What Is Minimum Viable Experience (MVE)?

There’s a whole bunch of Ms going around. MVP, MLP, MVE… It can be hard to keep up.

Today we’re taking a look at MVE — Minimum Viable Experience.

What is Minimum Viable Experience?

In a nutshell, Minimum Viable Experience (MVE) is the minimum 360 experience that your company gives a customer, and includes everything from marketing and customer support, to the product itself.

The benefits of defining and aiming to provide an MVE, is that it keeps your focus right where it should be — on your customers. It’s easy to get wrapped up thinking about just building the product you want to build, without thinking about what the customer experience of your brand is.

What’s With All The Ms?

Anyone in business has seen a multitude of these initialisms pop up in the last few years.

Minimum: Minimum is probably the most important part of MVP/MVE, and it comes from the lean product development methodology. You don’t want to spend thousands or millions of dollars building something, only to find out you’ve built the wrong thing! By staying lean and making something that’s good enough to test, you’re able to pivot when new information comes along.

There is no one definition for minimum, as it entirely depends on which product you’re building and what industry you’re in. For example, if Google builds an MVP, there are still certain expectations that users have from a Google product. They’ll want it to work in their Google ecosystem, and they’ll want it to have that aesthetic polish and shine that they expect from all Google products. They don’t have the luxury of putting together something that’s “a little janky, but it works!”

When you’re building your first MVP as a startup or one-person-band, you can get away with something that’s a little rough around the edges, so long as it solves the problem and fills the need. Your definition of minimum, and Google’s definition of minimum, are not the same.

Viable: Viable is another word that’s subject to interpretation. In terms of an MVP, it means that it does the minimum, but it does solve the problem or fill the need. It solves the problem and not much more. ‘Does this key fit into this lock?’ Viable is something that works, that can be brought to market, and that can be scaled.

Again, viable will mean something different for each product, company, and industry. And it’s important to decide what viable means to you before you start building anything.

MVP vs MLP vs MVE

MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, focuses specifically on the product or feature itself. When deciding whether or not you’re building the right thing for your MVP, you’re usually asking yourself one main question: “does this fill the need or solve the problem?”

If the answer is yes, congratulations! You’ve got an MVP! But just doing the job isn’t enough to satisfy customers nowadays.

The level of quality that consumers are used to thanks to a huge increase in the digital tools that most of us use on a day-to-day basis, means that functionality alone doesn’t cut it.

We’re living in a world fuelled by branding and design. People want their products to satisfy their needs, their emotions, and their eye for aesthetics, as well as the original need the product was designed for.

That’s where the idea behind MLP comes in. MLP stands for Minimum Loveable Product. It’s the version of your product that still has a lil something to make your customers fall in love with it.

There’s a delicate balance to be found between Minimum and Loveable, as building love into your product is sure to take either extra time or resources (or both!)

MVE goes the extra mile. MLP just deals with the product, and makes sure that it’s special in some way. MVE encapsulates both the product and things like marketing, sales, and customer support.

If you’re getting into the coffee business, the first step is to brew a great cup of coffee. There’s your MVP.

Not many people drink black coffee, so you start offering a little swirl of milk, and maybe offer a decaf option. There’s your MLP. People getting their coffee just how they like it.

But you realize that not many people buy coffee off of a random person they don’t know. So you rent a unit and add some places to sit, and a few friendly-faced baristas (sales). It’s not exactly Starbucks, but people know who you are and know that their money is going to a good place. You tell the story of how you started out from scratch (marketing), you give them a free replacement if you don’t get it right the first time, and people know that you’ll look after them (customer support). That’s your MVE.

How to Measure an MVE

Experience is something that can at first seem hard to capture in quantitative data, because it’s very subjective, and includes a lot of moving parts.

Retention

Retention is one of the more reliable ways to measure whether you’re providing an MVE or not. Most customers will download something once to try it out (especially if it’s free), and may use it once or twice. But then nothing about the experience makes them want to stick around.

