The Product Group Featured Product: Weight Watchers

Jeremy Horn for Meetup
Jeremy Horn for Meetup

I attended the Product Group’s event at Viacom featuring Jared Raskin, Manager, Site & Subscriber Analytics at Weight Watchers. The meetup was to answer questions and provide suggestions on how to develop customer acquisition and retain customers.

The meetup started with brief introductions from everyone in the room. The host, Jeremy Horn, introduced Andres Guzman as the winner of the annual Best Product Person of the Year Award. Guzman spoke about customer acquisition. He emphasized that it has become “harder to make things that people use. It’s easier to build stuff,” but to become successful in gaining customers, building a product that everyone will use is extremely difficult. From there, the floor was open to questions from the audience. Many agreed that to succeed, brands—or platforms, need to develop something that users want. One developer explained that to gain more customers and retain them, he and his team decided to “gamify” the website and introduce badges and a points system. “Make users believe badges are worth something,” he said. “Give users more for introducing potential users.” Another suggested using readymade platforms like YouTube and taking influencers from certain niches and giving them products to review or use in their videos.

Jared Raskin gave a quick summary of his background. He said he first started out in Ad Sales, but moved on to Analytics after meeting his current boss and “picking her brain” while she mentored him. Raskin also described Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers is a public company that was founded in 1963 by Jean Nidetch. It offers dieting products and services to help members lose and maintain a healthy weight—or the member’s goal weight. “Weight Watchers is about helping to promote healthier lifestyles,” Raskin said. “It’s about people meeting together to discuss health.” Weight Watchers has an online companion tool and employs over 50,000 employees.

“We’re concerned about people dieting on their own,” Raskin said. “We have a lot of competitors, but people dieting on their own is the main problem because there’s so many free apps out there.” He revealed that television advertisements were crucial for customer acquisition. “People do a lot of three month subscriptions. After that, we see a large drop off.” The average person stays with the product for eight months, but the most popular is the three month subscription.

An audience member asked when Weight Watchers would sponsor The Biggest Loser. Raskin said that Weight Watchers declined an offer from them because it doesn’t fit with their brand. “It’s too rigorous and focuses on losing weight in a short period of time. It’s not within the Weight Watchers brand,” he said.

Weight Watchers started with a focus on women, but it has been moving towards men with advertising on ESPN.com and having Charles Barkley as a spokesperson. Raskin called Weight Watchers as “not a diet, but a lifestyle.” The brand gets a lot of customers through referrals from celebrities or from doctors diagnosing their patients to lose weight.

Jeremy Horn for Meetup
Jeremy Horn for Meetup

Raskin said that Weight Watchers “really cares about members’ success. If members maintain their life goal, the subscription fee is waived.”

“We’ve changed from old to new technology,” Raskin said. “We’ve introduced mobile apps and upsell products. Our points system was changed to favor healthier options. We’re getting to a point of ‘active cross pollination,’ using other platforms to reach out to more customers.” When asked about customer behavior, Raskin said, “I measure customer engagement activity using data logs. I can get an idea of behavior change through those analytics.”

When Raskin revealed that Weight Watchers had three release cycles, the audience roared. “The release cycle needs to be fixed,” an audience member said. “Data is important to fight. The three cycles doesn’t allow for enough data to be processed. There is a need to know if the product launch made a difference,” the member said. “Two ways to convert data is post analysis, which is time consuming, or using the launches as experiments.”

Jeremy Horn for Meetup
Jeremy Horn for Meetup

An audience member asked what the company was doing to fix the slow loading times for both the website and the app. “Sometimes, the data doesn’t sync,” she said. Raskin agreed. “It’s all in the list of things to complete in 2013,” he said.

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