When building consumer products, we scale features as quickly as possible. The costs and complexities associated with launching these are sufficiently low that companies often focus only on speed to market. When both online and offline experiences are scaled too quickly, what types of impact can it have on operations and conversion? Former VP of Product at Ratehub.ca Scott Affleck shares challenges related to building hybrid consumer products and hybrid journeys, and ways to balance speed to market with operational complexity.

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On why growth is complex in a hybrid business

When we think about scaling B2C businesses, what often comes to mind are rapid growth companies like Uber, Instacart, and Airbnb. When looking at these kinds of business, there are some consistent trends: acquisition at all costs, and very rapid experimentation. Such companies are heavily skewed towards quantitative over qualitative analysis. The famous Facebook mantra of “move fast and break things” works in B2C environments where there’s generally very low cost or complexity to deploying changes. Such a motto doesn’t work in a B2B or SaaS company.

“If you extrapolate that to a business like Ratehub, where you’ve got a hybrid business model of an online and an offline experience, it’s a little bit more complicated. There’s offline sales channels. You might have application or document processing. There might be offline communications between buyers and sellers. And in these kinds of environments, scaling these hybrid journeys, it’s not as simple as when you’re scaling a kind of pure play, single sided, B2C product. 

“There’s a lot of complexity that gets introduced by the user journey and managing stakeholders in the offline environments and their workflow. And if you follow these rapid acquisition patterns that we see in B2C environments, you can actually introduce a huge amount of cost into the business, when you’re trying to push people down the funnel, if they’re not qualified to be at that stage of the funnel.”

On the specific challenges of hybrid journeys

From dealing with multiple types of users, to offline processes, to the dangers of introducing unintended costs, hybrid journeys have specific problems different from B2Cs. So what are the specific kinds of challenges you face when you enter into these situations? 

“In hybrid journeys, you have to consider multiple users in most cases. Yes, you have to think about the consumer. But you also might have to think about that sales person’s activities, or the document validator’s activities and their workflow, so that you design a platform that solves both of their needs. 

“The second is training is seldom required for consumers. But on the hybrid side, training is often required as you’re going to market for at least one of those groups. Either you need to train the consumers on the right way to submit documentation, or you have to train the internal side of the business on how to accept that documentation and use tools to review and edit and modify. 

“Next, features can be rapidly turned on and off traditionally in an online B2C journey. But when you’re in a hybrid journey, you can’t always turn them on and off quite as fast. You need to make sure that, again, on that training aspect, the agents on your side of the business have the understanding of when something is in flight and active and when it’s not, and then how to transition gracefully as you turn features on and off. 

“And then the last thing is you actually have to talk and get some qualitative data, in a lot of cases, because it tends to be bottom funnel activities, or low volume activities. But the other part is, you can’t always connect all the data together. It’s very easy to track web journeys or app journeys. But then connecting that to whether or not somebody had a certain type of conversation with an agent over a voice phone call or something, it’s very hard to connect those pieces together.”

On how Ratehub learned that measuring had to include full funnel tracking

One experiment at Ratehub demonstrated these differences clearly. The company changed the language on a CTA (call to action) to lower the commitment when clicked, so that more users would proceed to partner sites and apply. This change was based on user feedback. The PMs involved measured the new CTA from page view to clicks, but not all of the way through to approvals, and without taking into account their offline and partner journey. So what was the outcome?

“It appeared that the experiment was a success, for a little while. We saw a 60% increase in users-to-clicks on that page. But then suddenly, we started to see revenue start to decline, and partners starting to complain about a drop of quality in leads and approvals. And so, just by changing the words of the CTA, we effectively introduced the cost into the system that we were trying to avoid by pushing unqualified leads through to our partners, at a very significant rate.

“From a learning perspective, this just changed the way we operated going forward. We started making sure we tracked full funnel when we were launching A/B tests, not just to the end of the online experience, but also through to the partnership experience. And it became paramount to us to ensure we had the right feedback loops from our partners in place quantitatively, but also qualitatively. For a lot of our products, when we were launching them, we made sure we had some, at least a friendly group of partners where we could solicit qualitative feedback on lead quality and have regular check ins on how those things were going.”

About the speaker
Scott Affleck Covers, Chief Product Officer Member
About the host
Arun Milton RBC, Senior Director, Product Management

Arun heads Product Management for Royal Bank of Canada’s Solution Acceleration and Innovation group where he leads a team of PMs that manage a portfolio of B2C and B2B products. He also heads RBC Launch, RBC’s innovation hub, where the focus is on rapidly experimenting and developing new products. In prior roles, Arun developed products for RBC's commercial lending business, building large-scale credit structuring applications. Arun has deep domain expertise in financial services gained working in corporate strategy and various business lines. Prior to banking, he has worked as a Management Consultant and as a Physician at different points in his career.

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