Why Startups Should Care About Creating a “Winning” Product Experience

One day while I was walking back to the NextView NYC office with my lunch in hand, and I noticed that I was in an especially good mood thanks to MealPal (a NextView portfolio company). I was able to skip the rush-hour lunch line, and I effectively only paid $6.39 for a meal that would’ve cost me $11. I felt like the Success Kid: I was #winning at life (at least for a brief moment).

Why did this experience leave such a lasting positive impression on me? The entire experience made me feel like I was “winning in life” by getting the same lunch faster and cheaper than everyone else.

This “winning” feeling is an incredibly powerful emotion to stir in your users, and is highly correlated with creating a jaw-dropping competition-crushing (JDCC) business. Here’s why you should care about building in a “winning” product experience right from the start.


The Benefits of Providing a “Winning” Product Experience

As a brand and a product, making your customers feel like they’re winning in life does a few things. When people feel that way, they want to brag about it.

There’s nothing more powerful than organic, enthusiastic endorsement from your users, especially in a startup’s early life.

Every company expects its customers to just “share the product with friends,” but few are thoughtful about what gets them over the emotional hump to share proactively.

Just as important as organic virality is your ability to build an enduring brand. When a company puts a smile on my face through the product/service it provides, I associate the positive emotion with the brand. Building brand equity is a long journey, but helping your customers win in life is not a bad way to start (focusing on delight is another).


The Types of “Winning” Product Experience


Extreme value and superior user experience.

The MealPal product experience is a perfect example here — you get the same lunch item for $4 cheaper (value) AND you skip the rush-hour lunch line (user experience).

Another good example is Virgent Realty (another NextView portfolio company). Virgent is an automated real estate brokerage that provides a full-service brokerage experience at a $5K flat fee instead of traditional 3% broker commissions (value). Home sellers working with Virgent manage the entirety of the selling process online, reducing the back-and-forth hassle and streamline communications (user experience). Most importantly, Virgent delivers a winning experience with superior results — its customers sell their homes 4X faster vs. industry average with a 97% valuation accuracy.


Insider access and know-how.

People feel like they’re winning when they have insider access and know-how to products, services, or information. A good example here is Grove Collaborative (also a NextView portfolio company). Each Grove customer is assigned a Grove Guide who they can text/email with. Each Grove Guide has the know-how to recommend the best natural products (many of them only available at Grove) based on the customer’s household needs.

Another example from the NextView portfolio is ExecThread, a community for “hidden” executive job opportunities. Most exec-level jobs are never posted on job boards (and thus hidden), and ExecThread has developed a system that incentivizes its members (execs at companies) to surface these hidden jobs within its community. This insider access of otherwise hidden exec-level jobs greatly increases the market efficiency of exec-level talent while putting the talent back in the driver seat of his/her own career.


Ability to delight others.

A lot of times one’s happiness and fulfillment are more about others vs. oneself, and you can help your customers win by positively impacting those around them. During my time at Blue Apron (where I was the Head of Product), one thing we consistently observed was the power Blue Apron’s product had in empowering our customers to delight their families. Customers had repeatedly told us that they love Blue Apron because their husbands/wives/kids/parents were wowed by the food on the table, and they were filled with a sense of pride and satisfaction in their ability to bring joy to their loved ones.


How to Help Your Users Win


Make the part of your value proposition that sparks “winning” your north star.

Every company has its set of value propositions that it strives to offer to the market, and they’re rarely one-dimensional. To deliver a sense of “winning,” take them apart and identify the one(s) that have the best potential in evoking such emotions. Usually they either provide the most jaw-dropping value (i.e. the “JD” in JDCC) compared to the existing market offering, or they are unique emotional (as opposed to functional or transactional) benefits. These should become the north start of your product experience — the constant guidepost when it comes to developing and iterating your offering.


Amplify the sense of winning across your user experience.

If your product successfully evokes such winning emotions, it’d be a lost opportunity if you fail to amplify such feelings. Not all users are aware of their emotions at all times (life is busy and one’s mind is easily occupied), so it sometimes takes a more deliberate user experience to bring such feelings to the present — and have them directly associated with your brand. For example, while I was walking back to the office with my lunch, even if I was thinking about my next meeting instead of how great the MealPal experience was, a timely push notification congratulating my winning streak with a fist bump emoji would’ve certainly done so.

It’s also important to not be constrained by the digital product experience, as you have many customer touch points across the user journey (e.g. in-app, email, offline/physical, and customer service). Leveraging the right medium to deliver a timely interaction can help maximize your users’ delight.

Helping your customers feel like they’re “winning” is no small feat, but it can go a long way to building a brand and product experience that customers love.