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About Innovatemap , Product Strategy — 06.11.2020

What is a digital product agency?

Katie Lukes, Principal, Product Strategy

Have you heard the term “digital product agency?” In the landscape of companies that can help create or renovate software, the digital product agency is relatively new.

Let’s say that you have a digital product such as a customer portal or an idea for a new application to transact with vendors. You need an external partner to help bring it to life. An internet search for user experience design (UX) in any given city brings up several different types of companies that list user experience and user interface (UI) design on their websites: development firms, consulting firms, innovation firms, marketing agencies, and freelance networks. Each of those types has had a historical strength. Development firms are experts in technology and engineering, consulting firms know organizational transformation and strategy. Marketing agencies understand graphic design and how to target various audiences.

A newer type of agency has emerged over the last decade specifically for the purpose of strategizing, designing, and going to market with the right product: the digital product agency.

The Emergence of the Digital Product Agency

The world of digital products has evolved: what started with on-premise software used only by businesses has turned into an all-encompassing world of digital products. We use digital products for everything from ordering groceries to planning weddings to handling contracts.

As complexity and pervasiveness have evolved, so have the disciplines required to bring products to life and make them successful. User experience has gone from being a nice-to-have to being table stakes. Product management has become a must-have for learning user requirements and using those along with business goals to drive prioritization in building the right product. Product marketing is a discipline that few companies have built into their organizations but is non-negotiable in taking a product to either an internal organization or an external market.

Methodology

A digital product agency brings these skills under one roof. They are built to do what internal teams who are focused on core business can’t easily do: research, design, validate, and iterate quickly. Digital product agencies are staffed with experts in product strategy, product management, user and market research, user experience design, and brand and messaging. They operate in cross-functional teams to research solutions, design them, and take them to market.

A digital product agency is design-forward. They concentrate more on the up-front user research, user journey workflows, prioritization, and designs required prior to building software. They also work through the validation and iteration phases that need to happen before the first piece of code is written.

Service Offerings

At their best, digital product agencies can help you de-risk what can be a huge investment. They do that with service offerings that concentrate on the “why” and the “what” up front before you ever get to the “how” of the technical solution. Then they help you build the right thing for the right audience.

Some of those offerings include:

  • Research and insights to understand your market, your buyers, your users, and the landscape of all those players
  • Vision definition and design to establish your north star
  • Strategic planning and prioritization to establish the right features first, ready for validation
  • Strategic design with user experience expertise that understands and works with development
  • Brand skills that help establish visual identity and name that tells the right business story
  • Foundational positioning and messaging so that people understand your product and why they should be using it
  • Go-to-market strategy that takes your product out to the world the right way
  • Go-to-organization strategy that helps your internal teams understand what you’re doing and why

In the end, your digital product isn’t a simple “project” with a start and a finish. If it were your house you were building rather than a digital product, you wouldn’t start picking out building materials and kitchen appliances. You’d first understand your vision, research the climate and the location, understand the requirements of the people who would live there, and create a blueprint. Your digital product is no different. The digital product agency can help you with all of that upfront so that when you do build, you can be confident in the results.

Are you interested in seeing your product vision come to life? Send us a message and we’ll be in touch.

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