Thrive Market’s VP of Product Management discusses mission-driven product process
Jonas Klink is joining us. He is the Vice President of Product Management & UX Design at Thrive Market, the health-first membership for conscious living. He is responsible for the company’s entire product portfolio, shepherding a lean virtual team of 10 Project Managers & UX Designers. He has established a system allowing the team to focus on understanding customer needs more deeply, creating Outcomes through hypothesis-based testing, and measuring progress through Velocity, Win Rate and impact towards their North Star Metric. In a minute, he will tell us how to do the same thing.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:17] What is Thrive Market?
Thrive Market is an online grocery platform where we are on a mission to make healthy and sustainable living easy, affordable, and accessible to all. Inspired by that mission, our team has put together one of the first online platforms that offers a pre-curated selection of the highest quality, healthy, and sustainable products. It’s a membership-based ecommerce experience. Everything we carry is non-GMO and organic, and there are over 500 ingredients you’ll never see in our products. We support over 90 different values and diets. Working here has been a homecoming for me, where I’ve been given the opportunity to put my background in ecommerce product management to work for a mission that I deeply care about.
[5:54] Take us through the customer-centered product process you have created and use at Thrive Market.
It’s important to me to experiment with the craft of product management. I’m looking to perfect my craft over time and develop my brand of product management. I care just as much about how we do things as about what we do, because I believe regardless of the size of the company, there’s no excuse for not approaching product management and UX design in a way that feels best-in-class.
I like when I’m able to distill things down to the core principles of how things work, and I try to strip away fluff that is not helping and might cause confusion. I put a hierarchy in place where every single person, not just on my team but within the company, is able to draw a straight line from what they are working on this minute all the way up to the company’s mission. I do that by starting off looking at the mission. That straight line starts at the top with the mission. As a purpose-driven organization, we take a measurable approach to the mission, which is the North Star goal. The mission is usually a goal you’ll never actually reach; it’s meant to inspire and set people on a path. However, the conversations I started with were very pragmatic. Our mission is to make healthy, sustainable living easy, affordable, and accessible to all. We talked about what we mean by healthy, what our design targets mean by healthy, and whether those definitions align. Similarly, we talked about how we would measure “easy,” “affordable,” and “accessible.” As a purpose-driven organization, you should treat your mission as a goal. Even though you may never get there, you should still be able to measure progress toward it.
The second part of the process is the product vision, which outlines how you will make progress toward the mission over the next two to three years. That feeds into the product strategy, which is typically set on an annual basis or for six month. The product strategy goes hand-in-hand with your KPIs and goals. The last part of the process is priorities. They define how you will make progress toward the strategy in the next quarter. These priorities or focus areas must be focused. You need to have a small number of priorities that the OKRs line up with. Each OKR includes three to five objectives each with three to five key results, each of which is value-based, measurable, and time-bound.
If someone is working on a key result, they should be able to easily see the connection from the key result to the objective, strategy, vision, and mission.
[15:07] What was your involvement in discussing Thrive Market’s mission?
The conversations I had with the co-founders were about getting the mission out of their heads and onto paper in a brief one-page format. We quantified some of the things the mission mentions to make sure we can treat the mission as a goals that drive culture and behavior, not just an inspiration. If you want to be a truly purpose-driven organization, you need to treat the mission as a measurable goal, even if you know you’re never actually quite going to get there.
[17:02] What are some examples of measurable goals at Thrive?
The baseline goal for making our product affordable is that we want every customer to save at least three times their membership fee based on their annual purchases. Now that we had a definition, we worked with our data engineers to measure that.
Another goal is making our product accessible. Thrive Market is available in the lower 48 states of the US, so the first step was to look at our penetration in all those 48 states to see where we need to deepen our penetration. We looked at where we could address food deserts where people may not have other options that are healthy. It is important for Thrive to provide healthy food not only to people in metropolitan areas but also to people in rural areas.
[19:37] How do you make sure individual team members know how their work contributes to the overall mission?
For example, to improve accessibility, we needed to understand how we are presenting ourselves to new customers. My team works very closely with the marketing team, whose job is to bring eyeballs to the site and turn them into paying, happy members. To make ourselves more accessible, we wanted to make sure we are answering all the questions our members had. In the past, we were only talking to our customers through customer service, but now we have established continuous interviewing, which we do on a monthly basis, to listen to our customers, hear where their pain points are, and do UX design and product testing quickly.
We did generative research. We did not know what kind of questions people showed up with, so we didn’t know if the site was accessible to all. We need to make the case for why customers should make a $60 investment in an annual membership. The vision we set for member growth was to lead with generative research and establish continuous interviewing and assumptions testing. Then, we did rapid iteration testing to reduce friction in the funnel and make sure the membership was truly accessible to all by presenting the right information at the right time, eliminating barriers by accepting the right payment types, and educating people through the funnel. Then we want to make sure freshly minted members can find what they’re looking for in our catalog. We look for where people are falling out of the funnel. We built a strategy to improve our search and browse system.
One of the key results for our member growth team is to generate some number of additional members at a certain cost per acquisition. The first question I ask the team is “Why aren’t a hundred percent of people already singing up?” We know where people are dropping off, and it becomes a detective problem to figure out why. People are generally fairly logical, and it’s possible to figure out how they’re making decisions. We understand the pain points, form a hypothesis about the problem, and leverage the UX design process of starting by putting low-fidelity visuals in front of customers then moving to high-fidelity visuals. At each step, we try to eliminate as much of the noise around that process so the team can spend their time moving the numbers to where they need to be by understanding pain points. As a purpose-driven organization that draws a straight line between the OKRs and the mission, we can be confident that if we move the business results, we’re going to further the mission as well.
[26:58] How do you conduct customer research?
Unlike other companies I had worked for, we don’t have a dedicated user research team at Thrive. Initially I thought this would be a drawback, but it makes user research part of the job description for the UX design team and product managers, which turned out to be a real strength. The PMs are responsible for bringing quantitative insights to the table, and UX designers are responsible for bring qualitative insights to the table. This democratizes access to member insights. Unfortunately, a dedicated user research team is often understaffed and can become a bottleneck because everyone wants to talk to customers and it can take weeks to run tests. The UX designers are really adept at running studies. We use a crowd testing website that provides survey capabilities filtered by design targets. We can test simple prototypes and do moderated studies. The UX designers and PMs are empowered to get data quickly. Testing is part of every single discovery process.
Then there’s a continuous interview, which is an open-ended listening session. We also work closely with member services to make sure data flows from all kinds of different sources.
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- Learn more about Thrive Market
“Everything is possible; impossible just takes longer.” – Dan Brown
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