My internship at Macy’s took place during the summer of 2019, but the pursuit to improve the holiday shopping experience for our customers was already on. The holiday season is – to no one’s surprise – one of the most crucial times for any company in the retail industry. Purchases go up as customers search for the perfect gifts for all their loved ones, and this year, myself, the other UX design intern Nancy Chiu, and the UX research intern Chia Hsieh were tasked with improving the gift guide on Macys.com to facilitate a better gift giving experience for our users.
Based on chats with our Site Monetization team, something that Macy's customers felt was lacking from the online gift guide was a curated experience. Though our current “For Her”, “For Him”, etc. categories did help to narrow down the offerings, they just weren’t sufficient, as customers wanted to find gifts that were more specific than just being targeted at a particular gender or age group.
Right there was our problem statement – how could we better curate the Macys.com gift guide selection to help our customers find that perfect gift?
gifttogether is born
We came up with GiftTogether, a collaborative online gift giving experience that creates curated gift guides to help customers find the perfect gift. Now, rather than everyone on the team getting their boss 11 variations of the exact same box of chocolates for Christmas, they can come together to get her something that will feel personalized, as though it were hand-picked just for her.
How does it work?
- To start off, one individual (referred to as the group admin) will initiate a Gift Board, which will be like a dashboard to store all the relevant information about this gift. They’ll then invite others to join the board, and upon joining, each participant will be asked to complete a short quiz. The purpose of this quiz will be to get everyone’s input on the recipient’s personality, interests, and approximate budget for this gift. Using this information, our system will put together a curated gift guide for the recipient, containing items that are relevant only to them, thus greatly narrowing down the vast selection offered in the default gift guide.
- With the curated gift guide complete, participants now have the opportunity to explore the items in it and nominate a maximum of three items to be entered into a poll. Participants can then check out the poll and all the nominated options, before voting on up to three favourites.
- Based on a combination of upvotes and total available budget, the group can decide which gift(s) they’d like to purchase for the recipient.
- Finally, the group can decide on one of three payment options: the Macy’s Split Pay feature which will evenly split the cost among all the participants, Pay As You Wish through which participants can contribute custom amounts to the gift, and Single Purchaser whereby either the group admin or another individual will pay the entire cost, with the assumption that the rest of the group will pay them back through some other method (Venmo, PayPal, cash, etc.).
RESEARCH: Comparative Analysis, Marketing Data, User Surveys, Gamestorming Workshop
DESIGN: User Flows, Lo-Fi Prototype, Interactive Prototype
EVALUATION: Usability Testing, Department Pitch
To better understand the area we would be exploring, we started off with a comparative analysis to get a lay of the land, and determine where Macy’s stood relative to others in the retail industry. After researching over a dozen retailers’ gift guides, here’s what we discovered:
- Having categories like occasion, price point, and general demographics (gender, age, etc.) was pretty common across the board.
- There was often a push for “trending” or “popular” gifts indicating that what others are purchasing has an impact on people
- Some unique features included shopping using emojis or adjectives, staff-recommended gifts, blog posts promoting different gift ideas, and displaying guaranteed delivery dates (especially important around the holidays!)
When developing the problem statement with the Site Monetization team, they also shared some research findings with us that they had gathered surrounding the 2018 Holiday Campaign from Macy's customers. This helped us to understand how customers shopped for gifts online, and what they considered most valuable in a gift. Some high-level insights can be found in the following slides.
Following the comparative analysis and a deep dive into the data we received from the marketing team, we were starting to get a better understanding of what we were working with in terms of both industry standards, and the shopping preferences of Macy’s customers specifically. But we still had some unanswered questions:
- What does the average gift guide user look like?
- Which retailers' gift guides do they use and why?
- What are some of the current pain points and delights of gift guides?
By sending out a survey built via SurveyMonkey and shipped via UserTesting.com, we collected data from 128 participants to get the answers we were searching for.
With all these user insights in hand and a particular focus on the pain points that had been mentioned most frequently, the three of us began brainstorming potential solutions. We bounced between everything from having gift experts called “Santa’s Elves” help people find the right gift, to wedding-style gift registries, and after going back and forth a few times with our supervisors, we finally landed upon the idea of collaborative gift giving.
The following was our hypothesis for why this idea might work:
- Channel the entire group’s memories and interactions with the recipient
- Suggest gifts based on recipient’s personality and interests by getting input from everyone in the group
- Present a more curated selection of gifts to avoid overwhelming users
- Present complementary gifts
- Support users on a tight budget by pooling funds
- Bring new users to the website
With nervous excitement, we began building the idea and exploring how it might work. Getting together with a group to give someone a gift is definitely something people do in real life, but finding examples of how this might be facilitated online proved to be difficult. This was relatively uncharted territory, and our first challenge was to determine what the most intuitive flow would be in order to give a collaborative gift online. To do so, we recruited the help of our colleagues through a gamestorming workshop. (Learn more about gamestorming here!) We split our coworkers into four groups of three, and ran the following activities.
First, we asked the group to work together to come up with a hypothetical gift for a colleague who wasn’t in the room. This helped get them in the right headspace, and begin thinking about the process of collaborative gifting.
