So last Tuesday when Apple Music launched, I was eager to dive in to the experience. My assessment? I was delighted. As a business software marketer, I saw some lessons from my experience as a new customer of Apple Music that have implications for large enterprise software companies seeking to master the Cloud/SaaS solutions model:
- Overdeliver and delight
- Make it financially neutral
- Please the end-user/LoB* needs first (simpler that pleasing the geeks)
Overdeliver and delight
It’s one week into Apple Music and I can’t wait to open the app to see what new playlist they’ve assembled for me! They offer new playlists multiple times a day. They’ve employed the best of machine learning to detect my preferences, toss them, blend them and deliver surprisingly good song lists that assemble songs in unexpected ways. For example, I’m a jazz snob yen I find those lists display a deep understanding of the nuances of that music.
These playlists are found on a tab endearingly entitled “For You”. It’s not named “Apple Music”, nor “Playlists”, nor some acronym (#EnSW’s biggest Achilles heel) – but “For You”. How often does enterprise software give an end-user a sense of being known and understood by its development or marketing team?
Make it financially neutral
Introducing this $10/month service with a 3-month free trial is a masterful move. Free speaks volumes and removes risk. The $10 price point is the closest one can come to free for a premium service such as this. This is especially true for someone whose been buying songs on iTunes for $1.29 – and buying lots of them. So attribute my willingness to pay as a nod to the artists.
With the upgrade to iOS 8.4, my icon updated and I was greeted with an engaging entry screen. At some point the terms free and price $10/month appeared, but I was too busy in UI/UX heaven to notice.
Apple Music doesn’t offer advantageous pricing – it’s comparable to Spotify and competitors. They took a very deliberate “fast follower” approach. But the advantages of a music streaming service native in my Apple/Mac/iPhone ecosystem versus adopting a point solution are priceless. Admission: I have Pandora and Spotify accounts and never use them - they aren’t seamless enough with the rest of my personal tech orbit.
Extending this logic to enterprises software vendors with Cloud solutions, seamless integration with installed systems is a significant selling advantage versus point solutions selling a single function. However, big software vendors have in the past released clunky, not-well-integrated products, point solutions have built a good lead in many instances. In my view, Apple is overcoming that hurdle with Music but its success has yet to be proven.
Please the end-user/LoB needs first (simpler than pleasing the geeks)YES, I’ve read the mixed reviews of Apple Music, from CNET to techradar.com. Like most LoB-types, the gripes of the techies matter little in my overall user experience, unless they are intolerable egregious errors in the interface.
To wit, from techradar.com:
Surprisingly, Apple Music streams at a bitrate of 256 kbps, which is lower than most of its competitors. Spotify, Rdio, MOG and even Beats Music, which Apple Music's streaming foundation is built on, all stream at 320 kbps. Tidal, manages to stream its music at the lossless FLAC bitrate of 1411 kbps. So what gives, Apple? Why is the biggest and baddest new streaming service on the block peddling inferior audio quality?
I didn’t even notice….in this case, I’m an LoB and simply want the app to perform its function without fuss. A good part of the job software should deliver is superior functional performance. And – the content is more important than the “box” in which it's contained.
So, here I stand, a late adopter of streaming music, looking at the heaviness of my iTunes library, my car radio, my CDs (hundreds), vinyl (hundreds) and see them as relics of the past. That finite stack compared to infinite choice offered by Apple Music has finally converted me in a way the point solutions did not. I feel orders of magnitude lighter already!
Product managers and marketers of cloud products looking to build large installed bases, seeking to woo the end-user and increase adoption can learn a lot from the Apple Music launch and subsequent user experience. It’s a study in getting it 'just right enough' to succeed.
Endnote - after I compiled this, Den reminded me that in the upgrade, Apple disabled the Home Sharing facility. I know some people will weep and wail at this but for me? I never used it, don't miss it. I'm not sure such significant changes wash in enterprise land but then I'm guessing it was a calculated gamble on Apple's part for a service that it considers out of touch with current trends. Even so, I note that Apple plans to revive the service in a later release.
*LoB is Line of Business buyer. See how hard it is to resist jargon?