In this post, we'll review a case study submission from one of our Exponent members.
Question: Design a product that solves user pain points around owning a pet.
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(Candidate’s answers are in regular font, interviewer’s responses in bold, and the editor’s notes in italics).
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Nope. Please proceed.
The candidate does a great job getting aligned on a product goal from the start and laying out the structure to ease the interviewer into his framework.
Focusing on dogs first is perfectly acceptable—the narrower the scope the easier it is to empathize with the problem to solve—however, the candidate misses out on an opportunity to provide supporting evidence for his decision, which is a pattern that repeats throughout his answers. Sharing with the interviewer any information or assumptions that drove him to choose a particular segment or problem to go after would have made his answer a lot more complete and therefore convincing. Prioritizing without a clear trade-off framework gives the interviewer an impression that the candidate is not thoroughly exhausting other possibilities, and instead picking at random.
To think of different user types that we should consider, I could think of 1) Urban/Suburban dog owners, 2) Kennel, and 3) Vets.
I'd like to focus on Urban/Suburban dog owners as it seems like a big market. Is that OK?
Once again, there is a room for the candidate to be more thorough with his user segmentation and prioritization.
While going after Urban/Suburban dog owners is a sound choice and I agree that these users form a bigger market than the other two, that shouldn’t be the only reason to go after a particular segment. One could argue that for a pre-growth product, going after a smaller market with the goal of dominating that segment and then expanding is a better strategy. While I could be convinced that we should still go after the bigger market that is Urban/Suburban dog owners, I would need more information and data points to fully get behind this decision.
Furthermore, as the interviewer asked to solve pain points around owning pets, I’m not sure if Kennel/Vets are the best user segments to consider here, without hearing more from the candidate about his thought process. The candidate could have gone into dog owners' frustrations with broken experiences in interacting with Kennels/Vets to provide additional context. Or, the candidate could have taken a different angle and further broken down the Urban/Suburban dog owners segment into different personas (i.e. 1) Single millenials 2) Family 3) People with special needs for assistance dogs.)
When people go to work, they leave their dogs at home for hours. Dogs prefer to have frequent activities and time to go potty. It could be considered a pet abuse to leave a dog, a day animal, at home, often with poor lighting, and some owners crate their dogs for hours. This could result in emotionally unstable dogs, and unhappy dog owners, often time leading owners to then further give their dog up for adoption or euthanasia. It's a vicious cycle.
It clearly shows that this is a pain point that the candidate feels strongly about, and he shows a great deal of empathy for mistreated dogs and how that can impact both the dogs and dog owners.
Once again, while this is a great pain point to solve for, enumerating a few other pain points and prioritizing them in a structured way would show the interviewer that he approaches and analyzes product decisions with holistic perspectives.
To solve for the pain point of abandoned dogs during their owners’ work hours, I brainstormed three different solutions.
I'll focus on the 3rd option since it seems like the first two have at least partial solutions already and the 3rd albeit very challenging, should provide novelty for the market.
Would it be okay if I dig deeper into the 3rd option?
Sounds good to me.
Not to repeat the same advice, but once again, a little more thorough prioritization with multiple factors considered would better convince the interviewer of the candidate’s vision.
For instance, the candidate could’ve used 1) combined benefits added to the dogs and the dog owners 2) existing alternatives 3) difficulty of implementation as his three criteria of prioritization.
With these three pillars, I would agree that the third option is the best to pursue, since:
1) combined benefits is maximized as dogs can actually get out of the home safely (as opposed to home entertainment) and the dog owners do not need to worry about the quality and the integrity of the dog walkers on the app that will be built (which will also be an added overhead for us to do quality control),
2) home entertainment for dogs and dog walker apps certainly exist in the market,
3) although the dog-walking robot is significantly harder to build, the core technology to make this happen already exists and has been implemented across other industries.
Now, let me paint a clearer vision of how this will look like and work:
I also want to talk about metrics, and how we should define the success for this product idea.
Our Northstar should be the happiness level of the dogs/dog owners alike, which we could measure with NPS. Secondary metrics such as walks per day per pet and average time per walk could be shared as more actionable feedback to further enhance the product.
This is by far my favorite part of the answer. The candidate eloquently explains the specific design details and visualization of the solution, painting a clear picture of how his idea will come into reality.
One thing I would add to make this even higher resolution is how dog owners will be alerted and monitoring for the safety of their dogs. A simple mobile app for dog owners could be a great addition in this direction.
It’s also great that the candidate mentions metrics. However, I believe a Northstar should be more actionable than NPS scores, which are often measured in a delayed, quarterly fashion. Similar to walks per day or average time per walk, there should be more scientific and direct ways to measure the health and happiness of the dogs, which the candidate also mentions at the very end he will be collecting and sharing with the broader scientific community.
I was asked to design a product that solves user pain points around owning a pet. I looked at a segment, dogs, and its problems and needs around owners that are absent during work hours, and their resultant lonely and unstable dogs.
I approached the problem with empathy at not only the dog owner but also the dog and their needs, and came up with a solution to a challenging problem in a very large market.
The solution I landed on is a dog-walking robot controlled by Lidar and camera sensors, that can take a dog out on a walk safely whenever the dog wants.
What the candidate did well:
What the candidate could improve on:
That’s a wrap! Thank you so much for reading.
Once again, if you’d like to practice with more product design questions like this, check out Exponent’s Product Design Course.
Thank you so much for your valuable submission!
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