Making monetization less disruptive.
As Spotify have matured to become the market leader in streaming music, they’ve grown an increasingly diverse user base with burgeoning needs. This rapid growth presented an incredible opportunity to expand their services to a wider user base through – what else? – advertising. We were tasked with developing ideas for monetization products without disrupting the easy listening stream Spotify is so known for.
A Changing Landscape
As Spotify had matured to become the market leader in streaming music, they grew an increasingly diverse user base with growing needs. This was particularly apparent in the ad-supported tier as they reached a more mainstream audience and established brand relationships. That growth presented an opportunity to expand to meet new user needs while simultaneously establishing new revenue streams for Spotify’s growing business. To introduce new monetization products in this environment a number of opposing forces would need to delicately balanced between users, the Spotify product, and Brands engaging with the platform for the first time.
Over the course of 8 weeks, Big Spaceship worked in close collaboration with Spotify to establish strategic guidance, design numerous new concepts, test them with users, and iterate toward new product ideas ready to be placed on the roadmap for the coming year.
An Integrated Client-Agency Team
In-depth knowledge of the product is inherent to a strong product team. With this in mind, we architected an engagement with the Spotify monetization team that aimed to maximize collaboration in every possible sense. To that end, we worked in each other’s offices, on each other’s whiteboards, and when we couldn’t be face to face, we were constantly engaged using real-time online collaboration tools. This allowed our combined team to create a wealth of ideas, broaden the scope of perspective, and get to consensus faster.
Our design strategy was a radical version of the “mobile first” design approach: At the outset, we decided to design solely for mobile phones, confident that any meaningful interaction that could be proven in that context could be scaled to other platforms. This also helped us focus our effort on generating more mobile concepts rather than spending that time on articulating one concept across tablet, desktop application, web player, etc.
One particular challenge in the case of advertising content on mobile is that the screen is often out of view for the user. We identified two routes to increased engagement: First, non-intrusive audio prompts, and second, identifying moments of opportunity when the app was in view and advertising content could be seamlessly woven in.
Fearless Ideation + The Freedom To Constantly Question
The core of our process is driving ideation as aggressively as possible. Not “blue sky thinking”, but rather a broad range of ideas playing off one another, increasing user insights and refining our internal focus. By avoiding strict adherence to successive phases, we were able to rethink and refine ideas throughout the project. The most powerful strategies in our resulting monetization roadmap weren’t the ideas that came at the beginning of our process but rather the ideas that came at the end, after extensive sketching and iteration, user testing, and learning.
Continual Concept Testing – Both Formal + Informal
User testing was our primary point of validation and guidance, and everyone on the team participated in our test sessions. Every test generated an unexpected insight or usability challenge. Testing provided firsthand visibility to user impressions, challenges, and delight for all members of the team. This broader team-based approach to testing provides a wider lens to collect learnings from and resulted in a more informed context for all activities and disciplines. Testing becomes exponentially more valuable as you grow the perspective from which it is observed.
Successes + Learnings
Our work with Spotify is indicative of where much of our industry is migrating. Design in the absence of a strong testing and research component is no longer a viable option. Furthermore, an increasing cohesion between Big Spaceship and our clients continually proves a net positive for both parties. The output and evolving manifestation of our work as a team carries considerably more value as a collaboration with our clients and our users than that of a siloed activity within our four walls.