Problem Discovery — User Experience — UI Design — Product Development
Spring is a fashion & beauty marketplace where people can discover products and buy them directly from multiple brands in a single-cart experience.
Since Spring is the intermediary between the brand and the customer, when someone places an order on Spring, Spring then places the order on the brand’s website, and finally, the item gets shipped directly from the supplier’s warehouse to the customer.
Spring's Logistics Model
When an item arrives to a customer’s door, they have no idea the package came from a Spring order. Because our brands have various return instructions, and a customer’s first interaction with the product is through a brand’s package, this can confuse them when wanting to initiate a return.
Items purchased on Spring can be returned 3 ways
- A brand would include a return label in the package
- A brand would be partnered with Spring, in which case a user can generate a label through our current returns flow
- A brand would not be partnered with Spring, in which case a user would have to request a return label from our CS team
In the current world, the user would have no idea which use case their item falls into, and is therefore confused about how to return an item, making up about 35% of our customer service tickets.
In response to this problem, this study showcases the process that was taken to build a feature set that would allow users to:
- Return items from any brand in a seamless way
- Understand what the status of their order is at all times
- Have better visibility into where their return is throughout the returns process
Below are some design challenges faced when approaching this project with some high-level questions we used to brainstorm possible solutions.
Multiple suppliers, multiple returns processes
- How do we design an experience for a user with various return outcomes?
- How will we be able to determine which suppliers will yield what experience?
Lack of detail in order statuses
- What are the most important details to a customer at every stage of their order?
- What actions can a customer take at every stage or their order?
No information about tracking returns
What are the most important details to a customer on this page? Are they more curious about where their return package is or where their refund is?
Giving the gift of knowledge to our customers
- Do our customers know what Spring is and how returns work?
- Will they know this new returns exists?
Once I finally wrapped my head around how our business model works, as well as how our current returns flow worked. I was ready to roll my sleeves up and get to work.
Working with a rockstar PM, Wasima Balile, we set out to understand a user’s pain points throughout a typical returns process. We spoke to anyone and everyone that has returned an item to an online retailer in the past to get their feedback.
We started this process by sending out a screener survey, found candidates that fit our criteria, and got them on the phone.
Screenshot of some screener questions
Screenshot of raw interview notes
We understood expectations customers have for refunds, what keeps them coming back to an online store, and some of their biggest pain points when returning items.
Research Findings Presentation
Here’s a little bit of what we learned
- Almost all interviewees find returns most convenient when brands supply a return label in the box (this makes up 60% of our brands, yay!)
- Online shoppers often track return shipments delivery to brands
- Most shoppers expect a cash refund no later than 2 weeks after the brand has received the return
- Credits are never preferred over cash refunds
- Excellent customer service keeps shoppers coming back, even if they had a poor shopping experience
View our research study presentation
We took a look at other online marketplaces to get an idea of what customers expected. Some marketplaces researched were: Amazon, Evo, Eastbay, & Backcountry.
After both user interviews and research, we saw an opportunity to:
Redesign our entire returns flow to be brand specific
A whole new returns flow that puts the user through the various ways to return their items, all the while keeping all flows as simple and similar as possible.
Redesign our Orders page to communicate order statuses
An audit of how existing statuses and CTAs work on this page, and how new return statuses would be conveyed to the customer.
Design a Track Return page
A new page that allows the user to be able to track their returns shipment and the progress of their refund. This would also push us to redesign our current Track Package page.
Educate customers through marketing our new returns flow
- An email introducing our new returns flow, as well as an audit of all post-purchase transactional emails. (v1)
- A new how-to page for 'Returns on Spring' with information about where to initiate all returns. (v2)
Given the vast amount of work ahead, stacked against the amount of engineers we had on this project, we had to make some trade-offs and decided to postpone the how-to page as a fast follow to this project.
We would know all of our hard work were successful if we were able to:
- See a 25% reduction in ticket-to-refund ratio
- Increase our NPS score for customers who have experienced a refund by XX%
Now that we’ve understood what our users needed, looked at competitors, found opportunity, and knew what it would take to make this project successful, we were able to prioritize our user stories and move into designing our user experience.
Experience Mapping & User Flows
We went through a few brainstorming sessions to build a user flow, and drilled it down to the easiest and seamless experience.
Prototyping & Testing
With Spring’s existing style guide, we went straight into visual designs and built our prototypes for user testing. View Returns Flow Prototype
We wanted to do something unconventional with our testers. Instead of just walking through the prototypes with our testers, we simply thought, ‘Why not just buy 4 products on Spring, have them delivered to the office, and ask them to return the items using our prototype?’ GENIUS!
This was such a fun project for us because we’d actually see first hand how our customers were interacting with real products. We pitched a storyline to our users at the start of each session, to get them into the mindset of the products they ordered:
“Imagine that you are someone named Wasima. You went on shopspring.com to look for a few products. It’s winter and you know - everything is dry...your lips, your hands. You’ve heard about body salve but have never tried it.
You find a product from the makeup company Milk on Spring, and decide to buy it. While you’re at it, you pick up some new tech gloves from Gap (to keep those hands out of the cold air) and a then also find a cool new pair of socks from a brand you haven’t heard of before, Frank & Oak.
Finally, you remember you are almost out of your favorite Kiehl's conditioner, and add that to your cart. Thankfully you can checkout for all of these items at once on Spring. Your order is placed and you receive a confirmation email [show email]. A few days later you start receiving your items along with these emails [show delivery emails]. You want to return them, what do you do?”
We set up two rooms in the office: An interview room and a screener room for the rest of the office to join and watch it all unfold.
The research was somewhat unsurprising. In a nutshell, we discovered, if we could get the user to the Orders page, initiating a return (no matter what brand the item came from) was a breeze… the problem was getting them there. Our testers still couldn’t get past what was in the box, and it was simply because they didn’t understand how Spring's business model works.
At this point, we have yet to release a product marketing email to introduce this new flow to our customers, and were hoping that this would inform users as much as possible before the launch of our How-To page.
User interview footage unavailable
We knew what we were building was a baseline of what our customers expected, but had a long way ahead to properly market our product. Because of this, we realized we needed to rethink our customer experience. We took our feedback and turned them into next step goals for this project, as well as long term goals for our team.
Launched in June 2018
Post Launch Results
Because we launched recently (June 2018), we are still gauging the level of success. Since launch, we have already seen:
- a 17% reduction in ticket-to-refund ratio,
- a 20% reduction in tickets from users requesting a return label,
- and a 10% increase in NPS for customers who have experience a refund.
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