Zillow fmr Product Lead on Low-Velocity Products
While they may not be used every day, Elissa Kline specializes in managing products that handle complex issues and provide users with solutions that often have long-term impact on day-to-day business. Low-velocity products may not appear that sexy or interesting on the surface - but as Elissa explains, there's plenty to dig into when it comes to optimizing experiences that guide users toward making significant decisions.
Low-Velocity Products: What’s Your Frequency?
This may seem a little odd, but I’m going to start by asking a question about something you (hopefully) have used multiple times today. The question is – did you use your toothbrush? Again, hopefully your answer is yes (and if not, please feel free to start brushing now!). Now, you’re probably asking – what does that question have to do with discussing low-velocity products?
Simply put, the answer is that the frequency with which a product is used has a profound effect on how you manage its deployment/features/etc. Furthermore, I think it’s important to use the term frequency when talking about usage rather than velocity. For example, if you talk to an engineer, they might say “we’re shipping new features all the time – we’re a high-velocity product.” In reality, the most important factor for product managers to consider for low-velocity products is how often they are used by end consumers.
Along these lines, I’m sure you’re starting to think about your own products. In other words, do I support a product that is high-frequency or low-frequency?
For me, I like to think about it in terms of calendar-based frequency. For example, we use social media and email several hundred times daily. Pretty safe to say that these are high-frequency products, right? Said differently, these are products that are habit-forming. Ultimately, your daily routine always includes engagement with these platforms in some form.
Going down one more level, you have products that fall into the annual usage category. For example, this includes services like H&R Block or Geico. Unlike the higher-frequency product mentioned earlier, these annual/semi-annual products and services are not habit-forming. In other words, you may consider using a different tax service every year or may switch auto insurance carriers. As a result, it’s critical for these teams to focus on long-term retention and ways to engage users when they’re not actively using the product during critical times.
Once you get past the annual usage bracket, the “worst kind” of low-velocity products move into the forgettable zone.
Simply put, these are products that people have to use because they have to be there. But, they don’t want to necessarily want to be there when using the product. For example, this can involve buying a car or buying a house – or if you like even more fun, planning a wedding or buying life insurance!
In summary, none of these services or associated decisions are fun or sexy. However, these products serve people to make highly-consequential decisions that are often complex and very expensive. So, while low-velocity products may not be interesting on the surface, there are a lot of details and plenty of nuances to unpack in making successful products for these high-stakes decisions.