Want Your Product to be Great? Go For a Walk in the Wild!


Lately I’ve been working with a colleague, Mark Chambers, to help him launch his latest creation. BlinkSky is a digital gifting platform and app that enables instantaneous buying and delivery of digital gift cards. BlinkSky is a game changer. The current $680B market is almost entirely based on plastic cards. BlinkSky is totally digital and enables global giving It also allows outside applications to use the platform for sending “branded currency”.

However, the past three months have really helped us understand that we haven’t thought of everything. Once the consumer facing app was launched in October of 2017 ahead of the holiday shopping season, we began to really see how people act and what they want. For example, users kept asking us how to:

  • Search by name or category with results appearing as they typed
  • Know if their gift card was delivered
  • Swap a gift card for another

We had all the feedback loops and data analysis we needed to monitor for usage and rapidly make updates to ensure people used and kept using the app. And we too began to use the app during the holidays and found even more ways to encourage sign-up and use.  The longer we spent in the user interface and interacting with those we had gifted, the more we really knew our market fit. However, we felt we needed to see and feel reaction to the app in person, with people we didn’t know, to complement our data.

Out into the wild. We went to a major shopping area in Atlanta selecting people at random, asking them if they shopped at Amazon, Best Buy or Home Depot. The answer was always YES. We then sent them a gift card of their choosing to their mobile phone while standing there letting them watch us send it and then watching them receive their gift. We found people act very differently than we had imagined looking at our data. We had trained ourselves on the app. It worked according to our vision. We also felt we had correlated our data with outcomes. But seeing is believing. A first-time user seemed to be excited, and let down, by completely different things. And first impressions are so very important.

After our field tests, we then went back to look at our data. Measurements included:

  • Length of time it took for a first-time recipient to download the BlinkSky app once we had left them.
  • Length of time it took a first-time downloader, after being a recipient, to become a sender
  • What did they send? For how much? How long did that recipient take to activate their card? Did they exchange it for one they liked better?

Many software product professionals rely solely on data to determine what is right, wrong and missing from their products. My experience with BlinkSky and many products over the last 25 years has benefited by both data AND direct observation of customer usage and just “walking in the wild”.

Oh, and give the app a try and send me your feedback It’s available for iPhone and Android.

Tags: digital, gifting, mobile, retail, software

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