challenge is where the leader and the team keep circling the same problem without coming up with new solutions or taking action on the ones they have already.

At NextWAVE, we’ve helped organizations on either side of that coin. We have a big toolbox aimed at helping you widen your view of the problem space and potential solutions, come to a consensus on solutions, and identify your assumptions and knowledge gaps regarding your users’ understanding. These tools include Think Tank workshops, knowing what user research method(s) to use when, a proprietary UX Gap Analysis, and more.

We also know how to get your project moving, to cut through the organizational clutter and help you focus on what matters and how to get your project rolling. Depending on your need, we can find ways to leverage existing applications and platforms, find opportunities for small quick win style projects, or help you break down your project into shorter, more manageable sprints.

2 Defining a Solution

Solution Definition is where the rubber hits the road, strategically speaking — this is when you take the inputs and choose the path that’s the best fit for your organization and your users. 

At NextWAVE, we know that all too often, the solution is less defined than something that emerges. And while there is nothing wrong with an emergent solution, taking the time to state this is the path we’ll take, this is our solution to this problem puts everyone on the same page. It also clarifies down the road decision making.

Consider the following example:

SeeKindness is a kindness company that believes the world is a better place when there is more kindness. There are many ways to approach this problem. Here are three digital experiences: 

1) RBC had a marketing campaign asking people to share their kindness stories – https://randomactsofcanadian.com

2) You can try to persuade people to do more acts of kindness like https://www.randomactsofkindness.org

3) You can provide a safe, playful place for people to place acts of kindness on a map so that users can see kindness in their communities and be inspired to be kind themselves as SeeKindness.org has.

Each strategy has its pros and cons. There isn’t a “better” one. For SeeKindness.rg (where NextWAVE contributed to the digital product strategy), the focus was on:

  •  actions tied to communities
  • developing a platform upon which we could develop other products
  • creating a playful and safe user experience

3 Creating a Set of Design Principles to Support the Strategy

Once the strategy is clear, you will find that you need to make fewer functionality, design and content decisions. How does that work?

Again, consider the examples of the three kindness related digital experiences. With SeeKindness.org, our strategy was about the map, the category badges, and creating a safe and playful space. That meant the map would be a full-width, immersive element. It also means that the products we roll-out on top of this platform will also leverage the map. The category names needed to be playful, and we chose song names from the Beatles’ earlier days. That, in turn, suggested a loose Haight Ashbury look and feel. 

At NextWAVE, we are experts at translating your vision into effective digital product strategies. 


(*Note: we adapted this concept from Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard Rumelt)