When you’re in the early stages of a product (assumedly so if you’re trying to build an MVE), customer acquisition is exciting and sexy. But without retention, your product is a leaking bucket that’s doomed to empty at some point. By making retention a priority metric, you’re able to more easily understand the value of the experience you’re providing.

NPS Scores

Net Promoter Scores are another great way of figuring out how your customer base thinks, and being able to put that into numbers.

Qualitative data

Quantitative data may feel good to look at on a spreadsheet, but qualitative data is just as important. Experience is all about how people think and feel, so listening to them tell you just that is a vital part of building an MVE.

You should look at things like user interviews, customer feedback surveys, and App store reviews.

Benefits of MVE

It’s fine for your product to do the minimum, if it solves the problem it’s aiming to solve. But if customers feel like your company is also doing the bare minimum in terms of providing support or a service, they’re not going to want to hand their cash over to you.

This is especially important if you’re in a saturated market or your product in its MVP form is a ‘nice to have.’ The experience your company provides as a brand is what sets you apart from your competitors.

Let’s say that you’ve built the new best thing in podcast tools. You’ve got huge plans for making it tool for podcast lovers, with a whole bunch of features that’ll make it even better for that audience than Spotify and Apple Podcasts .

But that’s not V1. V1 is just a podcast player, with one or two cool features thrown in to make it unique compared to the other tools on the market.

Without paying attention to the core elements of an MVE, there’s nothing to motivate your potential customers to choose you over your competitors, and you’ll only attract die-hard podcast lovers. Too niche a customer base to ever let you scale.

Core Elements of MVE

Every MVE is different. You might decide that your MVE is still very bare-bones, as you don’t have the luxury of extra time and resources to pour into crafting a great 360 brand experience. And that’s fine!

If your MVE for V1 only includes a support email address that you’ll check periodically, that’s OK. It’s still important to define your MVE in the early stages, as it’ll get you in the good habit of considering it as you scale.

That being said, some of the core elements of MVE include:

Branding and marketing

The truth is that People. Love. Brands! Positioning yourself as a particular brand within your space can really help to set you apart. With so many products to choose from, people like to use products from brands that represent their values or their aesthetic.

Showing who you are through your branding and marketing, even in a small way, can have a monumental impact on your potential customers.

What marketing messages are they receiving from you? Are you building an engaged community of users? Are you effectively communicating your story and values? Do they have a positive opinion of your company? These are all questions that you could ask yourself when crafting your MVE.

Sales and onboarding

Sales are often the unsung heroes of product development, and the onboarding process is often dangerously overlooked. Marketing might include all the bells and whistles of your product, but sales and onboarding sit your customers down and say ‘OK, here’s how it actually works.’

Having a great sales process can really help to boost confidence in your product, and can win over those all-important early adopters.

Customer support

This is especially important in B2B. If your enterprise customers are faced with unanswered emails, and no one to turn to when things go wrong, you could risk losing some big contracts, and ruining your professional reputation.

You could build the best newsletter builder in the world, but if your platform goes down right when your clients need to send their emails, and you’re nowhere to be found…that’s a trust that’s hard to rebuild.

Even outside of B2B, things can go wrong. Having solid customer support to help customers out when the inevitable happens will go a very long way in retaining them.

Ecosystems

Most people have some amount of tech. Some people have . Many of us have carefully curated ecosystems. We have wearables that work with our favorite apps, and cloud services connecting all of our devices together.

If you’re able to build something that slots into an ecosystem, say with a Slack integration or similar, that’ll encourage your users to keep your product in their stack. It’ll help them to build a habit of using your product, and it’ll make the experience of using your product seem more seamless.

I’m Carlos González, CEO at Product School, and I enjoy sharing weekly tips for Product leaders!

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This article was also published on The Product Management Blog.

CEO at Product School — Global leader in product management training