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Bringing Spotify to India—and Beyond

March 2019


Article credits
Heli Rantavuo

Hot on the heels of Spotify's launch in India, insights lead Heli Rantavuo discusses the collaboration of design and insights in expanding our global reach. This is the first piece of a three-part series. Enjoy our companion playlist for this article:

On the day we launched Spotify in India, there was a real sense of anticipation and a special kind of focus in each of our final tasks. We were both nervous and excited. Building Spotify for India had taken us on a journey of uncovering insights from this fascinating market, carefully weighing our design, product, and engineering decisions and getting ready to roll out the experience we were building.

Launching in any new market is fraught with challenges – not least because digital products like ours thrive on data. Data on how people use our app, and the feedback they give us, help us understand if we’re meeting or failing expectations. Observations in data give us surprises and ideas and allow us to innovate on our product. But in a new market, there is no data to learn from. How do we know we are building a relevant experience for a new audience?

Here are three key ways in which design and insights can work together to quickly get to the essence of a new audience’s needs.

Spotify in India.

1. Look for similarities, not differences

When teams start thinking about a new market, they typically ask, "how is this market different?”. We suggest asking instead, “how might this market be similar to what we already know?”.

Sometimes it’s possible to use markets where we have already launched as proxies. We can roll out tests in these proxy markets to validate ideas for our new upcoming launch, or we can study how users in the proxy market experience our product. We used this approach as we tested some of our early ideas for India in South-East Asian and Middle Eastern markets, for example.

Or it might also be possible to identify specific audiences within the new market who appear similar to audiences in existing ones. Many companies have noticed, for instance, that globally-connected, affluent, English speaking audiences in cities like Mumbai, Tokyo, Rio, and Mexico City share the same interests and lifestyles. Another example is first-time internet users, whose needs and interests show a lot of similarities, regardless of where they come from.

Focussing on resemblances and similarities – rather than differences – makes the process of approaching a new market speedier and smoother.

2. Collaborate for speed

The early stages of launching a new market involve three main steps. Firstly, we need to understand the fundamentals – key figures, competitors, and potential audiences and their needs. Secondly, we need to quickly gauge what adds value to those audiences, given their current context. Thirdly, we need to define our scope, by choosing what audience, in particular, to focus on at launch, and what specific benefit to offer them with our product.

These are all stages in which qualitative user research, data science, and design work closely together at Spotify. We begin by building a firm point of view with data analysis, using internal and external quantitative data sources, and only then running a field study informed and fine-tuned by the initial analysis.

Field studies take a team close to people’s needs and wants. That is why it’s important to us that members from research, design, product, and engineering teams collaborate in creating early insights. Collaboration minimizes handovers and gets us to key value propositions quickly. Everyone in the team understands and feels ownership of insights from the very beginning, and we can immediately use the data in cross-disciplinary think-its and design sprints, led by design but with participation from all disciplines.

3. Get other teams excited

One of the key tasks of a launch team is to make other teams in the company excited about the new market. This is like trying to get your best friends to appreciate your favorite music that you've just discovered. They might show curiosity, but since that's new, they might take some time to really get into it.

As we started to make the Indian market familiar to all teams at Spotify, we benefited from having identified - again - similarities between India and our existing markets. This common ground was useful in building connections with teams across the company. We shared knowledge throughout the pre-launch stage to make such a large and complex new market approachable and discussed future opportunities as a way to inspire colleagues to start working on their plans for India.

Our insights and design teams built informal networks to discuss and share knowledge and ran internal learning events aiming to reduce barriers in taking on India or other international markets. We facilitated knowledge that the entire company could build empathy and commitment to Indian audiences.

Spotify has gone through a steady stream of new market launches in recent years. Our insights and design teams have learned that in the pre-launch stage, when user data isn’t yet available from the new country, data science, user research, and design need to work creatively with each other, with product, engineering, and country teams to quickly get to the essence of user needs.

Stay tuned!

All learning journeys come with their challenges and rewards. As we continue on our mission, we want to keep sharing our experiences in a series of articles on global insights and design practice at Spotify. Next in this series, we’ll discuss how our designers transform the Spotify experience for global audiences, and how data science and user research together create insights on global markets. We hope this three-part series will express the enthusiasm we’ve experienced in our global markets work—and help other teams reflect on their experiences too. 

Read part II, "Designing on the Road," here. And part III, "Think Global, Act Local," here.


Heli Rantavuo

Senior Insights Manager

Heli Rantavuo is a Staff researcher at Spotify. Her job is to find out what makes people passionate about music and podcasts across the globe.

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