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 could you shed some light on what mobile application developers need to do to stay abreast in the market?

When we think about our mobile application, there are three areas that I would like to focus on. One among them is Forecasting; the forecasts that we deliver are the most accurate and relevant to a user. The second part is our global reach; we’re not focused on one specific geography; we’re focused on being a global weather app on supporting language, supporting local custom (severe weather alerts and anything relevant to that local consumer). And the third being the utility part of the weather, which is helping you make decisions around your day or moment in time and that can be everything from planning which is incredibly critical in life-saving. I like to bubble that down into by stating that our app is not just about the present it’s also about the future particularly with products such as the minute cast which is our patented minute by minute weather for the precipitation forecast for the next two hours. Based on hyperlocal activity knowing where you and your device is, we can give you the most relevant forecast that enables you to decide what you’re going to do next with that piece of information. So when we think about mobile, it’s about building critical information to that user that is hyper-localized to their location such that it gives them more than simply what’s happening right now but also helping them plan based on the predictive nature of our forecasting technology.

Please elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address in Mobile Applications space.

I think that discovery, particularly in the apps around App Store optimization (both paid on organic levels) is a big challenge for any product team. Because not only you have to differentiate yourself and your product experience but also you have to differentiate yourself in the messaging of that such that you can cut through the clutter. After ensuring that we are delivering a fantastic user experience another challenge is ensuring that people can discover it and become its evangelists.

I think building with a shareable mindset is becoming ever more critical. Whether you are building for sharable iOS or Android ecosystem or natively for iOS and Android are a conversation that myself and our chief technology officer are talking about frequently on the basis of being able to share components between two competing platforms. This helps you to improve your speed to market, resourcing constraints that you have, and also deliver features that our consumers and users are hoping for at a faster rate.

When it comes to balancing the high-end versus low-end feature sets there’s a really interesting place for product teams. Particularly to think that 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 sitting at the top end of the spectrum in terms of functionality. We want to ensure that your applications can stretch from all users and want to minimize the forking that you create out there.

The push towards augmented reality (AR) is an interesting aspect that we’re thinking about a lot. For instance, take the phones’ native camera and build an AR experience to make that product and app move from a two-dimensional experience to three-dimensional one. This is highly relevant for the weather because it is a three-dimensional event and we typically display it in a real two-dimensional mode. So I think for us, that’s an area that we want to focus on. This year is how we take that three-dimensional aspect of the information we communicate and put that into a device that is typically a two-dimensional experience and AR gives us that opportunity to do so. And obviously it goes out saying 5G coming down the road is incredibly exciting as it puts a lot of opportunity on the table for us.

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

On the one hand, is prioritization is at a leadership level which I focus on every day because we’re fortunate enough to have a surplus of ideas of features and data that we can present to our audience and our users. I think at a leadership level the focus on prioritization is second to none. That also goes into experimentation; figuring out not what you think the user wants while testing features and releasing against actual audiences. Also, figuring out what is the most appealing and relevant way to communicate sensitive information. Data integrity and privacy is at the forefront of our daily conversations to ensure that everything we do is under the maintenance of trust with the user and the integrity of our brand. And that’s a critical area. I think all product and technology leaders need to be thinking about how to ensure that you’re doing everything that you possibly can in the most integral way.

And then I think the process to foster collaboration across broader groups of teams early on so that you can refine the feature set and beautifully define your roadmap. And then it goes back to the prioritization, experimentation, and then building a release cadence to get those new features out frequently so that your users are constantly coming back to a new and engaging product.

 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?

I feed off team and culture, collaboration, and a lot of ideas at the table. I think I’ve tried to bring in diverse backgrounds representing diverse experiences and different ways of consuming data. We happen to produce weather data but also different use cases of varying lifestyle attributes. I bring in a lot of thought to the table so that we can be representative of our global audience but also then rigorously prioritize and think about features that impact our audience in the most meaningful way. I like to have discussions and brainstorming sessions particularly with Agile development that gives you the ability to be flexible; we can pivot, test, and learn. Process prioritization and thinking about new ideas feeds off my characteristics of having a lot of people at the table to bring the best ideas forward that represent the most diverse set of thinkers to be representative of the audience that is using your products daily.

What would be a piece of advice that you could impart to a CIO who looks to embark on a similar venture along the lines of your service and solutions?

Curiosity always wins; if you’ve got a curious digitally native tech-savvy approach to understand, 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 of new ways of not only building, but ways of designing, what consumers want, and how your product is performing. If you’re always curious about the data and to learn, then you’ll build a better product out of that.

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