Transitioning from Market Stall to App Store "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 18 October 2016 True Culture, Ecommerce, Internal Users, Legacy Product, Mobile, User Research, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 714 Jade Pearn talks about turning mobile into a first-class channel at ProductTank London Product Management 2.856
· 3 minute read

Transitioning from Market Stall to App Store

In this talk I gave at ProductTank London, I reflected on how mobile has become a massive traffic channel for M&S in just a couple years and the attitudinal transformation that I helped lead there. Specifically, looking back on my journey of inheriting legacy app builds and a rapidly evolving customer, whilst working within an organisation with a deeply entrenched culture of mobile last. Over the course of the talk, I explored how this culture was formed, and how we started to un-do it.

Inheritance Tax

When you inherit a product, you also take on it’s attached reputation and standing within your company as a tax. Taking on the Mobile proposition at M&S in 2014, meant taking on a group of neglected products that were suffering from a lack of clear purpose, both internally and externally. Rather than throwing my hands up in despair, my team & I leveraged this neglected state to go into “Stealth Mode”. Ruthlessly assessing and shaping up the Mobile portfolio – rewriting unmaintainable legacy code and stripping out unused features with little to no internal objection.

Leave no wo(man) behind – the importance of listening to your Internal Users

Whilst we were in a much better place with our end users after cleaning up the Apps – we had forgotten to address our internal users. This lack of focus on the internal teams responsible for merchandising and trading the Mobile channels, had only further contributed to the channel being silo’d away from the rest of the company.

In the talk, I went on to explain how we addressed internal users needs – and the downstream impact it had on the the overall end UX. By streamlining CMS processes and spending time with teams outside of the immediate Mobile specialism, we demystified the Mobile channel across the business and ultimately allowed everyone to take shared ownership of it. This began to embed Mobile into everyday processes – rather than an “add-on” as it was originally seen.

Looking through a different lens

Even with all of the internal and external UX improvements – M&S still struggled with prioritising Mobile as a lucrative channel. Despite traffic figures exceeding all other channels, deep-rooted assumptions persisted about how our customer behaved. It was essential that we challenged these preconceptions, with the help of the User Research and Big Data teams.

The importance of understanding what your users are doing when they are not using your products is huge. I emphasised it as a way to get a truer view of our customers’ attitude towards Mobile, as well as exposing your stakeholders to this feedback first-hand, rather than through a report.

Drilling further into the process of reframing the culture around mobile, I went on to explain how re-framing usage data allowed M&S to begin to quantify the true value of Mobile for them through cross channel attribution modelling. Once M&S stopped focusing solely on downloads and single-session, single-channel conversion rates in regards to Mobile; it shifted the attitude across all departments, resulting in the Mobile getting both the budget and focus it deserved.

Key Lessons

  • It can be incredibly frustrating when you can see mistakes being made or your products not getting the internal priority that they should. Rather than initially complaining and hitting your head against a wall – take the lack of focus as an opportunity to build the right foundation. Make the product(s) good enough that they can’t ignore it!
  • It’s our prerogative as Product People to get obsessed with our end users, but neglect your internal users at your own peril – show them love on your backlog and it will filter down to creating a better product for the end user. More importantly, it will help shift the internal culture and attitude towards your products.
  • Finally, contextualise your data, data is incredibly powerful, but out of context it can be a red herring, like the high traffic, low conversion issue at M&S. Don’t allow this to lead you or your stakeholders down the wrong route, always question the data and look at it from multiple views. Start with talking to your users for clues, and then back up your theory with data.

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