Pictured: a couple with their child sitting at a table, using a laptop and a tablet. The image is a metaphor for designing multi-user programs and associated platforms to grow customer relationships.In the not too distant past, sharing individual account features, rewards and benefits with family members or others in the household was cumbersome at best and often done “under the table.” But in today’s digitally-connected world, the definition of “customer” is evolving. For a growing set of products and services, the “customer” is not just an individual, but rather a network of connected users, most often in the form of a family or household unit. Multi-user programs and associated platforms have emerged as a way for brands to better meet the needs of these customers. However, designing a platform that works well for multiple users is not easy and if executed poorly it can lead to customer frustration – just ask any dad who receives media recommendations for The Powerpuff Girls or any mom who is sick of Lego Ninjago videos interrupting her ‘me time’ online.

Done right, multi-user platforms can be a great way for brands to grow customer relationships. In addition to enhancing existing customer engagement and loyalty, multi-user platforms offer the potential to expand brand awareness and acquire new customers. Based on our work building multi-user programs for our clients, HawkPartners recommends five key tips to improve the multi-user experience and maximize customer engagement.

Tip #1:  Offer Shared Benefits

Products that allow multiple users to share or pool benefits are more likely to capture customer engagement. Subscription-based media companies like Netflix and Spotify offer great examples of pooled benefits. In 2013, Netflix launched Profiles – a platform allowing up to 5 separate user profiles on the same subscription account for no additional fee. Profiles has become a hallmark of Netflix’s value proposition and has proven to be a hugely popular model. Airlines and some financial services providers have also begun to offer similar programs which allow users to share membership rewards within their networks. In 2013, as part of a strategy to attract more family travelers, JetBlue introduced Family Pooling – allowing family members within a household to seamlessly pool their individual mileage earnings for the use of other family members.

Tip #2:  Deliver a Customized Product Experience

Customizing the product experience for each individual user is another way to ensure increased engagement. By tracking content usage and feedback by user, Netflix’s Profiles offers each user customized content recommendations within the same account. Similarly, Spotify launched Family Plan in 2013, which allows each family member to have their own decentralized account login – allowing for a fully-customized music streaming account experience for each media user, including customized music channels and recommendations.

Tip #3:  Provide Centralized Oversight

It’s useful for primary account holders to supervise activity across a shared account, particularly in multi-user platforms designed for families. Amazon Household launched in 2015 as a platform to share purchasing, benefits and media content across family members within one household. Amazon Household has various features which allow for adults within a household to supervise their children’s activity, including purchasing approval controls and purchasing oversight capabilities. Amazon Household also offers parental controls for adult content on Amazon media. In JetBlue’s Family Pooling Program, earning and redemption activity by each user is easily tracked – both in total and by individual transactions. This makes it easy to see how each user is contributing to or benefiting from the account.

Tip #4:  Offer Customized Controls

When designing the platform, it’s important to acknowledge the different types of account users – including spouses, children, and friends. Successful programs recognize that in some cases it may be appropriate to share account management responsibilities and controls, while in other cases it may not. Verizon’s family accounts enable a primary account holder to designate a level of account access for each user – account owner, account manager, and account member.  For account managers – often spouses – Verizon enables the account owner to offer equal access to account changes and settings. For account members – often minors – Verizon enables the account owner to restrict these users’ access to account controls or purchasing power.

Tip #5:  Actively Promote Multi-User Benefits

Successful multi-user programs are active and strategic in their promotion. These programs feature the multi-user experience prominently in customer communications, share both functional and emotional benefits, and ensure that the messaging ties back to the overall brand promise. Netflix makes Profiles a prominent feature of its brand marketing – frequently featuring it in customer communications and emphasizing its personalization benefits to the user. In 2018, Netflix built on its theme of personalization by offering Profile icons which featured characters in Netflix content – allowing users to both further personalize their account and engage with the Netflix brand in doing so. JetBlue’s marketing for Family Pooling emphasized not only the functional benefits of sharing mileage earnings, but also emotional benefits of shared family experiences and family togetherness. Both Netflix and JetBlue’s messaging for these multi-user platforms align with their respective brands in the use of language, imagery and tone.

Is your customer always an individual, or sometimes a family or household unit?  If the latter, how does your brand’s multi-user experience stack up against best-in-class companies?  If you are unsure of these answers, HawkPartners can serve as a thought partner to help evaluate your customers’ needs, assess your competitors’ customer experience, and advise you on how to design a successful multi-user experience.