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Which Comes First, the Product or the Service? A Discussion with GoPro's Aimée Lapic

Tien Tzuo
CEO, Zuora

Welcome! This week we’re talking with Aimée Lapic, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at GoPro. Formerly at Banana Republic and Pandora, Aimée now leads the direct-to-consumer growth initiatives for GoPro, a key focus of their overall strategy.

Tien: Welcome, Aimée. So, GoPro is obviously an incredible consumer brand. But like many other manufacturers who sell primarily through retail channels, the pandemic was a big existential moment. And if I’m not mistaken, this also happened around the same time you joined the company! What was that like?

Aimée: Yes, I started in April 2020, if you can believe that! The company actually hired me to figure out how to connect directly with customers, how to think about adding benefits and features that will resonate, and then how to execute really seamlessly. When the lockdown hit, GoPro made a strategic decision to accelerate plans to focus on direct-to-consumer as a business model in a much more overt way, making my mission all the more urgent.

But I was fortunate because the company had already put some effort into growing their subscription business and building direct-to-consumer relationships, and they were really starting to recognize the value. We said, okay, we’re in lockdown, but we still have these great cameras and a strong customer base, so let’s shift focus. Instead of travel and adventure, we focused on highlighting special moments that people could have at home, or with their kids: walks, hikes, outdoor activities.

Tien: Now, I have to think a lot of people still think of GoPro as a great hardware company. They don’t necessarily associate it with digital services. But you were the CMO at Pandora before you came to GoPro, so you obviously had some experience managing digital subscriptions. This must have been an exciting discovery.

Aimée: Well, it was actually one of the reasons I joined! GoPro introduced their first cloud connected cameras back in 2016 alongside a subscription service that allowed customers to back up their videos and photos in the cloud. And that’s how GoPro subscription started. The GoPro Plus subscription – which is what it was called at the time – grew organically for about a year and a half to more than 100,000 subscribers largely on the value of that single benefit.

In 2019 the company got serious about leveraging the subscription to offer more value to its customers and to serve their needs, introducing additional benefits that made sense from a subscriber perspective. The first was a warranty replacement program that was called ‘No Questions Asked’ camera replacement. It resonated really well and is still seen as one of the top benefits of being a GoPro subscriber.

Tien: And after you joined, what became the focus?

Aimée: Our focus with the GoPro subscription has been to super-serve our customers with outsized value and benefits. When we launched HERO9 Black in the fall of 2020, we made the GoPro subscription central to our customer experience by bundling it with the purchase of a camera. We started 2020 with around 300,000 subscribers when the pandemic hit and we ended last year with over 750,000 subscribers.

Tien: That’s an amazing story. I want to know what comes next. But first, before you worked at Pandora you were at Banana Republic, another well-known retail brand. How has your job changed with respect to looking at data and usage, especially with the success of subscription programs?

Aimée: At Banana Republic we looked at lots of data, but it was predominantly about daily sales comps vs. the year prior in stores. What are the traffic patterns? How are customers buying different pieces of merchandise? And by nature, it was retrospective. And it was at an aggregate level, not at a customer level.

With digital subscriptions, there’s just so much data at a customer level. You can immediately know which accessories are more valuable to our subscribers. We can get pretty granular in terms of thinking about popular new product features, as well as cross-sell opportunities. For example, feedback from our subscribers has directly led us to develop specific premium editing tools, themes and filters in our mobile experience.

Tien: When it comes to subscriptions at GoPro, it sounds like what started off as an added benefit has now become a driving force behind the company. The feature has become the product! Is it fair to say that what started off as a warranty and cloud backup service has eventually turned into a bona fide membership program?

Aimée: Absolutely. It’s like an insider club for our customers. Our subscribers are using our products to capture some of the most special moments of their lives. And there’s a halo effect from those kinds of experiences that extends to the entire brand.

Tien: Now, if the service becomes so important, can it ever transcend the product?

Aimée: That’s a big question, and I’m glad you asked because we’re interested in the answer too. We just launched a brand new subscription product called Quik, a mobile app experience that solves the black hole of your phone’s camera roll. It allows you to easily organize your favorite moments and put them into a quick vignette that you can share. It’s like a private Instagram feed for our customers. And guess what? You don’t need a GoPro camera to use it.

Tien: Wait, what, you mean I can use Quik just with my photos on my iPhone, or Android?

Aimée: That’s right! And your DSLR too – or even old converted VHS videos you store in Dropbox. Content captured from pretty much any camera will work in Quik and that’s the point – to help you get the most out of your content, of any kind, by being a one stop shop to organize, edit, create, share and store your most meaningful content.

Tien: That’s remarkable. You used to sell cameras that came with great digital services attached, and now you’re selling great digital services that come with cameras attached! The service is now selling the product.

Aimée: You could look at it that way. Cameras are the backbone of our business, but importantly, anyone who has a smartphone is now a potential GoPro customer.

Tien: Of course, so the idea is if you love to use Quik, you’ll likely buy a HERO camera down the line?

Aimee: That’s an opportunity we have to earn. We’re focused on helping both smartphone and GoPro users get the most out of their content, and that’s an exciting business for us. If we succeed in helping smartphone users with a unique and valuable experience, perhaps they’ll become more passionate about capturing and sharing and decide a GoPro camera is necessary to capture immersive perspectives.

The launch of Quik has basically expanded our TAM to almost everyone on the planet. This is a game changer for the company. Now we’re going to market with a great new app experience in addition to all our amazing hardware.

We have inverted the model. We are creating a true ecosystem for our subscribers between the hardware and software, and then we’ve expanded it to a completely new audience as well.

Tien: Wow. We’re going to need to catch up again in a year. Thanks so much, Aimée!

Aimée: Thanks Tien!

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