May 7

Satisfying the Unsatisfiable Through Consumer Science

The following insights were gleaned from a presentation at INDUSTRY given by Gibson “Gib” Biddle, formerly of Netflix @GibsonBiddle. Download Product Management TACTICS eBook for more.

Product people should work to move beyond customer focus to “customer obsession” to really discover what delights customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways. To do this, there are four sources of consumer insights that can help.  Gib illustrates these tactics through his time at Netflix using real-world cases that still are applicable today.

Is customer delight really so important?  Jeff Bezos of Amazon thinks so.  He once said, “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

According to Gib, the Product Manager’s job is to delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways. This “delight” often gets overlooked.  We’re so focused on providing a product that functions and works, that we sometimes forget how important that “delight” is.  Especially when the other products we’re competing with technically work.  Instead of overlooking that delight, we should be doubling-down on our efforts to delight customers.

But, where within our product should we be focused on introducing “delighters”?  Consumer science can help point us in the right direction. Forming a hypothesis, conducting experiments, gathering data and results, and assessing your findings, and repeating that process over and over again, can help show you where your product has room to delight. Then, of course, you’ll need to ask yourself and your team whether it makes sense to implement some sort of delighter.

Sometimes, though — there is a cost for doing something that’s right.  At one point, Netflix outlined a potential delighter that would cost quite a bit.  In fact, the cost for implementing alone would take $50 Million.  There was some projected revenue that would come along, but it certainly wouldn’t cover the cost.  In fact, that revenue was projected at just $8 Million.  Yet, Netflix decided to move forward anyway.  Why?  Well, it certainly wasn’t a short term profitability decision.  Instead, the leadership felt that implementing this delighter would ultimately buy goodwill, and while that goodwill might have a value that’s difficult to determine in the short term, it would be better for the customer base and Netflix long term.

In the end, we all should have the courage to make decisions like these.  Deciding to move forward with a project that is scheduled to actually lose money in the short term, though, takes courage.  One might say it takes an obsession with customers, too.  After all, customer obsession is about putting your users and audience at the center of all you do to invent a better future for everyone.  We should all look for ways where we can live that out as product people.

To see Gib’s full presentation, visit:

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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