IMC is famous for its consumer-centric and insight-driven approach. While this sounds like common sense, it is actually the secret of a successful app launch in my experience in Silicon Valley. In many product companies, especially outside of Silicon Valley, sometimes ideas come from random places – e.g., competitors launch X feature and a CEO says the Y function is cool, so we should incorporate it in our app, etc.
However, the real secret of product management is to force yourself to go back to customers, fully understand the person and user journey, and focus on how your company’s strength fits into that journey. That was my secret to winning the Webby Award, one of the most well-known awards in the digital field, for Best Shopping App of the Year.
When I joined Target in 2013, my responsibility was to hit one million dollars of revenue per day from users shopping on Target via their tablets. Moreover, this marketing objective needed to be accomplished within 10 months, right before the next holiday season began.
At the time, I found out there was an iPad app that was outdated. There was also no Android tablet app, and there was a desktop website that was not tablet-friendly but had lots of users. Thus, there were a few decisions I had to make: should I invest in the tablet app or website? Should I focus on iPad or Android? Should I spend time reducing the crash rate, updating existing functions, or adding new functions? If so, what kind of functions should I design? What kind of team structure should I build?
I decided to begin with business strategy. Target’s brand position is “Expect More, Pay Less.” In this business context, I started to search for the right product strategy. When I interview for new product managers, this is what we call the product sense test. Essentially, it is about knowing “what” to build.
A well-rounded product strategy lands in the perfect spot between three basic criteria – what your consumers want, what your competitors don’t/can’t do, and what your company is good at. I conducted three analyses to find the right strategy – consumer analysis, competitor analysis, and company analysis – and they all start with the IMC principle of listening to your customers.
The Consumer Analysis comprises three elements: Persona, User Journey Map, and Trend Analysis.
Persona is a representative example of your potential customer segmentation. It explains who your customers are and what they care about. Take an e-commerce company’s persona, for example. It can be a description of a typical user of the brand – what are his/her interests, favorite devices, and shopping behaviors? I discovered that Target’s users are mostly young moms who use social media heavily and own iOS devices more than Androids.
We created five personas, but designed the product based only on two out of the five. We named them Avid Anna, who is fun, expressive, and enthusiastic; and Vetting Veronica, who is social, eclectic, and energetic (see Figure 1). We specifically listed another three personas so as to keep in mind who are NOT our users.
User Journey Mapping encompassed information on service touch points, friction, user insight, and user quotes. When designing marketing campaigns or products, the goal of the message or function is to remove the friction and accelerate the (potential) user to the next stage of the journey. Research Firm, App Annie, Placed, Alexa, and Quantcast are all considerable resources to help on this analysis.
Persona and User Journey Maps are good approaches to acknowledge current (potential) users. However, the fact is, consumers change over time. Therefore, looking at industry trends is critical to helping us understand what the customers are going to be like in the future. ComScore, eMarketers, Nielsen, and Forrester are some significant sources to understand market trends.
The purpose of a competitor analysis is to understand what your competitors care about and what they excel at. I observed that Walmart is known for price, eBay plays competitive with variety, and Amazon is loved for its speed. My team and I also executed a gap analysis to record all features on our competitors’ websites and apps.
The goal of company analysis is to find out the company’s strength. One of Target’s competitive advantages is the Home and Baby sections, especially when considering design-driven items.
A sound company analysis is composed of three parts: 1) how current users utilize the website/app; 2) how the users feel about the product and why; and 3) the product quality from a technical standpoint.
1) How do current users utilize the website/app?
- Funnel Analysis – a web analyst will collect and analyze Target iPad app users’ behaviors via click-stream data.
- User Testing – recruit volunteers to come in and try the app to understand what they might have found confusing or difficult to use.
- User Monitoring – a tool that monitors real-time click behaviors on the app. Minimum user information is collected to protect privacy.
2) How do the users feel about the product and why?
- User Feedback – understanding user experience is critical for product iteration.
3) What is the product quality from a technical standpoint?
- Code Review, User Acceptance Testing, and QA Analysis are some analyses to help understand this.
We identified three key issues for the iPad app: 1) severe crash issues; 2) outdated user experience; and 3) the purpose was not to drive eCommerce.
Target’s differentiation was “Inspiration,” and our key customer segment were young moms. The intersection was clear – young moms love looking for inspiration online and on social media – an area where our competitors weren’t interested nor strong.
The strategy came naturally – bringing the in-store inspiring experiences to the lean-back moments on the living room couch through the app.
Next is figuring out the tactics – what detailed features should be prioritized to achieve this strategy? Here was the laundry list – coupons, price comparisons, product comparisons, wedding registries, in-store GPS, shipping status, one-day delivery, fixing crash issues, and updating all basic flow (homepage, search, browse, product detail page, etc.). Which would you pick over the others?
Coupon and price comparison were crossed off because price is Walmart’s core value proposition. Product comparison was a “no” because variety is eBay’s strength. Wedding registration was off the list because it did not serve the purpose of driving holiday sales. In-store GPS was no good because our user case was “lean-back moments on the couch.” Finally, shipment tracking and one-day delivery were rejected because fulfillment is Amazon’s strength.
Social media related functions on the iPad app only was my final decision. I focused on three key elements: 1) “browsing” to deliver inspiration through the app; 2) easy-to-shop “account, cart, and check-out” functions to achieve eCommerce sales; and 3) updating all basic flows and fixing crash issues to ensure a seamless online shopping experience.
My team launched “shopable” Instagram, which made us one of the first big companies to connect social media to eCommerce. My team was based in San Francisco and India. The SF team concentrated on brainstorming improving shopping experiences while the India team tackled utility – focusing on functions such as “cart and check-out.”
Our product was launched right before the holiday season. The revenue tripled and users wrote four stars reviews.
Written by Anya Cheng, Head of Wi-Fi Product Marketing, Facebook Connectivity at Facebook
Edited by Katie Hsieh, Medill IMC Class Of 2018