Identifying Adjacent Users in Preparation for Scaling User Acquisition

November 2020 — January 2021

Context

When our growth pod was created, we had one purpose — to increase retention. After one year, the first-month retention was raised from 27% to 47%, nearing our goal of 50%. We knew we would want to start scaling acquisition when we hit our retention goal. One place we could start was the other 50% of users that were not retaining — What did they need? What could we do for them? This was when we started talking about Adjacent Users and started working towards identifying adjacent users to go after. Bangaly Kaba describes Adjacent Users this way:

My Role

Design Lead, Facilitator, Project Lead

Project Team

Product Designers: Steph Liang, Julie Wang
Product Managers: Chris Boorman, Tam Su, David Ip
Growth Marketing: Arti Mansbach

Goal

To identify Adjacent Users for Meal Hero the app, and validate that they exist

Process

I started this work by gathering our product and design teams together. We began by identifying our goal (above) and milestones (below).

Milestones

  • Identify Core Users
  • Hypothesize about Adjacent Users
  • Choose an Adjacent User to focus on strategically
  • Validate and learn about the chosen Adjacent Users
  • Update strategy based on new Adjacent User groups

Identifying Core Users

I paused all talk of Adjacent Users and instructed the project team to gather data and insights about our current users. After we’d gathered data we came back together to talk about what we’d found.

Some of the data I pulled from Google Analytics to establish who our Core Users were
Core User Attributes

Hypothesize about Adjacent Users

For this activity, I brought the design and product teams back together. We started by brainstorming all possible Adjacent Users keeping the following in mind:

  • Adjacent Users are aware and have possibly tried your product
  • The current product most likely has too many barriers for Adjacent Users
Adjacent User Brainstorm

Choose an Adjacent User to focus on strategically

After the brainstorming session, I met with the Product Managers to discuss which Adjacent user(s) to focus on. We had a great debate, discussing the following:

  • What functionality would we hypothetically have to build for certain adjacent users?
  • Does this hypothetical new functionality align with our product and business strategy?
  1. Our business model depends on online grocery shopping
We chose to focus on the highlighted Adjacent User groups

Validate and learn about the chosen Adjacent Users

Next up — validation! We asked ourselves the following questions:

  • Do these Adjacent Users exist?
  • How are they different from our core users?
The shortened version of the research plan
Research synthesis and notes in Miro
Answers to research objectives
Core User vs. Adjacent User attributes
Adjacent user research insights side by side

Update strategy based on new Adjacent User groups

While our business model revolving around online grocery shopping had not changed we hadn’t previously been very focused on it. Instead, we had been spending a lot of time and resources on retention. However, since we were nearing our retention goals, it was time to look towards what was next.

Key Learnings

  1. The Adjacent User Theory. This theory was completely new to me. In order to facilitate and lead our product and design teams through this project, I had to completely immerse myself in it.
  2. Personas are in the past. While many people are familiar with personas, that practice was created to typically serve marketing teams. For product teams, I believe that the Adjacent User framework helps distinguish what could look like very similar users, into smaller groups. This is particularly helpful in order to understand their needs, behaviors, and motivations. Once you can name a need, you can start building towards a solution.

I’m a Product Design Leader and Researcher working at the intersection of social impact and technology.