Product Manager Day 85: Users VS Customers

How do you balance the needs of your users and customers?

Hearing someone describe the difference between users and customers was a profound moment for me.

In marketing, users and customers are generally the same – the customer buys the product, and also ends up using it. Free models have changed this – people using Facebook are just “users” and the real customers are advertisers (publishers came pretty close, but the reader still pays a token sum).

I work on an internal system which has its fair set of challenges, especially in terms of usability (a pet peeve for me). Design changes aren’t always top priority to the customer (the business requestor) so this presents a challenge: (1) even if you reworked some of the flows, the “business value” is less tangible, so you’ll get questioned why something was prioritised, and (2) you’re pressed by other business needs so it’s hard to find time to rethink some flows or improve usability.

Hard is, of course, not impossible. And it shouldn’t be an excuse for me to cop-out. I need to find that 20%!

We did have a good meeting today that brought us one step towards more usability. But maybe I need to bring some objectivity to it – maybe there is a measure to show how this is beneficial to the company?


I jumped from Product Marketing to Product Management at Zalora recently. These posts represent a journal of my learnings and reflections. Feel free to connect on Twitter @wasabigeek.

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