There are 2 types of people in the world: people who use WeChat, and people who don’t use WeChat. WeChat has truly become a phenomenon that no one can live without in China. It is every vital app you have in your mobile phone blended into one mega-app.
WeChat users can do just about anything, including play games, send money to people, make video calls, order food, read the news, book a doctor appointment, and more. “WeChat’s reach and influence is unrivaled in China’s online space,” said research firm China Skinny. “It touches everything from consumers communicating with their nearest and dearest, to sharing their most special moments, to buying everything from cinema tickets to taxi rides.”
Designed and built to scale, messaging platforms such as WeChat and Weibo in China need to perform at their peak on Chinese New Year when millions of people send Red Envelopes to their loved ones to wish them luck and success.
According to WeChat, owned by digital media business Tencent, 420 million people sent each other lucky money via the app’s payment service on the eve of Chinese New Year. WeChat has seen a total of 8.08 billion red envelopes sent so far for Chinese New Year, eight times more than last year. To put this into context, WeChat showed 4x the number of mobile transactions in a week long celebration of Chinese New Year in 2016 than Paypal recorded in all of 2015.
According to PayPal it made 4.9 billion transactions in 2015 (half of the number of transactions made on WeChat just for Chinese New Year) and only 28 per cent were made on a mobile device. Another notable comparison is that a total of 2 billion products were purchased from Amazon’s marketplace sellers in all of 2014 (a quarter of the number of Red Envelopes sent in a week this Chinese New Year).
Similarly, Chinese social network Weibo released figures showing that 134 million active users logged on during the eve of Chinese New Year, with 100 million receiving lucky money digital envelopes via the platform.
A significant differentiating factor lies in the transaction amount on these platforms. Chinese Yuan (RNB) 8.88 (USD1.35) is the most commonly gifted amount on digital platforms on such occasions given that 8 is a lucky number in the Chinese tradition. This is a lot lower than would be gifted in envelopes in person and is likely to be a lot lower than the average transaction amount on a platform like PayPal or Amazon.
As product managers and product designers, to build products that users love and use, it is imperative to first learn about their habits, culture and traditions. I was lucky to spend my first Chinese New Year in 2015 in the heart of Beijing as we set out to build several mobile products for Alibaba’s mobile operating system -YunOS to experience it first hand. Despair not if you cannot experience it in Beijing. There are tons of great articles out there on the web covering this amazing celebration; my favorites being:
Chinese New Year Celebrations (2016) — What Chinese Do
Lantern Festival 2016 Dates, Facts, Traditions And Food: How To Mark End Of Chinese New Year
Lucky Numbers and Colors in Chinese Culture
Customs and Activities of Chinese New Year
恭喜发财, Gōngxǐ fācái, Happiness and prosperity everyone!
Contextual Inquiry is core to building a holistic business and product strategy around your product hypothesis. Feedback for your product idea comes primarily from potential partners, investors, advisors, etc — so long as you ask the right questions.
Ask about the past:
“Have you seen this before?”, “Has this worked before?”
Go-to-market partners will tell you what has worked for them before and more importantly, what has NOT worked for them in comparable or other products they have worked with. Learning from their experience is extremely valuable for you. Probe for these insights without sounding nosy and intrusive.
Then, about the present:
“What do you think?”, “What do you see in the market?”
This question gives the partner an opportunity to think about all the factors that impact his business and elaborate on them. It is important to switch from “impress” mode to “feedback” mode when speaking with your go-to-market partners.
Conclude with future possibilities:
“How do you go about this?”, “What is the best way to take this forward?”
Understand the decision making process for your partner well. This question gives you a wealth of information on technical integration, team structure, company processes, revenue structures, etc. There is a high possibility of each partner having unique answers for this question. Draw out common industry-wide patterns along with unique business processes.
Ultimately, as Terry Pratchett rightly said - It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.
Products that are distributed at scale via go-to-market partnerships are influenced heavily by how partners operate in the market. As a product manager, investing time in building a market-facing view with the help of your external partners is essential for a product-market fit.
Keep in mind that this step does not guarantee product-market fit (products typically live in complex ecosystems and many, many factors influence product-market fit) but simply increases your chances of achieving product-market fit.
Who should you ask for a market-facing view?
Market-facing view is sourced heavily from your go-to-market partners and they have given me the most impactful market insights. The partners can be classified in two broad categories based on the how your product generates revenue for the partner:
How do you draw out market insights?
Now that you have identified who can help you build the market-facing view, a product manager must be able to draw out market insights from these partners which is different from getting product feedback from an end-user. These conversations are best had in person on a regular basis. If you are unable to have an in-person meeting, Skype, Hangouts or even a phone call works as a second option.
For all questions, ask and let the partners speak — give a long pause after the question (even though 10 seconds may seem like an eternity, pause) till the partner has formulated an answer and is ready to share his/her thoughts.
I am listing a few unbiased, open-ended questions that have always worked for me.
Surbhi is a product enthusiast with an obsessive dedication to UX, to build products that delight users, drive performance metrics and drive overall business strategy.