In 2019, over 55% of time spent on websites came from desktop users, with mobile users only making up 40%. What's important to take from this and how can product managers make the most out of mobile?
We caught up with Sukriti Chadha, Product at Spotify, to talk about her recent career move and the importance of mobile to driving growth before her session at the Product-Led Festival in November.
These answers represent Sukriti's personal views and not those of current or former employers
To kick off, can you share a bit about your background and journey to joining the product team at Spotify?
I joined Spotify at the end of August, and I currently work across teams to accelerate development, scaling, accessibility and automation so the company can continue building delightful products for our users.
After studying Electrical Engineering and Finance at Princeton, I joined Yahoo Finance as an Android developer, where I was on a team with 3 other programmers and no dedicated PM. I ended up doing product work in addition to coding partly by necessity, and partly because I was curious about prioritization, impact and user experience. Moving to product management formally was a natural transition as the team grew and we needed mobile PMs.
You shifted roles in August at the peak of the pandemic - what was the remote onboarding experience like for you?
I was pleasantly surprised by how thoughtfully organized the onboarding experience was, both at the company and team level. It was, of course, a bummer to not visit the Stockholm office, which is normally part of onboarding.
We made up for it with lots of virtual fikas (Swedish for coffee) with people across the organization, who helped me hit the ground running in a matter of days.
What would you say are the key considerations when building for mobile vs web?
Technically, the biggest difference is fragmentation. On web, we largely deal with a few browsers, whereas mobile can mean any combination of mobile web, native apps, hybrid apps and wearables. Depending on the product and underlying architecture, two mobile products that behave similarly can be built on completely separate tech stacks. Even within the native app space, we’re dealing with two entirely different development environments on iOS and Android. Another layer of fragmentation comes from the variety of devices, models, network availability and speed that impact user experience.
From a user’s perspective, mobile products differ from web for reasons such as limited screen size, performance limitations and the greater variety of contexts you can use them in. For product teams, it is important to keep these considerations in mind while building cohesive experiences that are true to the brand and true to the platform a user is on.
How can mobile contribute to driving revenue growth or aiding customer acquisition/retention?
Mobile e-commerce accounts for over 72% of all e-commerce in the US. There is an expected $12B in mobile wallet transactions by 2022. Mobile is already the primary revenue driver for mobile-first companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Instagram.
People in the developing world who are coming online for the first time are doing so on mobile devices. If there is product market fit for the overall product, it is easier than ever to launch on mobile. Teams can experiment and iterate on acquisition channels, engaging content, notification strategies and mobile payments/subscriptions without the need to build all of the infrastructure.
You’ve spoken about a people-centric approach to mobile feature development - how do you ensure you are balancing the needs/objectives of users, stakeholders, and the business while planning new features?
By doing what PMs do best. Prioritizing. Happy users make healthy businesses that can engage and retain teams. Happy teams build products that make users happy. Taking care of end users and internal teams usually translates to taking care of business needs in the long term.
When those needs diverge, it means advocating for who is not in the room (users and sometimes internal teams), objectively evaluating disagreements and involving diverse perspectives in the process of coming up with creative solutions.
And how do you ensure processes are transparent?
Processes are like products, which are best established collaboratively with feedback from key stakeholders. They are also, by the same logic, iterative in nature. I am not a fan of process for the sake of it. I believe it is more important to communicate ideas and involve people in decision making early and often.
The two ways to accomplish transparency in communication I have found effective are 1:1 relationships with key stakeholders so I can proactively seek feedback, and documents that establish a baseline understanding of the problem/solution at hand.
These strategies are successful only when people feel safe sharing ideas, opinions and disagreements and the culture overall is driven by learning instead of fear of failure. We all have blind spots and acknowledging that in front of my team has helped me see things I never would have and vice versa.
How do you think mobile app accessibility will change in the next 5 years?
Mobile accessibility is still one of the least understood and discussed parts of the product development lifecycle. Over the last few years, Android and iOS documentation on accessibility, testing, tooling and best practices has improved dramatically. As more developers, designers and PMs become familiar with integrating accessibility in their workflows, we’ll see improved experiences for everyone and shared tools similar to the ones we have for web.
Some of the more exciting work will be extensions of voice technology, AI and machine learning. And finally XR products that will enable truly customizable, personalized experiences for people with disabilities.
You’ve spoken about working with nonprofits to get more people from untraditional tech backgrounds into tech. Why is diversity in tech important to you?
Homogenous teams tend to build products that are reflective of limited collective life experiences. As product managers and user researchers, we seek different points of view to build empathy with our users, but there is no substitute for lived experience.
Diversity breeds creativity, and having worked with hundreds of students at a nonprofit, I have seen first hand the rich perspectives and creativity they bring to the table. One example of this is a student who worked in hospitality for years before learning how to code. She was immediately in tune with understanding user problems, and thinking about user experience/customer service issues before diving into implementation. Empathy is a skill engineers spend years fine-tuning, and this student had the innate ability to relate to and help people from the get go.
This also applies to people with disabilities. They are some of the most creative problem solvers since they constantly have to navigate a world that wasn’t necessarily built with them in mind.
What are your favorite PM resources and tools?
Communication : Slack and Google Docs
Data : BigQuery, Tableau, Python
Planning : Trello, Excel
Ideation : Mural, Coda, Figma, Sketch
And finally, if you could go back to the start of your career knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
I think attending events like these, or hearing from the beautiful souls who practice product management at other companies would have been incredibly helpful.
The range of roles and responsibilities for PMs vary tremendously across companies. Without more exposure to different philosophies and product practices, it is relatively difficult to identify areas of personal development, or to discover new perspectives. This is especially true if you’re successful by the definition set in the environment or company you’re already in.