The Petal on Peloton
Applying the “Favorite Product” Framework to Everyone’s Favorite Bike
Lately, I’ve been geeking out on getting to know my new Peloton Bike. My husband had been campaigning to get one forever, but I resisted because I find cycling to be boring. Everyone that we talked to raved about it. At long last, I finally caved and we got one.
Despite my initial objections, my experience thus far has been great! But of course, ever the Product Manager, I couldn’t help myself from applying the “favorite product” framework and analyzing why I like it, what could be improved, and how to think about making improvements.
Why I like it
Co-founder and CEO John Foley started Peloton in 2012 with a vision to create the full experience of working out in a high-end studio for people with little time to do it from home. In the first few years, they raised money, sold their first bike on Kickstarter, and shipped those first bikes in 2014. Since then, they have raised more money, expanded to treadmills, and broken world records with 2 million people worldwide participating simultaneously in a workout class.
I have been impressed with how closely my experience with Peloton matches the original vision that Foley articulated. Throughout all of their milestones, they have stayed focused on their true north. They have succeeded in delivering value propositions that differentiate Peloton from in-studio classes.
- Convenience. As a working parent, I fall into their target market of “people with little time.” Having the Peloton inside the house lowers the barrier of entry to working out. Instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV after the kids have gone to bed, it makes it just as easy to be able to do a quick workout in front of the TV. On the other hand, getting out of the house to a studio would be out of the question.
- Variety of classes. Ironically, even though I was the one that didn’t want the Peloton, I’ve ended up using the Peloton more than my husband. It’s not because I’ve developed a sudden passion for cycling. Instead, I realized that it’s because I’ve barely done cycling. I’ve tried everything from arms classes to pilates, dance cardio to stretching. I can find any type of class to fit my mood, and that variety is not easy for your local studio to compete with.
- Exclusive content. I was feeling Friday afternoon weekend vibes, so I picked out an Usher themed dance cardio class. As I read through the description, I noticed a teaser about a “special surprise” at the end. I had a sneaking suspicion what that might be and even so, the moment that Usher walked in, I felt a jolt of excitement. I knew that Usher was not actually in my room and he couldn’t see me, but I danced a little harder nonetheless. Your local studio can spin up cool playlists, but they don’t have access to bring Usher into class.
What could be improved
There’s a lot that I like, but there are some things that would improve my experience too. These improvements tie back to two of the reasons that I like the Peloton: convenience and variety of classes.
- Pause button for On-Demand. We’re all used to watching YouTube or Netflix and being able to start, stop, pause and watch whatever we want, whenever we want. That’s the whole premise of On-Demand. Having a pause button seems so basic that the first time I wanted to pause my Peloton class, I thought it was user error that I couldn’t find it. Eventually, I learned that you could only pause by exiting the workout. It seemed very inconvenient for a service that exists for my convenience.
- Separate audio controls for instructor and music. Having great music during a workout is generally a good thing, but sometimes I want watching TV to be my entree and my workout to be the side dish. Peloton doesn’t want to be the side dish. While I can adjust the audio balance between the instructor and music, I can’t choose to hear the instructor’s cues, but turn off the music. Having this option would again strengthen Peloton’s value proposition of convenience for me.
- More consistent UI across interfaces. My All Access Membership should give me access to all content, but some content is filtered out on the interface. For example, the Bike doesn’t show outdoor, running, or walking categories of workouts. I can see how the intent may have been to create a tailored experience for the Bike by promoting classes relevant to the Bike, but would love to see how the full breadth of content can still be accessible no matter the interface. Remember, the variety of classes is a key strength for Peloton vs. studios!
How to think about making improvements
The Pause button seems like the most obvious improvement. Peloton finally announced today that they are introducing the Pause button. It made me wonder: how was this table stakes feature not prioritized 7 years ago? Does Peloton just suck at prioritization? After my knee jerk reaction, I came up with three plausible and reasonable hypotheses for the long delay to this feature.
- Increase commitment. Peloton’s target market of people with little time are likely to face many interruptions throughout their day. Perhaps not having pause was a way to force users to prioritize their workout over interruptions.
- Encourage group class etiquette. Peloton positions itself as a substitute for live studio classes, so even the on-demand classes have a community aspect to it. Every class has a leaderboard so you can see where you stand and compete with other users who are taking it at the same time. These features create some complexity when you introduce pause. For example, what happens to your place on the leaderboard? And if there are only a few people taking the class, then does seeing someone drop off makes you feel less motivated too? Perhaps Peloton felt that they needed to discourage pause to improve the group class dynamic.
- Workaround exists. Even though there wasn’t an official pause button, users could essentially pause by exiting the class. It’s not the most elegant way, but it works. Perhaps the pause button was a low priority because Peloton didn’t see much negative impact to user retention or satisfaction by not having the feature.
Just as people should always be learning and growing, your favorite product can always be improving too. The “favorite product” framework is a classic PM interview question that demonstrates your ability to think critically about a product and tie feature enhancements to key metrics and user needs. The great thing about this type of question is that there aren’t right or wrong answers. I’ve shared my opinions about Peloton and would love to hear yours too.
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