When Amazon begins the process of developing a new product or website feature, the project manager in charge starts the venture off by writing a mock-up press release announcing the finished product — this press release is geared towards the customer, just as any real press release would be. The idea is to focus on how the customer will feel and react to hearing about the new product or feature that is in discussion.
What Amazon aims for is complete customer obsession, so the development team for any new product is always keyed in on how the customer will feel about the product. If the team doesn’t get excited when reading the mock-up press release, they often go back to the drawing board.
Why Work Backward?
It’s important to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his executive teams that the company doesn’t just develop products and features and hope that the customers will like them; their entire focus is to work backward when in development for any new advance that involves the customer. They begin with asking themselves what the customer wants, how will the customer feel, and will it improve the customer experience? If the answers to these questions are positive, there’s something there, if not, something has to change before moving forward.
Amazon Web Services SVP, Andy Jassy says:
“Amazon uses this ‘working backwards’ approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early. They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making. It also helps with more rapid iteration and keeps the team on track.”
The idea here is to have the project development team to think big and leap into the future. Why would the news media outlets want to write about this release? What would they say about it? Amazon's core value is always putting the customer first, so the press release must focus on the customer's needs!
Does it Work?
Stephenie Landy, the Vice President of Amazon Prime Now, wrote this press release mock-up when she pitched “Amazon Magic” to Jeff Bezos. Amazon Magic became “Amazon Prime Now,” a service that delivers household items, and other common products with free 2-hour delivery. To-date, this service is offered in many major cities throughout the world – it accounted for almost $6.5 billion in revenue in 2017.
“This morning Amazon customers in New York City were greeted with an Amazon Homepage announcing ‘Amazon Magic’ -- a new standalone mobile app that gives customers free and fast scheduled same-day delivery (six 2-hour delivery slots between 9am and 9pm) on a huge selection of products. For $X.99, you can also select ‘Presto!’ an ultra-fast 1-hour delivery service... If you’re one of the few people who have not signed up for Prime yet, you should try this out now."
- Tech Crunch, Oct. 24th, 2014”
After the project moves further in the development process, the mock-up press release can be used as a compass to help keep the project on track. The product team can ask, "Are we building what is in the press release?" If not, they can re-evaluate their priorities.
The process of working backward is all about focusing on the customers need. Instead of starting with the product or technology, you begin with the focus on how it will benefit the customer, and the problems it can solve in their lives. Working backward can be a difficult task, but when done right, it will lead to further success and greater customer loyalty.
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