Thursday, 27 August 2009

Product Direction in Action

Being a tentative member of the Digital Generation (I’ve got a Facebook account and I own an iPod so I just about qualify) I thought it was time I got round to loading my CD collection onto my PC and using Apple’s iTunes application for more than just loading the odd song to my iPod.

Having spent almost every evening for a fortnight loading all my CDs into iTunes I discovered a great new feature called Genius. Basically it allows you to play a song, click the Genius button and iTunes then creates a playlist of other songs from your library that go well together. It also recommends new music, films and TV shows that it thinks you’ll like based on your current library and you can preview and buy the recommended items with a single click from iTunes.

Being a bit of a sucker for a gadget I spent quite a while playing with the Genius feature, creating playlists covering all different sorts of music (I have an eclectic music collection) and each time the selection Genius came back with was more or less what I would have chosen myself and in some cases it was probably better.

The recommend new music feature also led to my first paid for music download. Up until recently I have been firmly in the buying CDs camp meaning I’ve often bought them on the strength or one or two singles from a band or a friend’s recommendation. The thought of downloading music and not really ‘owning’ a physical copy hadn’t really appealed… until now. I’ve only downloaded a couple of singles and podcasts so far but I’m beginning to see the attraction, why buy a whole album only to find out you only like half of the tracks on it when you can just buy the ones you like?

It has to be said that I’m a Marketing Managers dream when it comes to features like this which is ironic considering what I do for a living but I love functionality that adds real benefit to the user and is not just a cynical sales or marketing tool. The iTunes Genius feature is one of the best examples of product direction I have seen recently and is up there with Amazon’s ‘customers that bought X also bought Y’ functionality. Both work in a similar fashion and use product or service association to recommend items that the user is statistically likely to find appealing and let’s face it who hasn’t spent more with Amazon than they intended as a result!?

It’s a relatively simple concept; analyse the purchase patterns or online behaviour of previous customers to build product associations and understand which combinations of products customers are most likely to buy. These associations can be used to drive cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by marketing and promoting the associated products together. This is particularly relevant and successful in the ecommerce sector but can be used in offline marketing as well as Digital Marketing.

So congratulations to Apple on another innovative product it’s got me thinking which of our clients could use a similar product direction tool?

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