some of today’s most successful organisations are the result of an early pivot in response to product or market data

Instagram used to be Burbn. Why do companies pivot?

You have overcome the initial hurdle of taking your proposition to market and acquiring early adopters, the 14% of the population who are first to try a new product*. How might pivoting help you scale to meet the needs of the early majority? This group is larger, around 34% of the population*, and characteristically more risk averse, often being referred to/made aware of a product by their early adopter connections. This makes it essential to look for patterns within product and market data from an early stage to discover pivot opportunities that could power growth.

How do users really interact with the product?

Where are we seeing traction?

Are we effectively targeting and meeting the right user needs?

When we launch new products or propositions, one of our early (if not earliest) goals will always be to discover the answers to questions like these. We test with real customers, and are prepared to react to what we find – with honesty.

This isn’t always easy. Sometimes the data will indicate a need to pivot away from early assumptions, which can be an issue where a team has worked closely with a product and becomes invested in certain aspects or features. This passion can cause teams to develop blind-spots, so it’s important to remain alive to new opportunities, especially when they are supported by data.

Before I joined Inzenka I was part of the team that launched JustGiving Crowdfunding, a donations-based platform that allows anyone to raise money for any cause. In the discovery phase, we spoke to many community groups that were keen to use the platform (they’d previously been unable to join the JustGiving charity site) and consequently positioned our product to appeal to such groups. Fast forward towards the end of Beta, and an audience segmentation revealed that over 50% of users had actually created a page to help an individual in need. These users also raised significantly more: around 10 times the average community group.

The action we needed to take was clear. We pivoted our proposition to appeal primarily to individuals and went on to see over 900% growth over the following year. Of course, this move wasn’t the sole source of growth – we made several pivots throughout the platform’s early stages, all in response to data – a key characteristic of almost every successful start-up.

In fact, some of today’s most successful organisations are the result of an early pivot in response to product or market data. In early 2010, Kevin Systrom launched Burbn – a location-based game that allowed users to check-in, make travel plans and upload photos. Despite attracting $500,000 investment, and quite a lot of buzz, Systrom believed the game had “a jumble of features that made it confusing.” Together with his co-founder, Mike Krieger, he set about analysing user data to see how customers were really interacting with the product. On discovering that image sharing was the most popular feature, they took the risk of stripping back almost all other functions – evolving their product into the platform we know today as Instagram.

Go further back in time and you’ll find hundreds of similar pivot stories. Groupon was designed as a fundraising platform for good causes, Listerine started out as an anti-sceptic and bubble wrap was initially marketed as wallpaper. Monitoring and reacting to product and market data, remaining open to new opportunities and redefining the business model has always been important. With such data now more accessible than ever before, the ability and willingness to pivot has never been so essential to driving early majority growth.

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*Diffusion of Innovation Theory, E.M. Rogers