Part 10 of Product Management Experiences –The Product Process – Zappos Example

So, let’s start with the No 10 on the list :


How would you launch a new feature or a Product for a Tech Company?


I chose Zappo’s as an example because it’s very relatable for most people.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that this is the ultimate cheat sheet, but we can definitely refine the product process more depending on the context. Please let me know if I have missed few obvious things here (I love constructive criticism)

Ok, so let’s get into it:


Context: Zappos is an ecommerce platform that serves shoes, clothing and other goods to consumers. It has 24+ million users around the world who shop on Zappos website and apps.

For simplicity, we will assume the product goals we are about to achieve are consistent with Zappos Goals, Mission, business strategy and product strategy. Just to give an example, if we have already established that we are going to run 100 product experiments in 2018, then it’s easier to fit the below experiments into the timeline.

Note: This is just an overview to describe how I would go about launching a couple of new features for Zappos (there can be more steps). Also, each step can have multiple processes that have to be followed depending on the context.


Goals (Immediate goals):

  1. To increase overall customer happiness across various market segments
  2. To reduce the number of return orders by 5% in 1 year.



  1. To extend the possibility of WOM (word of mouth) by engaging customers in various ways
  2. To do this we will add a WOW factor to the core of the product.
  3. Take advantage of the fact that people like to show their new products to others


User study Example: from user interviews, on-site study, customer pattern study, success data, CES, feedback study, tickets data, usage videos etc..


TypeProblemsUsage Behavior
Ajay, a product manager, rarely shops online for bags, shoes or clothing
  1. Would love demo of bags especially. Has a collection of nice bag packs but he insists he has to “feel it” before buying (and too lazy to send items back anywhere)
  1. Doesn’t use Zappos often
Josh (a Doctor)
  1. Male, has a ok fashion sense, but believes more if he sees the product and being a student of the “game” likes a demo of the product
  1. Visits zappos during festival season and for special occasions but loves promoting whatever he likes in general
Neha/Female (a Doctor)
  1. Extreme shopper, shops all the time but returns a lot of items as well as she has specific tastes
  1. Mainly phone and laptop
Natasha (21, model) Loves jewerly and clothing
  1. Can’t afford expensive brands, but loves relatively inexpensive brands that look the same.
  1. Mostly phone, iphone app. Uses variety of online stores for purchases

Note: these people are my real friends and happen to shop a lot


Proposed Solution:

  1. To improve customer conversion ratios for our customers by launching video reviews. This way they are able to get a feel for the product before purchasing and remove any doubts about the purchase.
  2. Launch a new product (button on each product page) called “Demo-er” that let’s users nearby demo the product to their neighbors so that customers get to try before purchasing and the referrer gets discount for future purchases.



– The solutions(s) will increase conversions, video reviews and real demo-ers are more believable than traditional content

-video reviews will reinforce a positive emotional experience for customers

-demo-ing might reduce returns since customers have actually tried the product


Which segment to pick for validation?:  

Choosing a customer segment to test  will depend on a few things, but in this context, because of our goal, we are especially interested in reducing returns and increasing word of mouth through existing customers..

Which segment  to test with will depend on :

  1. Ease of adoption (influencers first)
  2. Segment size  (smaller is easy to launch and support initially)
  3. Customer segment with low conversion rates
  4.  Segments with most engagement rates but low revenue rates


Some Technical considerations (for video reviews):

  1. List the open source video recording api’s (make tradeoffs by evaluating speed, quality, processing times, etc)
  2. Brightcove has full suite of api’s for this
  3. How fast should we make the video available?
  4. Amazon S3 can be used for storing video content (or Google cloud storage)
  5. Can this work the same way in mobile?
  6. How to treat failed loads?
  7. How to handle failed sends?
  8. Any other processing for the video?
  9. Which player should we use? Should we add watermarking or other tools?
  10. How to do mark up for video reviews content? (google tags and other stuff)
  11. How to moderate video reviews? How to handle bad content?
  12. If the solution is accepted by the market, when to decide to build for scale?
  13. What is the cost associated with initial prototyping and stable release for validation and market run?
  14. Come up with requirements list (spec)
  15. Think about dependencies


Some things to consider for Demo-er Button:

  1. Privacy issues
  2. Are we just prolonging the sales cycle unnecessarily?
  3. Is this feasible because now we have to implement an entire system to track all the demos.
  4. Come up with the spec
  5. How to deal with flakes?
  6. How to make sure the demoer is showing the right product?
  7. How to tackle scammers?


