Could one single feature get you to download and keep an app? I think YES.
A great example is within the podcasting space. I love podcasts. I am addicted. I’m subscribed to over 10 different podcasts and while my listening habits have changed since COVID, I constantly try to find time to listen to my favorite topics.
Like anyone, I started my podcast journey with little knowledge. I had no idea on what app I should use. Being an iPhone user, during the start of my journey I just had the default podcast app.
There are tons of things wrong with the app like @Terry Bain mentions.
Core user stories are unmet!
As a podcast listener, I want to be able to choose the order in which podcasts play.
As a podcast listener looking to download a new episode, I should be able to download new episodes in one click.
As a phone user who pays for data, I should be able to decide when to download new episodes (WiFi) and when to not.
These use cases are of course critical. CRITICAL to any podcasting app. But assuming that every podcast app out there can give you the same set of functionality, I can download new podcasts, I can listen to them, I’ve got access to all major podcast episodes out there, what use case should be most critical?
There are a ton of things I could care about:
Look and feel / usability of the app: Definitely important, but ironically I’m not actively interacting with the app for the majority of the time I'm using it; I'm listening.
Exclusivity of the content: So far every podcast I’ve had recommended has been available on any podcast app I’ve tried, so as of now not a concern.
Quality of the audio: Unfortunately I am not skilled enough as an audiophile to understand (and as a result) care about what kind of audio optimizations could be made by using a different app. I’d assume as a guess that the device you use to listen to podcasts (I.E. what headphones you choose) rather than the app you use to play podcasts would make a much bigger difference here.
Ability to listen offline: Every podcast platform seems to allow you to download podcasts when you’re on WiFi so you can listen to them on the go without depleting your data. All set here.
For me, the one use case that drives which podcast app I choose is:
As a busy working professional with limited podcast listening time, I want to be able to consume the most amount of podcast content as fast as possible without losing any information.
Cool, so once I decided the rate of information I could consume was highest on my list, where did that leave me?
Well of course, I could speed up podcasts and the rate of playback. But when that happens, podcast personas start to sound like chipmunks, and each podcast host has their own rate of natural talking speed.
But sure, I can speed up my podcast.
However there is ONE feature that stands out and is what made me download a new podcasting app and stick with it long term.
It's “Smart Speed” from Overcast. It is a true differentiator for anyone looking to speed up their podcast consumption and as a result, listen to a lot more great content in less time.
(by the way I am in no way sponsored by Overcast)
This feature takes natural lulls in the conversation where no one is talking and cuts them out!
Sure, each pause in a normal conversation when someone is thinking or the other person is responding to a question individually is not long. But like James Clear writes about in Atomic Habits, even small 1% changes over time can add up to incredible benefit.
My favorite part of Overcast is that the app shows you proof, telling you how many hours smart speed alone has saved you. For me, over my Overcast journey, I have saved 230 hours of time from smart speed alone. What in the world is more valuable than time?! I’ve been able to listen to 230 hours of additional podcasts that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. 9 and a half days of content! That is nothing to scoff at. Thanks Overcast!
Now that, combined with increasing the playback speed of podcasts can have massive benefit.
One of my favorite parts of the app that is not super unique, but presented in the UX in a very understandable way is that you can have custom speeds for each podcast.
While I am no longer a subscriber, when I was a listener of the Clark Howard podcast, I ratcheted his podcast up to 3x the normal speed based on Clark's pace of speaking. However when I listen to a podcast to learn mandarin, I often need to slow it down a bit and even like to turn smart speed off to get more information on the timing and cadence of their conversation.
Of course the need for speed won’t be for everyone. Whenever I had guests in my car (pre COVID), they couldn’t stand my chosen podcast playback speed. People have complained that it actually gives them headaches. At the beginning, I couldn’t stand a very fast playback speed either.
But just like any skill, podcast speed listening is something you can work up to. Overcast makes this easy with very small increments of additional playback speed you can add.
So what does this teach us about Product Management?
Think long and hard about what kind of user you want to go after
Being specific about your target segment will let you tap into an incredibly valuable resource: Focus. The more focus you can give your team, your engineers, your design partners, the better you can execute and make progress on priorities. When teams are spread too thin, velocity fails and value driven to the customer drops.
Once defined, think harder about what your target user truly values
Great, you’ve got your target user defined. But, how well do you know them? Could you live a day / week / month in their shoes? Have you dogfooded your product? Do you know what they value? When is the last time you’ve talked to your customer?
Understanding all of the potential use cases for a podcast app is one thing. Understanding which single use case out of a list of thousands your target user values the most is where the gold is at with Product Management.
When you combine the right user targeting, with then a clear understanding of that user's top priorities, your prioritization activities for what the engineering team should focus on is so much simpler.
I know, easier said than done right? I recommend taking the first step by talking to your customer more. When you have a clear line of communication with your customer, the easier time you’ll have knowing their priorities and aligning them to the product’s roadmap.
Use your existing strengths to your advantage
Lastly, when you’re talking about a feature that truly differentiates you, it is going to mean building something that no one else has. How does this align to your company's value proposition or unique selling proposition? Where are your strengths from a value, engineering, or design standpoint?
As an example, Nordstrom offers an incredible level of service, a great styling authority, and a great product. We as Product Managers must combine those because we know what we know about our target customer. Doing this differentiates our product and enhances the user experience.
The Podcast app space is a high traffic, very competitive space. So many people settle for the default (the Apple podcasts app) because they don’t know anything better. What areas would you benefit from getting more curious about? If you’ve recently launched an awesome feature, how are you getting it in front of customers? Let me know!
About the author:
Ben Staples has over 7 years of Product Management and product marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Nordstrom as a Senior Product Manager responsible for their product pages on Nordstrom.com. Previously, Ben was a Senior Product Manager for Trunk Club responsible for their iOS and Android apps. Ben started his Product career as a Product Manager for Vistaprint where he was responsible for their cart and Checkout experiences. Before leaving Vistaprint, Ben founded the Vistaprint Product Management guild with over 40 members. Learn more at www.Ben-Staples.com
I do product management consulting! Interested in finding out more? Want to get notified when my next product article comes out? Interested in getting into Product Management but don't know how? Want even more book recommendations?! Contact me!