8 product-led companies that won in 2020

Published Dec 29, 2020

This year has taught us a lot. When it comes to how businesses serve customers, it became clear that companies can no longer treat digital channels as secondary or push off transformation efforts to a later date. For product-led organizations, this notion is not new—the digital product experience is the customer experience, driving efforts at every stage of the customer journey.

To celebrate leaders in this space and offer inspiration, I wanted to share some (of many) product-led companies that stood out to me this year. May we all channel their innovation, drive, and passion as we head into 2021.

1. Toast: An emphasis on the customer experience

Toast, a restaurant management and point-of-sale platform, made it their mission to help the restaurant industry adapt to complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant putting their customers’ experience first, even as their own business suffered as restaurants were forced to close or limit their service. 

To provide some financial relief, Toast decided to make their platform free for a month for existing restaurant customers and launched a separate version of the platform for restaurants that were not already customers, making access to all of its digital products free for three months. The team also worked to quickly upgrade the platform’s online ordering capabilities, adding features for managing curbside pick-up and throttling orders.

2. Peloton: Putting the product at the center

It was hard to go a week without seeing a Peloton truck delivering the at-home exercise bike to their latest customer’s doorstep—I was one of them. Peloton is a prime example of a company that puts their product at the center of everything they do, offering immediate feedback and delight within the product itself, for example when live instructors give new users a personalized call-out and welcome on their first ride. And, aside from the delivery person, you don’t encounter a single live human being throughout the entire customer journey—the product single-handedly drives the experience.

3. Coursera: A shift to automated onboarding

For product-led companies, the product plays a lead role in onboarding—guiding new users through the application’s key workflows and offering tips, resources, and support along the way. When education shifted online and individuals displaced by economic turbulence were eager to re-skill and land new jobs, Coursera saw a surge of new users on its platform that offers virtual courses from hundreds of colleges and universities. So, the team decided to automate their (previously very manual) onboarding process, using in-app messaging to both show new customers how to use the product and make them aware of educational webinars where they could learn more.

4. Home Depot: Adapting to digital demand

As the pandemic forced people to stay home, many turned to home improvement projects to keep themselves busy and, much to their initial surprise, Home Depot saw a spike in daily foot traffic at their stores. Although the retailer isn’t your typical technology company, it had to quickly pivot to meet this growing demand and adapt to circumstances brought on by stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. The company updated its mobile app to improve curbside pick-up, making it easier for customers to shop safely and efficiently. This goes to show that innovation isn’t only reserved for budding startups—today, every company is a technology company.

5. IHS Markit: The power of sunsetting features

Product teams celebrate the launch of new features, but removing a feature from the product doesn’t usually get the same attention. Sunsetting a feature, though, is equally as important (and can be just as impactful) as building a new one. 

The team at IHS Markit leaned on product data in Pendo to better understand how customers were using their iLEVEL product, which offers private market investors a cloud-based platform for data collection, portfolio monitoring, analytics, valuation, and reporting. From there, they were able to determine which features were rarely or never used, giving them the evidence they needed to sunset a particular feature. 

6. WebPT: Using the product to communicate

Practically overnight, WebPT had to pivot the product roadmap of its physical therapy management platform toward a telehealth model, so practices that could no longer see patients in person wouldn’t miss a beat in providing treatment. The product team utilized in-app guides to quickly notify users about a new feature right when it was available, help them get started, and show each user the optimal paths for using it. WebPT went from having no telehealth capability to having a full, robust telehealth offering in less than a week. Talk about being product-led.

7. RE/MAX: An internal product-led use case

RE/MAX has a 100+ product, training, and support team responsible for building and integrating new software and teaching their network of 130,000 member agents around the world how to use it. Their goal is to provide as much value as possible to agents, so that they are better equipped to do their jobs effectively.

For the launch of RE/MAX’s new agent CRM platform this year, the team used Pendo to automate onboarding for agents, track usage and adoption over time, and identify which areas of the tool required additional education and support. By moving onboarding and training inside the application, they were able to reach agents in 395 cities in just 90 days—a 3x increase compared to when they previously used only live, in-person training. And while this work was already well underway before COVID, it proved prescient as in-person training came to an abrupt halt at the onset of the pandemic.

8. Firefly Learning: Product ops in practice

As an education technology company that provides a virtual learning platform to schools around the world, Firefly Learning saw a huge spike in users when COVID-19 shifted learning online. The team faced the challenge of onboarding six months’ worth of new users in a single week, while also making sure their service remained reliable. Luckily, Firefly had recently created a product ops function—a critical cross-functional tenet of modern product teams—and were able to act quickly to scale new user onboarding and ensure multiple teams had access to the right product data. 

The Firefly team leveraged product analytics in Pendo to better allocate development and support resources based on which areas of the platform were used the most, and also identified the most efficient workflows for teachers and students. From there, they used in-app guides to nudge each user type onto those paths, proactively address support issues, and point users toward COVID-19 related resources.

I believe we’ll see even more stories like these in 2021. I’m excited for the role Pendo will play in so many customers’ product-led journeys.