Recap of our Panel with Etsy, K Health, Poshmark, Spotify and Strava on Engaging Users

Last week at the App Promotion Summit, I got the chance to moderate an exciting and insightful panel “Developing a Great App Product” together with a star-studded cast from the app world. For the past year, being remote hadn’t felt this connected, with esteemed colleagues from around the world talking about common struggles as product managers and unique, sometimes personal, passions. 

My job as a product manager, as well as personal motivation, is to understand the needs and pain points of anyone in the role of managing an app. For the past two years, as Storyly, we’ve been focused on how apps work to retain their users and what is working against them to accomplish this – how users today interact with apps and prioritize the interaction with their phones. During this time, a pandemic hit, and for some mobile businesses this resulted in an accelerated and unpredicted growth which many suspect they now may be struggling to keep. And some, on the contrary, had to adjust and constantly rethink their strategy to fight the uncertainty of the past year. There’s no doubt the pandemic transformed the mobile industry significantly. Engaging hardly acquired users was at the heart of last year.

Back to basics: making it easier and shareable to sell and buy

Social shopping is one of the key trends nowadays and it’s one of the core elements of the user experience at Poshmark. We’ve been seeing that second-hand C2C marketplaces were having a hard time during the pandemic. I was curious to find out how Poshmark managed to keep the community upbeat and engaged during this time. “Poshmark parties are actually a great way to catch up with the social shopping trend,” said Brindi Manolache, Senior Growth Product Manager of Poshmark. Organic social elements are crucial. She alluded their strength to the app’s powerful community. Their evangelist status heavy users, Posh party hosts, encouraged the app community to get more involved and hence helped retain users. During Covid, Poshmark redirected its focus to basics; making it easier to buy and sell while slightly deemphasizing social features because, as Brindi pointed out, it’s harder for users to adopt anything new in pandemic conditions. Rather than offering more, Brindi and Poshmark team let the community organically create a sense of togetherness and energize users through common passions. This validates everything we learned about the shared experiences created on mobile during covid.

Community Dynamics Reinforced

Strava was faced with a totally different challenge when it comes to community building during Covid. For Chris Gallello, Senior Product Manager at Strava, gamification is a crucial part of user engagement. Chris addressed community insight as the first thing to consider for that. This was how Strava launched the challenges: asking what type of competition motivates athletes. Motivating even within a small group leads to strengthening Strava’s overall community and helps people connect on what they care about the most. When asked about aspirations for the year ahead, Chris was excited about observing the changing dynamic of how people want to connect. He noted there will be different ways to experience social on mobile as the world comes out of the pandemic.

“User data has always been a hot topic but it should go hand in hand with trust-building”

Interestingly, at K Health, “churn” means mission accomplished: a healthy user. That urges Nicholas Beck, Director of Product at K Health, to approach and measure retention in a whole different way. If a user does not return, it could easily mean that the app helped them resolve their issue. This only reinforces the app’s ultimate goal: providing healthcare to anyone who needs it in an affordable way.

Nick raised a great discussion point that resonated with all panelists: that was, unsurprisingly, privacy. “We can measure everything but provide context and offer value when you ask for info. If you’re not going to use it, don’t ask for it,”says Nick. Trust-building is not taken lightly in the medical field. More and more Nick observes privacy as a standalone feature. As the entire group of panelists agrees, the issue of privacy and how it is dealt with bears an evolving discussion in the mobile space. As platforms change the rules on how they keep and handle user data, product managers will hopefully have the support to place it on their roadmap.

Rethinking definition of the creator in the mobile world

Around 2 billion live with disabilities, and especially considering the size of Spotify’s audience, it is crucial to take ease of use into account whether it be screen or voice commands and ways to interact with content. Sukriti ChadhaProduct Manager for Accessibility at Spotify, emphasizes that it’s important for the app from a consumer and creative perspective. She further explains that just adding “transcripts” to podcasts were a significant improvement for users with hearing impairment, so was changing the entire color on the screen for the colorblind. The point is being more accessible and inclusive. “As the product matures, so does the accessibility of it.” Says Sukriti. Any customer feedback? Really positive. There was even positive feedback internally just for text size change. Having text dynamic sizing means some people will need to view text bigger. Some will have motor impairments and will need an experience designed for them to easily tap items they’re interested in.

When it comes to designing to be accessible and inclusive, what is to come is way more inspiring than what’s been already done. Sukriti was excited about how the definition of creator is evolving and democratizing this space. The key is to embed inclusion as early as possible in the process so it doesn’t become an afterthought.

Catering to changing needs and bringing value through unique content

Demographics and habits may change over time but unique content means offering great value, able to change instantly to cater to the shifting needs. When considering C2C apps, maintaining a high level of personalized experience can be challenging without directly being involved in the supply side of the business. Han Cho, Group Product Manager at Etsy was generous in sharing insights on personalizing user experiences. He shared in two folds: First off, Etsy is diligent in gathering explicit feedback from buyers and potential customers. They ask for thought starters and themes users care about when it comes to taste and style. Second is the implicit input: what users search for, items or categories they jump to, share and add to cart. These nuggets of insights heavily influence the type of personalized experience Etsy offers. Han is clear in their motivation: “Let the user tell you they’re not interested. If people scroll by, that’s also an indication.”

Outlook for future

Now that the pandemic is winding down, normal seasonal behavior is coming back and Brindi from Poshmark was “eager to plan more creative ideas then stay safe.” While creative and design can offer innovative features (hint hint: in-app stories) to help shopping be even more social, Sukriti from Spotify was excited about changing the approach to creative to more and more embedded inclusion.

Circling back to privacy, Nick from Etsy left us with taking pixels off of a screen, out in the world and considering the real life impact on a person. “It’s not a funnel, it’s a personal change in someone’s life. People looking for jobs, people are now looking for a company with a mission” added Nick. Chris from Strava built on that with the new role expected of app product managers: a skillset mindful of the trust we need to build. 

It all comes back to creating a “high-quality holistic fluid consistent app experience” as noted by Han from Etsy. As we scale, how do we maintain the great experience? His answer was simple: we leverage new and unique technologies to deliver consistent value. And new technology means new compelling ways to interact with users. As Storyly, that’s what we’re all about so continue to watch this space!

Read more like this: