At Vinted, I was working in a team which was responsible for developing paid features to create new revenue streams for the company.
We call these features value-added-services (short VAS), as they are supposed to enhance the experience of heavy users and provide shortcuts to make them more successful sellers.
But let's take one step back. What is this whole product about?
Vinted is an online marketplace for selling and buying second hand clothes, accessories, cosmetics and items for kids. After creating an account, users can list items and sell them directly to other users.
Vinted is live in several markets, incl. Germany, France, UK, US, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Lithuania, where the company was founded in 2008 and still has its headquarter. In Germany the company is known as Kleiderkreisel while the brand and product is exactly as in all other countries. The service can be accessed through websites, iOS apps and Android apps, localised for each given market.
About Closet Promotion
Joining the team at Vinted, I took over a project which we internally called Closet Promotion: A feature that allows sellers to promote all their listings with the goal to sell more items faster, gain followers and thus generate more sales long-term. The design of the feature was already started by one of my design colleagues, but there was still a lot of work to do:
- Designing remaining states and screens of the user flow, especially the statistics
- Preparing the launch of the feature in several markets
- Research user perception and behaviour after launch and improve
RESEARCH & STRATEGY
Be a sceptic but trust your team
Joining a company and taking over in the middle of a project is not an ideal scenario.
First you need to get familiar with what has been done and understand why certain decisions were made. Being sceptical as I am, I bombarded my team with questions such as 'Why did you decide to build this feature in the first place?' and 'Why was it designed the way it is?'.
It turned out, that many questions hadn't been answered yet, for instance, what the feature's value proposition is and how it will work within the existing product context.
Second, you have to get comfortable with working with decisions you didn't make or you would have made differently. You need to find the right balance between trusting your co-workers and bringing in a new perspective, because that's one reason why you got hired, right?
After figuring out what has been done, I was able to identify what still needed work. There were 3 major parts of the user journey that hadn't been thought through yet:
- Awareness – How to communicate the benefits of the feature from the user's perspective?
- Triggers – How to inspire usage of the feature in the right moment and the right context?
- Retention – How to maximise value users get and guide them to repeated usage?
Surveying the name of the feature
The name of a feature plays a big role in how it is perceived, especially if you ask users to pay for it. As our app comes in different languages, we also needed a localised solution for the name of the feature. So our copy writers came up with names for different markets we then surveyed with users, asking them which name best meets the functionality and benefits the feature promises.
Wrapping the value proposition inside a story
Although the initial research, strategy and ideation phase was already done, the feature's value proposition was not 100% clear. Indeed there were several directions this feature could go into. We soon realised, we need to tell a coherent story to place the promised value in our users' minds. The story in a nutshell: Get long-term and unpaid visibility of your listings through followers.
And actually it seemed to work: In recent interviews I did for another project, I heard members repeating the same story we were telling them a few months ago.
The value proposition also affected the design of the feature and vice versa: The 'follow' button is the main CTA in the closet promotion ad.
Designing launch communication
Once we had an idea of the value proposition, we were able to prepare communication. I worked closely with our head of CRM and copywriters to craft emails and notifications and designed a landing page to explain benefits and expected results from the user's perspective.
Applying good UX practice to improve triggers
The obvious approach to triggers is placing them there where users expect them. For our feature, this was the area where users can manage their listings.
But as the promotion itself would be displayed in the home screen and search, we didn't want to miss the chance to trigger usage from there. The usual approach to announce new features in the home screen was the so-called Promo Box, an image that links to a page where we explain more details.
For closet promotion though, we were looking for a more contextual solution that follows common UX principles:
- Show rather than tell what the outcome looks like
- Provide easy onboarding and access to the solution
- Provide just enough information at the right time (with the option to reveal more)
A/B testing different banners
We were testing a few different designs of banners, some more aggressive and some more subtle ones to see if engagement changes.
Currently we use the banners to communicate discount campaigns and test different copy versions.
Closing the loop
As soon as sellers decided to use our feature, we want to meet their expectations and deliver on the promise we made.
As the closet promotion feature is about increasing impressions and interactions with items and ultimately boost sales, we want to give users a way to track these effects. Therefore the statistics screen we show shortly after promoting the closet became an important part of the feature, not just for the first time user experience, but also as a retention tool.
