The easiest North star for a product person is their own intuition. But if they’re working on a product that requires customer segmentation, being in the early adopter cohort means one’s instincts will keep guiding you towards the wrong North star.
If you don’t follow the comings and goings of professional tech circles, Eugene Wei might not ring a bell. I know it didn’t for me. But he has worked at some of the most influential brands and companies in the modern age of technology. A quick skim of his resume reveals his work as an Amazon Group Product Manager, Hulu SVP of Product and Marketing, Flipboard Head of Product, and Oculus VR Head of Video. Truly impressive.
As such, when he has something to say about product development and marketing, particularly consumer-centered Internet services, we should naturally perk our ears. A colleague of mine forwarded one of Eugene Wei’s recent blog posts where he discusses the concept of invisible aymptotes as they relate to growing your customer base and increasing revenue.
In the early days of Amazon, the invisible aymptote was shipping cost. Customers hesitated to buy more stuff, because they didn’t want to pay for shipping. That’s how the whole “free super saver shipping for orders over $25” came from. Then, they ran into another invisible aymptote: customers wouldn’t place an order until they accumulated enough stuff to qualify for free shipping. That’s how Amazon Prime was born.
Amazon is indeed a crazy place where algorithms go wild. It is also not a unique case, per se, as this line of strategic thinking applies to all sorts of other businesses. You have to get out of the head of the early adopter if you want to appeal to a broader audience. And if you want to appeal to a broader audience, you may need to start segmenting your offerings.
Early adopters of Twitter (like me) are frenetic infovores. The short, text-heavy nature of Twitter is exactly what appeals to people like me, because it means we can frantically scan and skim those tweets until we uncover something that interests us. But it is precisely this kind of format that turns off a lot of other people, so that’s why they introduced pictures, videos, GIFs, polls, and larger character limits… precisely things that early adopting infovores abhor.
You may be inclined to trust your gut as you develop your own products and services. The problem is that not everyone is like you and not everyone thinks like you do. What might be tremendous for you could be a flaming sack of trash for someone else. But hey, there are always new opportunities to uncover.
As Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos once said in reference to the Gold Rush of making money in modern business, “There isn’t a last nugget, [because] every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.” This is especially true online where the anarchy of the Wild West still prevails. Much of this is still uncharted territory. So, go chart it.