MLP vs MVP: Understanding the key differences

By Hans Lambert Pedersen

Discover the differences between a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) and why gaining a greater understanding is critical to the success of your digital product.

The global pandemic in 2020 has put the need for digital advancement right at the forefront of business operations. What we’re seeing now is the start of a digital arms race – where laggards perish and early adopters flourish. In 2021 alone, a Gartner survey revealed that demand for new digital products and services increased by a further 83%.

However, making your digital product a success is a different story altogether. It needs to be easy to use, easy to maintain and easy to sell. But most of all, the solution needs to make a difference in the daily lives of your customers.

An initial part of achieving this is to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP is a usable version of a digital product with a core feature or set of features to test and gather vital feedback for you to build on.

But an MVP isn’t always the answer. In some cases, it pays to create a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP).

What is a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)?

A Minimum Loveable Product (MLP) is an initial product that users love from the start. As a concept, it offers the minimum number of features or functionality required for people to adore it, not tolerate it.

A lovable product is crucial to fostering customer happiness to help achieve sustainable success over a longer period. It’s usually the catalyst for creating a successful digital product that avoids the traditional product lifecycle.  

What are the differences between an MVP and MLP (in food terms)?

Let’s say you want a Margherita pizza for dinner. On the one hand, you have a frozen supermarket pizza. And on the other, you have a freshly made pizza from an authentic Italian restaurant.

In this situation, a Minimum Viable Product is a frozen pizza. Sure, you’ll eat it and potentially enjoy it. But will you buy it again and tell all your friends about it? Unlikely.

Frozen pizzas are a dime a dozen. Supermarkets are full of similar products from rival brands. It might be the cheaper and more convenient way to feed your carb-heavy craving, but it doesn’t always represent the best value.

Using minimum time and resources is the characteristic of an MVP.

On the other side of the coin, a freshly made Margherita pizza from an authentic Italian restaurant takes time and resources to create. The product is still minimum – i.e. it has no fancy toppings or added extras. However, it is distinctly loveable. It’s more pleasurable and ensures customers come back again and again.

Nevertheless, there’s a place for both types of pizza. In the same way, there’s a purpose for an MVP and MLP. It just depends on how much time or resources you have at your disposal. 

The ideal scenario

In an ideal world, you should be aiming to develop an MLP.

While an MVP offers the minimum functionality a product needs to be viable in the market, you may get to this stage without even testing the concept or idea with the market. That’s a risky approach in today’s highly competitive world.

On the other hand, an MLP creates the minimum a product needs to be loved by users. While both an MLP and an MVP continually evolve, only an MLP delivers value from the beginning.

Granted, you need to think about selling. You’re running a business after all. But customer behaviours and expectations have shifted. If competitors offer a similar solution, your target audience already has options.

So, if you cut corners from the start, you’re going to fall short when they compare other solutions with yours. Can you afford to take that risk?

The key is to extend the focus to build higher quality and fewer features. 

You won't always end up on the top of the podium by racing to the starting line.

Remember, you won’t always end up on the top of the podium by racing to the starting line. Take a moment to think about what features your customers need and avoid making assumptions. That’s when you lose repeat customers, spend more money fixing problems and diminish your brand’s reputation.

To build a Minimum Lovable Product is to deliver a quality solution that you know customers will already deem as beneficial. 

The benefits of creating an MLP for businesses 

An MLP focuses on the needs of a core group of users from the start. You know what problems your customers are facing and make an effort to provide solutions from the first version of your digital product.

Your goal is to add new value. Yes, you’ll need to improve it over time as you collect more feedback. But the concept and the functionality are there from the get-go.

There will always be changes with every digital product. But the aim is to reduce them. The costliest mistake occurs when you aim to build an MVP or MLP, but it turned out to be a prototype.

Prioritising an MLP is to understand the importance of gaining the trust and loyalty of the market too. You appreciate customers have options, so you make an effort to cater for their needs and differentiate your product from the rest of the pack. In contrast, prioritising an MVP is to believe there are very few alternatives in the market. But your eagerness to move fast can lead to expensive mistakes.

But above all, an MLP tells the world that you’re dedicated to bringing a solution to the market that your customers will love, not accept.

When you understand that the profitability and value of your digital product depend on how much your customers care about your solution or features, you’re one step closer to building something successful.  

Develop a Minimum Lovable Product with Stoked

At Stoked, we help clients build MVPs and MLPs. Both have their value, but the latter is the ideal solution.

If you spend a minimum amount of time, money and resource on your product at the start, your team will be forced to make assumptions.

But if you invest in the right people necessary before beginning any work, you’re more likely to create a solution users can instantly find value in. It’s a case of knowing what you want to achieve before you can build a product people love.

To see how we’ve helped other businesses in Denmark and Europe create successful MLPs, take a look at our recent case studies. Or for any questions, contact us today.