In the book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries explains how startups follow a path of going from an idea to a concept, to a product and then pivot — if needed. Those who don’t, they either die or persevere. I’m slightly biased towards those who haven’t had to pivot and aren’t dead. Reason? Because they are the underdogs with better foresight and more clarity. They are the ones who got the User Empathy Map spot on, right from the get go.
An Empathy Map encourages us to see, hear, think and feel for our potential users in a systematic way.
When two or more people set out to build products to address a similar problem, the questions on their Empathy Map might be the same, but the answers may vary. Which is probably why we see different business models such as FoodPanda, FreshMenu & Swiggy thriving in the same competitive market.
Those who persevere are usually the ones who continue to follow their gut despite comments like: “The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” — IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production in 1959.
I particularly enjoyed this talk by Naveen Tiwari, founder of InMobi where he talks about how he was turned down by many initially. It’s probably strong conviction in their empathy quotient that made them continue their good work, and aren’t we glad they did?
What makes Aisle unique are the presumptions that it was built on —
- a curated community
- who’d have to go through a lengthy signup process and
- a pay-to-connect model which will better guarantee a like-minded audience and weed out the commitment-phobes ; all this leading to a date in its true sense.
While my gut knows we needn’t pivot, we wanted to be sure that Aisle is indeed performing as it was meant to — by enabling meaningful relationships. To be sure that the answers to our Empathy Map were in fact closer to reality, we conducted a survey.
Here are a few of the findings from the survey taken by 1785 Aisle members that reassured us of our efforts.
Think And Feel
We believe there are two kinds of people — the time rich & the money rich. They THINK AND FEEL differently. Those between the ages of 18–24 are mostly time rich. In general, they earn considerably less and have plenty of time to try new stuff. Their priorities are usually on building their careers, gaining knowledge through numerous experiences and a vast majority are not actively seeking long term commitments.
But once they are closer to 30, in most cases, their ambitions and intentions change. They seek quality over quantity and loyalty over lust. Understanding, focussing and targetting a particular audience (in our case, age group) has helped us solve the real troubles faced by them in terms of intent, desire and the practicality of meeting someone else who may be on an identical boat with similar backgrounds and aspirations. It’s clear from the screenshots of the survey below that we were able to tap into the desired niche, single Indians who are 25 and above, the money rich.
Although we can share images on Facebook, some prefer to upload them on Instagram and others would even prefer to document their day on Snapchat. The time rich may even use all three apps during the course of the same day. You see, an application that’s tailor-made for a particular purpose has a better chance of carving an audience for themselves before building forward.
A few years ago, Uber raised capital on AngelList to launch a successful luxury taxi service specifically designed to cater to a niche audience. They have since moved on to become the global phenomenon that they are today. Facebook had similar beginnings, they too initially started out as a social network for students before becoming the household name they are today.
We wanted to specifically start by creating a social network where people came to meet someone for a long-term relationship. 70% of our members use Aisle to meet someone for a long-term relationship. I can’t think of a place, both online or offline, where thousands of people spend time every day to do just that. What are the chances of a new relationship being born in this scenario? Surely, we understood exactly what our users are looking to GAIN from the Empathy Map.
The last thing we should take for granted is another human being. This is the fear that every person carries along with them while hoping to meet a special someone. This is also something that most other dating apps have failed to address.
We were looking to invoke seriousness with the overall design of the product and getting the users to pay to prove their intentions helped address this issue. In general, people tend to be a lot more careful and selective about what they pay for.
While some are waiting for more people to sign up in their close proximity, 36% feel that the price for a fair shot at meeting someone special on Aisle is too much. Ironically, 21% of the people who took the survey were paid users. In doing so we feel we’ve reduced, if not eliminated, the pain point of most of our users. The PAIN in knowing who is genuinely interested in them and who’s not.
Some of us lost it when Zomato’s Deepinder Goyal said design > tech in his Reddit AMA.
You see, design is not just what it looks like and feels like, it is also about how a product it works — Steve Jobs taught us that.
Despite this, good design is understated within the ecosystem. Again, design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works. Apart from 16% of the participants who disagree with Aisle’s philosophy in its entirety, the rest seem to thoroughly enjoy the features that are mostly exclusive to the members of Aisle. Below we can SEE that the lengthy application form resulted in detailed profiles, and that has turned out to be extremely valuable to our members.
Dating is a discreet affair. Many of us aren’t open about looking around till we meet someone, go on a few dates and finally decide to be exclusive and official. This is precisely the reason why we don’t let profiles on Aisle be managed by anyone else other than the users themselves.
This is also why we ask potential members to authenticate their accounts via Facebook or Linkedin. The answers to the questions below indicate growth through word of mouth among friends. It also shows how some of us are reluctant to give out hints to our loved ones, and not raise their hopes and expectations when we start to take difficult and mature decisions.
In a country where we’ve had many matchmaking brands come and go since the last two decades, I’m happy to learn that only 18% of our users are unsatisfied with Aisle. Mind you, Indians aren’t the easiest people to please. Having said that, we’re working hard to win over the ones who aren’t happy about our efforts. Matchmaking is a business where we simply can’t guarantee a result as it is directly linked to spontaneous and unpredictable human nature. Although we can create an environment conducive to meeting interesting people with similar intentions, it is unlike ordering food or shoes and getting an unopened pack with the right product delivered at our doorstep on time.
On the whole, we’re glad that we could empathise with our users. The data we collected from the survey indicate that we’re indeed helping society. Filling out the User Empathy Map is a great foundation to building a product. If we can all adopt the practice of filling out Empathy Maps while interacting with others, the world would be a much nicer place.
Ok, that’s a bit far-fetched. But perhaps, it’s recommended that we create Empathy Maps as much as we plan our Lean Canvas while building a product.