We then gave each person a set of cards with different words related to gift giving, and had them individually do a card sort to define clear stages of the gift giving process and the components that would fall under each stage. Each person shared their ideas, and then repeated the activity once more as a group, incorporating everyone’s input. Doing the activity individually first was important to avoid groupthink.
The gamestorming workshop helped us map out what the flow of the GiftTogether feature might look like, enabling us to jump into the designing stage of the project.
Through the insights we gathered from our research, we were able to determine what stages should be considered in order to create an intuitive flow, and what each stage might consist of. A brainstorming session led Nancy and I to create the following categories, along with each one's potential components.
Further iteration and several more sticky notes later, we landed upon the five stages that our flow would consist of.
We converted these stages into a clear flow chart to show the path that a user would take and the decisions they would make along the way.
Based on the flow chart, I created the following lo-fi prototype to start mapping out what the interface of the feature might look like on the Macy’s website.
After reworking the sketches and smoothing out both design and logic issues, Nancy and I put together an interactive prototype using Figma, which you can play around with here!
Or, watch the following short demo video to see what our interactive Gift Together prototype looked like.
With only a week or so remaining in the internship, Nancy and I were quite limited on time, and only had the opportunity to test the interactive prototype with three users. However, we still got some great feedback for each stage of the flow.
An exit survey that we had the users fill out provided us with some great quantitative feedback, and our design's KPIs averaged out to the following:
Ease of use: 7.83 (10 = very easy to use)
Visual appeal: 8 (10 = very visually appealing)
In terms of qualitative feedback, the following is a high-level overview of some of the key questions and comments our participants had, as well as some actionable items we could do to resolve the issues.
THE LANDING PAGE
- Does not want to create an account.
- How would one navigate to this feature in the website/where would it live?
- Don’t require users to create an account right from the start.
- Create large, clear entry points on the website homepage.
THE GIFT BOARD
- What does poll end date mean?
- Entering the poll end date and purchase date requires a lot of backwards mental calculation based on when they want the recipient to get the gift.
- Is the gift recipient the one setting this up and inviting group members?
- Have the admin enter the date that they want the recipient to get the gift by, and then an algorithm can generate a suggested poll end date and purchase date.
- Want more response options for the quiz.
- Does the budget refer to how much they would expect to spend as an individual or as a group?
- Like that there is the option to enter the budget each individual is comfortable with. Also like the way budget entry is formatted (sliding scale).
- No point in having every group member enter the recipient’s name and occasion.
- Conduct further research to determine and provide more common response options to the quiz questions.
- Have the admin enter the recipient’s name and occasion before sending invitations out to the group.
THE GIFT GUIDE
- Is the guide only presented once every group member completes the quiz?
- Does the guide just show gift options based on their quiz responses, or based on the responses of everyone in the group?
- How would you know the recipient’s sizes, colour preferences, etc.?
- Easy to nominate an item.
- Have one section of the curated gift guide show recommendations based on the individual’s quiz responses, and one section show recommendations based on everyone’s responses.
- If the recipient has a Macy’s account, give them the option to publicize their size information to support the Gift Together feature.
- Understood that gift poll has everyone’s nominations.
- Understood how to vote for preferred gift options.
- How many votes is each individual allowed?
- Why do you have to vote for an item that you’ve already nominated to the poll?
- Have the admin set the number of votes each individual is allowed.
- Auto-apply a vote to items that the individual nominated themselves.
- Didn’t see payment options.
- “Learn More” button next to payment methods is not visible.
- Didn’t notice that prices underneath items change accordingly when a payment option is selected.
- Make payment information clearer, particularly because the payment methods are completely new to users.
- Unsure when the items will actually be added to cart/purchased.
- Unsure at what point they will be charged.
- Have the timeline visible on the dashboard for all the group members and not just the admin.
- Make payment information clearer.
On August 28th, just two days before my internship was going to end, I had the opportunity to pitch Gift Together to the Macy’s UX department of 50+ on behalf of Chia, Nancy and I. I walked the team through our process and prototype and the response was resoundingly positive.
While many aspects of Gift Together intrigued and excited the team, they expressed a few concerns as well, of which the primary concern was that the questions included in the personalization quiz might not be sufficient to effectively curate the gift guide. We took note of all their feedback to apply it to future design iterations, which would be carried out by other members of the team since our internship had come to an end.
ANd that's a wrap!
With my first professional UX project officially complete, I was definitely proud of what we’d learned and accomplished, but I was also full of gratitude for all the people who had supported the project and helped it reach the stage that it did in such a short amount of time.
So, a huge thank you is in order for the entire Macy’s UX department for working with us to bring our brainchild to life. Specifically, Olga Guzhavin and Aileen Medina, our two supervisors, who mentored us, motivated us, worked long hours with us, and even kept us fed! And finally, I’m incredibly thankful to have worked with Chia and Nancy on this project, who turned out to be some of my closest friends in San Francisco. They’re amazing people doing amazing work and I highly recommend checking them out.
Nancy, Chia and I unintentionally twinning at work!
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