Square Inc. is a financial service and mobile payment company that was launched in 2010 in response to smaller merchants losing their business over not being able to process card payments easily. With more than 15 different tools that enable smooth business transactions, Square’s new goal is to empower small businesses by growing their presence online.
UX Research - Designed Interview Protocol, Conducted Interviews, Conducted Affinity Mapping UX Design Lead - Designed Divergent Design Ideas, Designed Both Merchant and Customer Facing Prototype
4 months - Aug ‘19 to Nov ’19
How might Square create a considered omnichannel experience for small business owners who wish to sell their products on various social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram?
Keeping the end-users at the center of our design process, we worked closely with Square’s Product Team for a period of 4 months (16 weeks) to create an innovative solution that was tailored to the user’s needs.
With a clear understanding of our problem space, we soon discovered that even though our goal was to empower small business owners, there was another set of user group which we had to take into consideration, namely, their end customers. Hence, our design space had to take into consideration both these user groups - Merchants and their end Customers.-
From a merchant’s point of view, they should feel like they’re operating a single business across all the channels.
From a customer’s point of view, they should feel like they’re always interacting with the same business, regardless of the channel.
Once the two groups of users were identified, we started with the recruitment of participants for our study. For this, we approached several business owners who were willing to share the stories behind starting and running their business with us. We recruited 8 merchants who owned a variety of businesses, including jewelry, grooming, dairy, food, and stationery products. Our objective was to identify their general business practices and know their opinions on online business. A list of sample questions that we asked them during the interview is included below.
What motivated you to start selling your products online?
How do customers place an order through your online store?
How do you manage your inventory, delivery logistics and sales of your business?
What motivated you to have your online business present on multiple channels?
What online channel, if any, do you prefer the most to sell your products?
What are some of the pain points, if any, that you face when selling products online?
While interviewing the merchants provided us with helpful insights, we also had to learn about the buying experiences of their customers. Since we wanted to reach out to a wider group of users, we published a survey that would help us collect quantitative data. Through these responses, we wanted to learn about the behavior of customers regarding their online shopping practices and preferences. A list of sample questions from the survey is included below.
What do you do most often when it comes to shopping?
In your experience, how does online shopping compare to in-store shopping?
Have you ever contacted a store through Instagram, Facebook, etc to get more information on a product?
Doing competitor analysis allowed us to understand existing online business solutions. It allowed us to get into the shoes of merchants who have experiences with these platforms and understand the merits and demerits of each from their perspective. For instance, Facebook store provides merchants with different page templates that best suits their business. Instagram, on the other hand, allows only verified businesses to sell their products online through their app.
By mapping the affinity diagram, we identified the following paint-points and the needs of the merchants and the customers.
Merchants prefer selling their products on social media website
Starting on social media is easy as there is no cost involved unlike in building a personal website.. Besides this there are no performance metrics required to be met as present in various e-commerce websites.
“It took me more than 3 months to set up my website. Not that many people even buy from there” - Lelah, Owner of Extraversions Jwellery
Merchants find it difficult to keep up with rapidly growing business
While it is easy to start selling products on social media out of hobby, it soon grows into a full-time business which is overwhelming.
“I spend 8 hours only on Whatsapp replying to hundreds of orders I recieve daily” - Veda, Owner of Govinda’s Kitchen
Merchants lack effective inventory and order management tools
The tools used to run a business while it has started are no longer efficient once the business starts growing and the number of orders start increasing rapidly.
“I keep track of the products I sell by writing them down in an Excel Sheet” - Liliana, Co-Owner of Bee Our Guest Garment
Merchants find it taxing to communicate using through numerous apps
From product inquiry to order fulfilment, customers reach out to merchants through a variety of apps. It becomes difficult to keep business running in one place.
“Customers reach out to me through all sorts of messaging apps. I get back to them as soon as I can but it still takes a while” - Neha, Owner of Bloom Handmade Jwellery
Understanding the needs and the existing pain points from the merchants and the customers gave us a good idea of the problems that our design solution should tackle. We analyzed the findings and came up with the following design implications.
Design should make sharing products on multiple channels easier
Design should allow to keep track of inventory regardless of channel
Orders placing and payments should be integrated with channel
Design should not require intense adaptation for customers
Translating our research findings to design, we brainstormed ideas that focused on communication between merchants and customers as interacting with customers formed an essential part of their business. We decided to focus on the messaging aspect of selling products on social media and levergaing the power of messaging by making it interactive. We created three divergent design ideas and listed out the strengths and weaknesses of each.
We proposed these design ideas to our business partner, Square. They were on board with the idea of focusing on the interactive messaging idea but suggested us to introduce chatbots in interactive messaging to take it even one more step further. This idea immediately clicked with us as now we had the means to completely automate the interaction with the customers that also made inventory and order management an easier task for the merchant.
Having a clearer idea of what we wanted to design, we designed this model that explains how our design solution will fit in the business space and what changes this will bring to existing business practices.
We designed a new app, Square for Business, that helps merchants run and manage thier growing business across multiple channels.
This app is only merchant facing and hence it does not interfere with the shopping experience of the customers. The customers still shop through their preffered channel with the only diference being that the messages are now interactive which is useful for inventory and order management.
For the merchant side, I designed the high-fidelity prototype of the Square for Business app. This new app enables the merchant to post products on multiple social media and messaging channels, manage product inventory and keep track of customer orders. In addition to this, our design solution allows merchants to keep track of their overall business goals.
For the customer side, I designed a high-fidelity prototype that depicts the experience of a customer with interactive messaging when making a purchase through social media platforms. The customer side of interaction has a linear flow - from browsing products, placing an order to viewing order details. These interactive messaging service can be implemented on any channel that supports direct messaging. We imagined what it would look like for a customer on Instagram.
Interact with the prototype below to experience the Square for Business app for merchants (left) and purchasing a product on Instagram as a customer (right)
To evaluate the merchant facing design, we conducted cognitive walkthroughs with users who also evaluated the prototype through System Usability Scale (SUS) tool. We recruited 6 partcipants who represented our user group and 3 other participants who were industry experts. The SUS consisted of a 10 item questionnaire with five response options; from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree. Indicated below are the final scores that we obtained from the users and participants.
SUS Score from 6 Users
SUS Score from 3 Experts
A SUS score above 68 is considered above average and a SUS score above 80 is considered excellent in form and performance. Furthermore, we carried out Heuristic Evaluation with 3 experts from various business units within Square who were highly knowledgable in usability principles. During this evaluation, issues were identified and each issue was rated on their severity ranging from 0 to 4, with 0 being very low severity and 4 being very high severity. Some of the major issues that were highlighted during the evaluation session are as follows.
Channel selection at multiple stages of the flow was confusing
Provide a method to use inventory from existing Square Marketplace app
Contacting seller on Instagram did not seem intutive for customers
Based on the feedback that we received, I designed the second iteration for both the merchant-facing and the customer-facing design before presenting our final deliverables to the product managers at Square.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the way this project turned out. We went above and beyond for coming up with a solution that works not only for the merchants but also their customers. Our design solution addresses the problem given to us while keeping the constraints given by Square into consideration. While the customer-facing solution seems to be difficult to implement in the real world at the moment, it is only a matter of time before interactive messaging becomes a commonplace feature on these platforms.