PM Spotlight: Lessons in Driving Customer Expansion and Lifetime Value from Dollar Shave Club
One of the things that we love about Product Management (PM), especially high-growth consumer businesses, is the variety of backgrounds we see from PM leaders. There is no set route into product management; there is no ‘degree’ you can get to enter the field.
One PM with a unique start into the field is Wyatt Thompson, PM at Dollar Shave Club, who runs an E-Commerce business, Romperjack, alongside his PM duties.
We sat down with Wyatt to discuss the intricacies of building for mobile, how Dollar Shave Club uses voice technology to improve customer experiences, and lessons he’s learned in his product management journey. Enjoy!
Let’s start with your background. I noticed that before you entered Product Management, you had already started your own e-commerce business, Romperjack. I’m curious what lessons you carried running Romperjack to managing products with DSC?
It’s funny because despite the differences between RomperJack and Dollar Shave Club’s scale, they face many of the same problems. The focus at both includes monetization strategies to drive customer expansion and lifetime value. For example, Dollar Share Club has shaving products, but we also sell shampoos, cologne etc. RomperJack has rompers, but we also sell shirts, backpacks, fanny packs etc. So, in terms of growth, we’re tackling the same problem.
In terms of my job, Dollar Shave Club happens to be more technical. I spend more time on building a great platform; whereas at Romperjack, I spend more timing building a community.
It’s also interesting that you’ve built for both mobile and web products. How do you approach mobile? What challenges have you faced?
I always like to solve the problem for the smaller screen first. When I look at mobile users, they’re usually doing something while on our app. They’re often on the move. They can be easily distracted. So it’s important to make the mobile experiences very easy to use and as simple as possible.
At the same time, one of the biggest challenges in mobile is maintaining a certain amount of feature parity between the app and the website. For example, if you have PayPal on the website, but don’t on the mobile app, that’s a bad experience.
This can be difficult because the web team often has more staff and can move at a quicker pace. And as a result, on the mobile side, it can feel like a game of catch up. So you have to make trade offs: Do we need this feature in the app? Do we have time? Ultimately, you have to talk to your customers to see where they’re going and what they really need in a mobile experience.
Space on a mobile phone is really valuable – so if you’re going to take up that space, you have to make it worthwhile. You have to make the experience fun and exciting.
I know you’re working on integrating Voice capabilities into your mobile experience. How did that come about? What have you learned about your users in the research process?
From our user research with our mobile users, we found that space on a mobile phone is really valuable – so if you’re going to take up that space, you have to make it worthwhile. You have to make the experience fun and exciting.
With that, we found that a large percentage of our mobile users use the app to manage their Dollar Shave Club plan, reorder products they’re familiar with, or adjust their shipping date. So we started thinking about all the different ways to reduce friction in their experience. With the advancements happening in voice technology, we thought voice could be a fun and convenient way to solve some core user needs.
Interestingly, in our research, we found that not everyone was comfortable with using Siri or Google Voice. Some were especially averse to adding new products via Voice. But there were some power users that loved it. So we had to work on building trust around the system. We made simple prompts like “try it for yourself and add shave butter to your next box” to safely introduce the concept.
Lastly, we wanted to roll out voice carefully, so we used Taplytics feature flags to incrementally roll out voice functionality so we could analyze how users interacted with it.
It’s been a really fun experience and it seems a lot of folks are excited about it. It’s also given a lot of customers a reason to download the app in the first place.
And so that’s where experimentation comes into play: you have your hypothesis, but you need to verify and tweak on your ideas until they actually deliver value for the customer.
On that note, let’s talk about Experimentation. I know you manage mobile testing at Dollar Shave Club. What does your experimentation program include? What value have you seen from experimentation?
Most of the experiments we run are focused around acquisition strategies like tweaking funnels and increasing conversions. Experimentation is valuable because it helps us verify our assumptions. For example, with voice, we expect that it will be used to help users manage their plans and reduce churn rates, but we don’t know. Without experimentation, we’re just releasing into the wild.
Overall, experimentation is part of two inconvenient truths I see in product management. One is that half your ideas will fail. That’s a given fact. Often, the customer just isn’t as excited about things as you may be. Secondly, if you release a feature, it’s going to take several iterations before you actually deliver business value. And so that’s where experimentation comes into play: you have your hypothesis, but you need to verify and tweak on your ideas until they actually deliver value for the customer.
Other Lessons As a Self-Taught Product Manager?
There are no stupid questions. Coming into a new role, I read all the books about what a product manager does, and I had all these expectations of myself. But I quickly realized no one knows what they’re doing; no one knows everything. So I realized I had to ask questions when I didn’t know how something worked, otherwise it could be a problem in the long run.
Lastly, Wyatt also leads a Product Management book club. Within months of launching, they have over 150 members and have had live discussions with prominent authors such as Dan Olson, to discuss the Lean Product Playbook. The club also has slack community where PM can meet and collaborate on challenges. It’s amazing. Check it out here: PM Book Club