Our pilot with the beta version of Exponea SmallBiz, the free option of Exponea, is coming to its end. We have learned so much and as an expression of gratitude to everyone who was involved, we would like to share our learnings with you.
We believe that this article will be an insightful retrospective for our current users as well as other SaaS businesses considering developing a free tool such as Exponea SmallBiz.
The long story short – We have decided to close Exponea SmallBiz.
Why did we do that?
From the start we defined clear goals of Exponea SmallBiz, and we have always referred back to them to make sure that we would make the right decision at any crucial moment of the application’s evolution and lifecycle.
The goals which Exponea Smallbiz were meant to achieve, were the following:
- Help spread Exponea’s brand throughout small and medium-sized online retailers (SME)
- Bring the top performing tools which are helping large online retailers to SME and help them boost their sales
- Keep the application simple and with low running costs to be able to provide it for free
- Try new technologies that could make Exponea exponentially cheaper
What have we learned?
Effectiveness of small fully empowered teams
At the beginning we had a team of developers that were 100% dedicated to developing the application, sat in one room together and worked really fast. Afterwards we hired a product manager to launch it and boost the product users base, but there were only limited capacities of a front end developer and back-end developer that had a parallel priority to work on our main product – Exponea and did not sit together any more.
What did we learn? Small, fully empowered teams that sit and work together can do big things in a short time, if they have 100% focus on a common goal and all necessary skills in one room.. This includes product development, launch, beta testing period and running of the product. Keeping 100% of all team’s capacity for all phases isn’t always necessary, the point is to keep the dedication and focus with a commitment from all team members without disruption by other priorities.
Get the first feedback as soon as possible
Communicating the product as a public beta version, transparent communication to clients and asking them actively for the feedback helped us to get really valuable insight into all features and pain points that the clients perceive. Based on that, we were able to make the adjustment quickly, define priorities in further development and make decisions about the next steps, while ensuring we still headed towards the main goal of the product.
Relevance of tools
Within Exponea Smallbiz, we have combined the tools that helped to boost sales to big online retailers. Page and Product View Count Banners are able to bring the value to large e-commerces, but small and medium struggled to reach significant traffic that would make these banners valuable.
What did we learn? These features didn’t have the same impact on the SME-c because of the lower traffic on pages. On the other hand, clients were using some features for a different purpose than expected. Yet, their improvement would lead us to increase the costs and complexity of the product which would be against one of the main goals of Exponea SmallBiz, which was to keep it free.
Learning by doing
With Exponea, we have built a sophisticated tool rocket that is complex and for advanced expert users. We’ve learned that we are not great at building simple, free tools for the masses.
Try out new technologies
By developing an application like Exponea Smallbiz, our IT team could try out and learn how to use a completely new technology without the risk of impacting the main product. What we also noticed was that we sometimes tried to use the technology in an unexpected fashion , which wasn’t optimal and impacted Exponea SmallBiz’s performance.
We have learned a lot during the Exponea SmallBiz journey and even though some of the goals were fulfilled, we didn’t see the impact which we had hoped for and prolonging the development would tie up our resources which could have a more profound impact on Exponea and our customers in the long run.