Prototyping and user testing the big picture
The initial design of the statistics screen was very straightforward: The team launched another feature a few months ago which also included statistics, so why not copying what's already working there?
The situation with our new feature was a little bit different though.
First, the data we needed to capture is different. While with the previous feature only one listing got promoted, the new feature aims to promote many different listings.
Second, we couldn't be confident that the stats of this other feature were actually fulfilling user needs, as we hadn't done any user research.
Therefore I was looking at the statistics screen with a fresh perspective, designed some prototypes, and tested them with users in Berlin.
Even though not all of the ideas I tested made it into the MVP, the early tests laid a foundation for future iterations and gave us valuable insights on users' expectations towards statistics, but also the feature in general.
The new statistics design stayed still close to the initial one, but I added a few missing details and redesigned the part where users can track interactions with their listing.
After launching the feature in Germany in October 2017, we scaled it to France, Lithuania and Czeck Republic during the winter months. Especially in France we had an adoption rate that exceeded all expectations and also the retention rate met our OKRs.
With the new feature, value-added services became the second largest revenue stream after transaction fees and before ad revenue, helping the company build a self-sustainable business and reach breakeven in October last year.
Still work in progress
Still there is a lot of room for optimisation on both technical and UX side to maximise the value sellers get from the closet promotion feature. These are a some of the improvements I was working on more recently:
1. Continious research to identify areas of improvements
Shortly after the feature was launched, we ran awareness and satisfaction surveys with the help of our research team. The main insight was that users are confused about how the feature works and how to interpret statistics.
Based on the feedback, I worked together with copywriters on improving our FAQ articles and made them more accessible by adding a link to the product flow.
2. Iterating on statistics
As the statistics were the second main source of confusion, I started working on the next iteration of the statistics screen. I didn't only improve the interactions section and made a few copy changes to provide more clarity, but also added helpful/not helpful feedback buttons we were already using in our FAQ. The idea here was to give users an easy way to give highly contextual feedback and look at one statistic at a time, rather than the whole screen at once. The feedback collection is currently in progress.
On the other side, we wanted to understand the full picture: How do users feel about the performance of the promotion? How useful do they find the statistics in total and over the course of several days?
So we ran an online diary which asked users for constant feedback during the time they are using the feature. The responses get currently analysed by our researchers.
3. Increasing promotion visibility and interactions
In our MVP, we only showed 3 listings in the closet promotion ad. This caused some confusion on seller side as they were wondering how these 3 listings were picked from the whole amount of items they had uploaded, which sometimes reaches several hundreds. At the same time, we wanted to give buyers a better peak into a seller's closet and style which is hardly achieved by showing just 3 pieces of clothing.
Therefore I designed a horizontally scrollable closet ad.
The new design didn't only solve the problems mentioned above, but also a few more:
- Buyers complained that the size of the item images are too small. With the new layout, they became bigger.
- Buyers with very specific needs complained about seeing content that didn't match their search results. Making matching items stand out more and hiding less relevant content in the carousel makes the feature feel less like spam or advertising.
- The previous design didn't provide a clear way to get to the seller's closet and see more items (the link was hidden in the seller's avatar). The new design includes a more prominent CTA at the end of the carousel.
Don't rush the launch
We postponed the launch date of the feature twice to be able to fix bugs and properly test everything. Still when we launched, we had major technical issues over the weekend where traffic is higher, which forced us to turn the feature off and pay back our members. In retrospect this could have been avoided if the whole team would have admitted that we need more time. Working on a product that has 21 million users requires responsibility from everyone. Don't release shit.
It's you who make a feature what it is
Even though the idea to survey several feature names with users was generally a good one, we had to run the survey twice in Germany. Reason was that we put names in the survey we didn't feel comfortable with, because they didn't match with the original idea of the feature or were already reserved for another planned feature.
We also realised long after release that the name we picked set expectations we were struggling to meet. So if you let users pick a feature name, make sure your proposals are solid and aligned with the feature's value proposition.
Measure success based on user success
As a UX Designer, it really bothered me that everyone was celebrating the new revenue we gained, although the feature had to be taken offline after 3 days because it didn't work. The qualitative user feedback in surveys, interviews and our forum also showed that there is still a long way to go until we could be honestly proud of what we put out there. In this situation it's the UX Designer's responsibility to educate co-workers about successes and failures and shape a mindset that puts user success above revenue.