Why Songza Brilliantly “Gets” Its Users

20 Mar

The music app creates an emotional connection with users – all startups should take note.

Many startups try to create products that fill large unmet needs.  It’s not a good idea to “to solve problems no one has.”  But creating a functional website, app, or business that solves a real problem is only the start.  The best products or services understand the need to create an emotional connection with users, because this creates “experiences that deeply engage customers.” Music streaming service Songza is a brilliant example of this, as both its app download and user retention statistics reveal.

Understanding what a user really wants and needs creates meaningful connections and success.

Songza’s Unique Approach

For Songza, the above images of its various landing screens explain everything you need to know about the app. Songza’s unique insight is simple and brilliant.  Many people want to listen to something, but don’t know what.  Songza doesn’t force you to choose a genre or an artist, a la Pandora.

Instead, Songza’s “concierge” asks what you’re up to. It already knows the time of day.  So, on a Friday night, it knows you’re probably either in the mood to relax, getting ready to go out, or possibly “entertaining cool friends.”   On a weekday afternoon, you either need a pick-me-up, or need to crank out work.

After clicking on your mood, Songza gives you a couple more choices to help narrow things down, and then – boom – it has a ready-made playlist for you.  (My favorite weekday productivity mix is called “Code Your Face Off”.)

This approach is so effective that the Clear Channel-owned iHeartRadio app decided to blatantly rip off Songza’s interface, probably after learning about Songza’s millions of active users.

Why is this approach so effective?

Is Songza’s music selection better than Spotify’s collection? No.  Is Songza’s musical expertise any better than Pandora’s?  Probably not.  So why is Songza so brilliant?  Because it understands the user better.

The Songza team figured out that many casual music listeners want to listen to music that reflects how they feel, or want to feel.  They combined the “mood” insight with the equally sharp observation that people’s moods correlate to the time of day, and day of the week, and that most people follow somewhat similar schedules. After a while, a lot of music listeners get tired of having to ask themselves “okay, which artist or genre do I really want to base my listening choices on today?”  Songza instead asks you what you are feeling.  When it comes to creating an emotional connection between a consumer and a brand, can it get any better than that?

This doesn’t only apply to music.

But now you’re thinking “that’s great for a music app, but this doesn’t help with my boring enterprise software or cloud security app.”  WRONG!  Even for B2B, you are dealing with people.  Yes, you have to be cost competitive and offer a compelling product.  But decision-makers are people with emotions too, whether they admit it or not.  And those emotions influence decisions.

Take WuFoo for example.  Could anything be more boring than a website that helps you build online forms?  No!  So what did WuFoo do?  They made it look fun.  They combine usability and a beautiful interface with little bits of humor, and they sprinkle exclamation marks next to anything boring (Login!).  Yes, you still have to build the forms yourself, but WuFoo makes it as pleasurable as possible.

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There are lots and lots and lots of examples from both the online and offline worlds of companies successfully using emotional engagement to differentiate themselves and create more meaningful connections with their customer.  Emotional engagement completely dovetails with storytelling as an increasingly vital piece of your successful communications strategy.

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