Enhancing User Messaging: Parental Cover Interim PM for Engagement team

The Client: Ecosia

The search engine that plants trees

Ecosia is a search engine that operates as a social business and uses the revenue generated from ad clicks to plant trees in various locations worldwide where reforestation is needed most. It was founded in 2009 by Christian Kroll and is based in Berlin, Germany.

The search engine prides itself on being environmentally friendly in its operations and boasts a global user base of over 15 million people as of 2021. Additionally, Ecosia encrypts searches and does not sell user data to third parties, making it a privacy-friendly alternative to other search engines like Google.

🌍 As of March 2023, Ecosia claims to have planted more than 173 million trees since its inception in 2009.

The Mission: Interim Product Manager

We joined Ecosia to serve as Interim Product Managers in the Journey team. We were part of a team of a tech lead, several frontend & backend developers, and a product designer. With the original Senior Product Manager on paternal leave, our main role was to fill the Product Management gap during this time.

The Journey team focuses on owning the customer lifecycle journey starting from the point of acquisition with the vision to increase customer LTV and retention by focusing on user messaging. The team was young and had only begun to scratch the surface of smart user messaging.

We had several goals in mind to achieve this, starting off with selecting a user messaging tool that would enable all teams to experiment more quickly and focus on community-relevant outreach through activating partner promotions and building up a partner network. We understood enabling user messaging was 2-fold:

  • Having a notification tool in place allows teams to quickly test and iterate on new ideas, without the need for time-consuming development.
  • Having strong messaging content that resonates with the user base by activating a closed partner network and promotions to expand Ecosia’s footprint.

Our Main Quest

Launch: Onboarded Very Fast

As the Senior Product Manager for the Journey team had a parental leave scheduled, we had to jump in quickly and provide a helping hand to the Journey & Product Leadership teams by identifying roles and responsibilities based on the mission needs.

We joined towards the end of the trimester and also quickly needed to collaborate and contribute to the strategy for the upcoming trimester. We also had to hit the ground running and work with our team to understand the wider technical effort behind a future strategic initiative.

Furthermore, we delved deeply into the Ecosia platform and team initiatives, while also keeping up with daily operations within the team.

First Deliverables

  1. T1 OKRs Planning, setting up Objectives & Key Results for the team
  2. Summarizing & presenting findings for a strategic initiative to guide the C-level from the tech strategy perspective

Initiative 1: Progressing on the User Messaging Tooling Selection for Ecosia

Problem:

  1. User messaging as one of the main drivers of engagement:
  2. As the team focused on increasing user engagement within Ecosia, they planned to achieve this by implementing user messaging that would encourage users to interact more with the platform. However, this is a complex undertaking that requires careful planning and execution, as well as ongoing monitoring and optimization to ensure that the messaging is effective in driving engagement. So, we
  3. Identified levers that would enable us to understand the most effective factors in driving user engagement eg. messaging types, content, delivery times, cohorts, partners
  4. Curated experiments around these levers to identify optimal solutions
  5. Limited flexibility of current notifications tool
  6. One of the key challenges faced by the Ecosia team is the limited flexibility of their current notification tool, which makes it difficult to target specific user groups for testing and experimentation. This slows down the product development process and impedes the team's ability to quickly iterate on new features and ideas. We pushed the need for a notifications tool that streamlines user messaging as well as enables quick experimentation, defined organizational-level requirements for the new tool, and conducted necessary research to shortlist potential solutions that would meet those requirements.

Overall, these challenges underscore the importance of the right tools and strategies to drive product development and user engagement. By addressing these issues head-on, the Ecosia team continued to build a platform that delivers meaningful impact for both users and the environment.