Roadmap Adjustment:

  1. Is this going to affect the overall roadmap timing?
  2. Is this feasible to execute without affecting current plan?
  3. Can we prioritize this over certain other features?
  4. How does this compare with overall score of other features in terms of (user delight, business value, risk, complexity, operational cost)
  5. Adjustment in overall time to market for goals that depend on this feature


Validation: (and it’s goals, results, what is mvp, ux design (interaction), prototyping)

  1. We want to validate with the first set of users that video reviews and demoer are fulfilling our goals
  2. Establish metrics we will use to validate our results (usage time, support tickets, goals achieved, any positive reviews etc..)
  3. We have to pick the first set of users i) early adopters in employees  ii) Most avid Customers of Zappos iii) Completely new users (smallest set to get an idea of where we stand with new users)
  4. We want to build a MVP for both products



MVP Considerations:

  1. Give it a cool feel yet keep it to just getting video, recording and publishing
  2. Make it easy to click and stop like Instagram
  3. Agree on userflows, Interaction and UX – come up with 2 final versions
  4. Refine and re-iterate until agreed.
  5. Usability study


Example button(s) on Zappos Iphone App (Wireframes):

New feature launch Mock

Product Process Mocks
Product Process


Release Planning (based on validation results):

Release checklist

  1. Integration testing
  2. Unit tests done
  3. Marketing notified
  4. Positioning study
  5. Usability study
  6. Sales and Marketing collateral
  7. Go over last scrum artifacts
  8. Analytics in place (for vertical and horizontal data testing)


If (Validation == Successful) then {

Choose Customer type and go into product marketing:

  1. Pick the right customer segment
  2. Explore new customer segments based on the results of validation
  3. Who else is doing this and how are they doing it?
  4. Do we have specific goals already established for each segment type?
  5. Pick the channels for marketing
  6. Implementing launch checklist



Else { Go back to User study and Validation}

Rollout Planning

  1. Selective rollout based on customer referral score, usage metrics, extending validation phase metrics
  2. A-B testing 2 versions of campaigns and 2 versions of video buttons/ Demoer buttons for video reviews
  3. How to collect feedback
  4. How to prioritize feedback?
  5. When to decide to kill feature for certain customer segments?
  6. Forget feature button in place internally?
  7. How to communicate new feature?
  8. What are the threshold metrics to decide if the feature stays?
  9. Have we got a formula to measure user impact, revenue, retention and word of mouth?
  10. Marketing Collateral (to promote the usage of Demoer and to make people video review)
  11. How to price the referrals and discounts for the referrer and referee?
  12. What about incentives for the video reviewer?


Results study:

  1. How was the overall customer response?
  2. Engagement rates? Are we able to increase customer retention because of Customer Engage rates?
  3. New customers because of the feature?
  4. What is the customer retention now quarterly since this feature?
  5. Is word of mouth the main reason of new search traffic?
  6. Heatmap study to see where Customers are clicking
  7. Data slicing and dicing to understand more about usage (Amplitude, Pendo, GA, Heap, etc)
  8. How was the implementation? What formula are we using to calculate Customer Effort Score?
  9. Formula for calculating KPI’s in place?
  10. Are customers reporting positively about the features?
  11. Average views per market segment
  12. Video time watch per segment and relation to CTR

Go back and adjust strategy based on the results and narrow down goals further and define the next set of specific goals.


Zappos was successfully able to increase word of mouth and customer retention by increasing engagement through the new features.

Part 10 Series on Product Management

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *