Product Managers Discover That Proximity Really Matters

Covid-19 has made being close much more important to customers
Covid-19 has made being close much more important to customers
Image Credit: Chris Lewis

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a lot of different changes that have swept through many industries. Many have had to shut their doors and even more have lost customers as people have been forced to stay at home. However, out of all of this madness, there have been some companies that have actually been able to use the pandemic to prosper. One such firm is in the business of connecting people who may live next door to each other.

Say Hello To Your Neighbor

This company is the neighborhood social network Nextdoor Inc. In the era of the pandemic, it has found a new kind of relevance. There’s never been a moment in time when proximity mattered more. The Nexdoor product managers don’t need to explain to people anymore why their neighbors are important. Locals have long used the Nextdoor platform to scout babysitter recommendations, gripe about neighbors and issue pleas for help finding lost pets. In the past two months, users have taken to Nextdoor to inquire whether homebound residents need groceries delivered or prescriptions picked up. Many have posted tips about the arrival of disinfectant wipes at certain retailers and offered home-schooling help.

The Nextdoor product managers have made changes to their product development definition in order to respond to the pandemic. The website launched a new “Help Map” tool for users to indicate that they are available to assist others. Like other social networks, it has had to contend with misinformation and, now, an economic downturn that threatens to strain its advertisers, many of which are small businesses.

One of the challenges that the Nextdoor product managers have been facing are the barriers to getting seniors on the site. In order to make this happen, the product managers have had to make its customers feel that it’s a safe, trusted place. They have been able to accomplish this by having a fairly stringent verification process to make sure that a new user is a real neighbor living in that neighborhood. Second is definitely word-of-mouth. What the product managers have seen during the crisis is it’s now almost paramount you’re on the platform because this is where you’re going to find the best local information.

Changes Caused By Covid-19

The Nextdoor product managers understood that they wanted provide functionality to meet the moment. But they also wanted to make sure they were not doing throwaway work. A feature that was needed in the moment—really, really needed—maybe wouldn’t make sense in six months or 12 months. Using that framework, the first thing they looked at was safety – getting the right people on the platform. If they can do this correctly, then they’ll have something to put on their product manager resume.

Their next step was to build a “Help Map.” It provides a visceral way to see all the kindness around a user. From there, they transitioned to small businesses. They have been trialing things like Business Posts, which lets businesses post into their newsfeed. Neighbors want to make sure that the local coffee shop survives.

One of the key issues that the product managers have been dealing with in terms of their product are conspiracy theories. One way to deal with this misinformation is for Nextdoor to be a moderated platform. The product managers realized that part of keeping people safe was making sure they had the most accurate information. They have accomplished this by making sure that any public agency’s information ended up at the top of the feed. The end result of all of these changes is that it has not changed Nextdoor’s long-term strategy. It just sped it up.

What All Of This Means For You

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned everything upside down for a lot of product managers. Businesses have had to close, customers have stopped visiting, and governments have ordered people to stay at home. Although this has completely changed how many businesses operate, there are some businesses that have benefited from the changes. One such business is Nextdoor which allows neighbors to connect with each other online.

Nextdoor’s popularity has soared as more and more people have been staying at home. The platform is being used by people who live close to each other to stay in touch and to find out how they can help each other. The Nextdoor product managers have responded to the change in user habits by launching new product related tools that help users to communicate with each other. Nextdoor understands that having senior users is key to their long term success and so they have taken special steps to attract more senior users. The Nextdoor product managers have had to focus on developing the right features for right now. They have rolled out services that allow users to view the platform as being secure. Limiting misinformation has become a key objective for the Nextdoor product managers.

Now is the time for the Nextdoor product managers to look at their product manager job description and attempt to make their product a part of everyone’s lives. The pandemic will not be with us forever. Once it has gone, the Nextdoor product managers want using the Nextdoor platform to continue to be a part of people’s lives. If they can accomplish this, then perhaps Nextdoor will have a chance to become a part of every neighborhood.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How can Nextdoor attract more parents of small children?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I think that we can all agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a very, very bad thing. Just about every business was shut for a period of time and every product manager had their carefully created product development definition disrupted by the events that were caused by the pandemic. However, things are slowly starting to get better even as the pandemic is still with us. Product managers who work in the fast food business are among the ones who seem to be getting back on their feet the fastest.