Milestones we achieved:

  • Analysis of a list of engagement tools in the market.
  • Shortlist and demo three tools, based on the available defined requirements.
  • A further shortlist of one to two tools, based on initial analysis after demo calls.
  • Stakeholders’ involvement in the decision-making process.
  • Pricing negotiation down to 50% with the shortlisted tool, resulting in an annual saving of approximately 150K euros for the company.
  • Technical and privacy investigations coordination, in collaboration with the tech team.
  • Obtaining Stakeholder buy-in, and aligned expectations & next steps.
Extracted slides from the Notifications Tool deck

Initiative 2: Promotional Partners Experimentation

What has been done:

We understood that while a notification tool would enable experimentation that was only half of the solution. Our core hypothesis was that to drive engagement, we had to have user-relevant, climate-action-focused messaging. We also believe that Ecosia users are interested in 3rd-party offerings that can amplify their impact in solving the climate crisis and trust Ecosia to recommend these products/services to them. To validate this, we worked towards building a network of green partners who share Ecosia's values and mission. This network would then allow us to build up experiments that would validate the need to have climate-relevant messaging

Milestones we achieved

  1. Analysis of top channels and areas of interest for Ecosia users eg. travel, wellness, beauty, etc.
  2. Reached out to relevant organizations from 1 to partner up with Ecosia’s mission.
  3. Designed a quick experiment on affiliate links on the New Tab Page with the above partners that would provide us with directional and quantitative feedback on the most relevant partners for Eccosia’s users.
💡 The success of this hypothesis also meant opening up a new revenue stream for Ecosia.

Overall, our approach was to generate revenue for Ecosia in a manner that aligns with the values of its users. We worked to achieve this by establishing a network of environmentally friendly partners and conducting experiments to collect data. In the long run, this would allow Ecosia to make informed decisions that enhance user engagement and eventually contribute to the long-term success of Ecosia.

Our Side Quests

As Interim Product Managers, we supported Ecosia’ Teams with multiple missions:

  • Provide clarity and recommendations to guide the leadership team in making a strategic decision
  • As there was some uncertainty surrounding a strategic bet within Ecosia, we jumped in to support the Leadership team by providing guidance.
  • We’ve clarified different variables surrounding this bet, including:
  • The level of tech effort that will be required for enablement, including a 5-year outlook on tech costs.
  • Privacy & security implications.
  • The business value of the strategic bet for Ecosia.
  • This included a thorough analysis of the technological requirements of the plan and a careful consideration of the various options and trade-offs that are available to the leadership team.
  • Our goal was to provide the leadership team with a clear understanding of the tech effort that will be required, and the surrounding implications in order to help them make informed decisions about how to move forward with the proposal
  • Consolidate the partner network for Ecosia to leverage its potential.
  • Since Ecosia’s users want to take more climate action and trust Ecosia to recommend green products/services, building up a partner network helps Ecosia empower its users to take climate action.
  • We’ve worked on consolidating Ecosia’s partner network, and leveraging on existing channels in order to streamline processes and potentially reduce costs.
  • That involved reaching out to existing partners and strengthening the partnership, as well as exploring new partnerships that may be beneficial to Ecosia and its users.
  • By expanding the partner network and leveraging existing channels with partners, we aimed to create a more robust and efficient ecosystem that will allow Ecosia to better serve its customers and achieve its long-term goals.

Mission Achievements: Delivered Outcomes

💡 Reduced Notification Tooling costs by more than 50% through negotiations with providers on pricing, which helped put Ecosia in a better position.
💡 Provided a business and product analysis of the notification tool for C-level and concerned stakeholders to achieve alignment & approval from the Leadership team.
💡 Built a green partners network of 4 partners, and leveraged existing channels to connect with green partners. Researched and initiated conversations with an additional 15 potential travel partners for collaboration.

In the Client's Own Words

Space Crew of this Mission

Alex Bahlk
Alex Bahlk
Fractional Director of Product
Fatima Moin
Fatima Moin
Senior Product Management Consultant
Dina Elbeih
Dina Elbeih
Product Management Consultant

For Clients: When to Hire Us

You can hire us as an Interim/Freelance Product Manager or Product Owner

It takes, on average, three to nine months to find the right Product Manager to hire as a full-time employee. In the meantime, someone needs to fill in the void: drive cross-functional initiatives, decide what is worth building, and help the development team deliver the best outcomes.
If you're looking for a great Product Manager / Product Owner to join your team ASAP, Product People is a good plug-and-play solution to bridge the gap.