6 Products that Successfully Sailed the Storm of 2020

Sink or Swim

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating storm for many, as the American economy suffered some big blows (especially for small businesses). Those in the restaurant biz, retail, fitness, etc., were forced to make major pivots to survive. But some have weathered the storm better than others and sailed out of 2020 with big business and big profits. Let’s take a look at six examples and how they leveraged product management practices to get the job done.

#1: Nintendo Switch by Nintendo

Sometimes, it’s not about having the flashiest graphics or fastest processors. A key driver of the Nintendo Switch’s success has been games that are easily accessible and appealing to a diverse audience — notably Animal Crossing: New Horizons — which encourages socializing (virtually) with other players and provides an escape for people in these times.

PM on deck: Much of the Nintendo Switch’s success has been word of mouth — people encouraging others to buy it so they can join their online games and play together. Some say it’s luck, but others say it’s by design. This is an example of Product-Led Growth (PLG), where the product itself is the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion. How ready are you and your product for PLG? Benchmark your readiness by taking the Product-Led Growth Maturity Assessment.

#2: Uber Eats by Uber

Uber Eats revenue outpaced that of Uber’s core ride-sharing business in Q3 of 2020. Other products in the food delivery space like DoorDash and InstaCart have also been surging. They were well-positioned to support their customers during the pandemic since their value rose from being merely a convenience to a real lifeline for many.

PM on deck: This shift to “buying at home” versus “buying out” is a behavior switch that will last long into the future. How have your customers’ preferences and behaviors changed during the pandemic? What are you doing to take advantage of these changes? Get a real handle on how your customer’s needs are shifting by downloading the Customer Journey Mapping Template.

#3: HBO Max by HBO and Warner Brothers

Wonder Woman 1984’s simultaneous release on HBO Max and in theaters was historic. Even though Wonder Woman 1984’s reported revenue is a fraction of what it would have earned in a full theatrical release, simply releasing movies online so close to their release date is a sea change.

PM on deck: What makes this sea change so interesting? HBO already had hallmarks of PLG before it was even a term. Decades ago, HBO had its “try before you buy” weekends and this has simply evolved into premium, freemium, and other trial options that PLG products leverage for creating awareness and preference. Learn more about how influential creating awareness and preference is to the PLG approach to customer acquisition in this article: How to Achieve Product-Led Growth [+Webinar].

#4: The Mirror by Lululemon Athletica

As if the fitness category needed another app, we got one in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic. The in-home fitness startup introduced its eponymous device, retailing at $1500 and requiring a $39 monthly subscription. The value proposition: work out safely at home, led by an expert instructor (live or recorded), and “join with friends.” It combined a slick, easy to use interface, a large content library of fitness classes, and a bit of community. It caught fire, snapped up by people who really wanted to be at the gym, but couldn’t. Business exploded and the company was acquired for $500M, mid-2020 by Lululemon Athletica.

PM on deck: Even for mature product categories, if you focus on solving underserved needs with a product that engages users with live feedback, motivation, or simply a “well done” ding, your users will keep coming back. (At least more often than most of us did to our local gym pre-pandemic). Who said subscription models can’t be easily applied to legacy “equipment” type products? Learn more about how Digital Product Management can help legacy products make the shift to digital and lay the foundation for PLG.

#5: Dragon by SpaceX

2020 saw the return of American astronauts riding an American-made launch vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011. SpaceX had already significantly disrupted the economics and business model of the low earth launch providers with their proven low-cost, Falcon 9 launch vehicle—launching humans was another big threshold to clear. They were relentless in testing, iterating, driving reliability, and safety – even while driving costs and prices down to unheard depths. As a result, NASA is now saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year, SpaceX is fully certified by NASA to carry astronauts for all ISS operational missions, while their legacy competitor Boeing continues to struggle to get up to speed.

PM on deck: Time to market and rapid iteration beats long term analysis-paralysis, any day and every day. It’s great seeing Porter’s Five Forces model in action with SpaceX starting as a new entrant, then as a competitor to Boeing, and now SpaceX offering supplier diversity to NASA. Are you looking to crush your time to market timeframes? Optimize your product development process with the Optimal Product Management course.

#6: Model 3 and Model Y by Tesla

Tesla – the company the auto pundits and stock market shorters all kept betting on to lose – continues to (most definitely) not lose. Shorters have lost an estimated $27B betting against Elon Musk’s EV company. As of Q3 in 2020, Tesla had absolutely destroyed revenue, profit, and unit volume expectations by delivering almost 140,000 electric cars to the market, beating Wall Street’s estimate of 129,950 vehicles.

PM on deck: Can you digitally transform a legacy business? What’s a better example than the 100-year-old auto business? You can create recurring revenue from cars in ways other than leasing and oil changes – in this case, via subscription services. While driving the Tesla may feel similar to other cars, everything about the cockpit is different (and to many, it’s actually better). This goes to show that UX matters! Tesla’s iterate, iterate, iterate, test and validate approach, as measured by Tesla’s near-weekly software updates and vehicle upgrades, is a perfect demonstration of how digital product management methodologies can drive (pardon the pun) digital transformation. And yes, the Model 3 is a great example of PLG. When you can buy a car entirely online and add a subscription, all while doing so with zero sales intervention, the user has a slick and easy buying experience. You can even refer someone to buy a Tesla through the mobile app—and both people get a supercharger bonus from Tesla.

Hopping Aboard

We know businesses out there are struggling to survive or even thrive in the market – don’t let the pandemic drown your product success. Leveraging product management practices can help you make the pivot and really respond well to your customers’ changing needs. We’ve provided some resources above, but if you’d like more insight into what you and your team can do to bring your product in shipshape this year, chat with us and we’ll show you the ropes. Land ho!


About the Author

Community Engagement Specialist at 280 Group
Ian Bloembergen is a Community Engagement Specialist at 280 Group
Born in the Netherlands, Ian attended the University of Richmond in Virginia where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with a focus in Marketing. Ian’s career began in the direct marketing space, driving regional SMB engagement for enterprise organizations including AT&T, UPS, and Staples. Leveraging his passion for innovation, marketing technology and experimentation, Ian’s goal is to engage the Product Management community, sharing the transformational impact of 280 Group’s services to help PMs make tough choices while ensuring they craft better products that delight their customers.

280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We empower Product Professionals with the knowledge and tools to create products that matter.

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