Being Customer Centric is Key to Driving Your App’s Success

Kurt Fulepp, Global Chief Product Officer, AccuWeather
Kurt Fulepp, Global Chief Product Officer, AccuWeather

Kurt Fulepp, Global Chief Product Officer, AccuWeather

Being the creator of a leading mobile app, how do you stay abreast in the market?

When we think about mobile, it's about delivering critical information to each user that is hyper-localized to their location with speed, precision and superior accuracy, and that goes well beyond simply detailing what's happening right now; rather, our purpose is help our users plan based on the predictive nature of our technology. The weather is as much about what’s ahead, as it is about what’s happening right now. There are three areas that really set AccuWeather apart in the marketplace. First and foremost is forecasting—multiple independent studies have proven the superior accuracy of our forecasts, so we deliver the most accurate and relevant weather information to our users. Second is our global reach: we're not focused on one specific part of the world. Instead we're focused on being a global weather app, delighting our users by providing a global weather product that feels entirely local to each and every user. We achieve this by presenting information in the users’ language, styling and pinpointed local information that includes severe weather alerts and content that is tailored to their location. The third factor that sets AccuWeather apart is the utility. We help users make decisions to get the most out of their day, including the ability to assist with planning time-specific activities or events based on MinuteCast™, our patented minute-by-minute precipitation forecast for the next two hours. And, of course, we deliver extreme weather warning information that’s critical for saving lives in serious situations.

Please elaborate on the challenges that organizations will need to address in the mobile applications space.

App discovery is paramount and, obviously, the ability to get your app into the hands of users is everything. Therefore, my team is not only focused on building a best-in-class app experience, we’re also deep into App Store optimization, both paid and organic, to continue to drive search rank and aid discovery for new users. Not only do you have to cut through the clutter to differentiate your user experience from similar offerings, but your messaging needs to entice prospective users to discover it and become evangelists.

The rapid delivery of new and delightful features is also becoming more critical. Whether building for a sharable ecosystem or natively for iOS and Android, our chief technology officer and I are constantly looking for ways to drive more efficiency and improve speed to market so we can deliver features our users are hoping for at a faster rate.

When it comes to balancing the high-end versus low-end feature sets, product teams face a really interesting challenge. High-end phones are delivering significant processing power and feature capabilities; but when you take a global approach and a broad customer view, you have to also account for those other devices that are not at the top end of that functionality spectrum. We want to ensure that our applications can enrich the daily life of as many users as possible, regardless of their device, connectivity or location.

What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?

At a leadership level our focus on prioritization is second to none. That entails constant experimentation: figuring out what users want while testing features and collecting real-time input from actual audiences. Another priority is determining the most effective and clearways to communicate life-saving weather information. And across all of our conversations, data integrity and privacy is a prerequisite—we are dedicated to ensuring that everything we do will maintain and enhance our users’ trust and the integrity of our brand. This is such a critical area, and all product and technology leaders need to constantly review their product ecosystem to ensure that they’ rehandling sensitive information with integrity and transparency, and safeguarding the privacy of the people they serve.

Another strategic area for me is the process of fostering collaboration across broader groups of teams, early on, so that we can refine the feature set and beautifully define our roadmap. 

 I think at a leadership level the focus on prioritization is second to none  

Can you draw an analogy between your personality traits, hobbies and reflect on your leadership strategy?

With my personality, I feed off team, culture, collaboration, and having a lot of ideas on the table. I've brought in people with diverse backgrounds at all experience levels because we all consume data differently. This helps AccuWeather ensure that we are representative of our global audience, but also rigorously prioritizing and implementing features that impact our users in the most meaningful ways. I like to have discussions and brainstorming sessions that provide us with the ability to be flexible, so we can pivot, test and learn wherever necessary. Process prioritization and thinking about new ideas feeds off my desire to have a lot of people at the table, bringing the best ideas forward and representing the most diverse set of thinkers to mimic the diverse people who use AccuWeather products daily.

What advice would you offer to a CIO who looks to embark on a similar venture along the lines of your service and solutions?

Curiosity always wins. If you have a curious, digitally native, tech-savvy approach, I think that you'll be highly successful in any product world, particularly in the mobile space. Curiosity leads you down a path of unlimited discovery—finding new ways not only of building, but of designing what consumers want and measuring how your product is performing. If you're always curious about the data and curious to learn more, you'll build a better product.

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