What is a Digital Product Agency?
Digital product agencies help clients build digital products end-to-end and then bring them to market. Historically, clients have turned to web or mobile development agencies to build products. Those lines are becoming blurred as the field of digital products expands beyond these two contexts (e.g. voice) and the services needed become more complex than merely providing a great team of software developers.
Traditional titans in every industry continue to be disrupted by digital-first competitors. Media companies now compete with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, financial services look to Paypal, Venmo, and Robin Hood, and hotel and travel companies feel the heat from Kayak, Orbitz, and Expedia. Digital product agencies allow the incumbents to fight back.
Fortune 500 companies have incredible assets: customers (often millions of them), employees (often tens of thousands), facilities, distribution networks, data, and money (billions). What they do not typically have is the systems and expertise to build software at the velocity and quality that Silicon Valley-backed digital start-ups do. Digital product agencies help these existing players “disrupt the disruptors” by marrying the wealth of data and resources of a longstanding industry leader with the agility, scale, and technical expertise required to build modern and intuitive user experiences.
Specific services digital product agencies provide include:
Digital Product Strategy Consulting: What to build, with what features, and in what order are often the most important questions to answer. Digital product agencies bring teams of user researchers (often PhDs), strategists, software architects, and business consultants together to answer these questions and formulate a complete digital strategy. Tools include Journey Mapping, ethnographic research, surveys, interviews, and usability testing among many more.
Responsive UX & Design for Web & App: Once a strategy is formulated, a team of designers and software engineers develops design concepts. The key here is to ensure the designs are deeply informed by the various technology platforms they sit on. A common pain point is hiring designers who aren’t coupled with engineers and who don’t understand the intricacies of iOS, Android, or mobile web as examples, resulting in substandard user experience and cost overruns as the designs fail to utilize “out of the box” features that Apple, Google, and others provide.
Web & App Development and Testing: Digital product agencies have deep engineering talent, ideally co-located with the UX/Design and Strategy/Research teams in order to maximize the project’s velocity. They work closely with the client organization to create a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment ecosystem where software is launched at least every two weeks. A key measure of effectiveness is deployment velocity. A top digital product agency will work closely with clients to develop highly performant teams that span the two companies. Testing should either be automated or at least deeply integrated into the build cycles.
Growth Marketing & Analytics: A digital product agency’s job doesn’t end with a great product launch, but how to drive users to the product, and how to ensure there is data to continuously innovate. As such, Growth Marketing and Analytics practices are critical, including the ability to guide clients on which toolsets to use, how to instrument the application, and managing the ongoing growth marketing campaigns as needed.
What you will notice is that a true digital product agency puts together normed teams that encompass a wide variety of skill sets and experiences. Finding, hiring, and managing diverse, highly performant team members is the ultimate value add of the agency. The result is providing clients with the ability to bring their massive resources to bear to compete with the next generation of digital start-ups.