How might we design and build an MVP feature?
I Heart Jane, a cannabis marketplace, needed to offer stores the ability to flag items on sale. Still a startup, they needed an effective solution immediately vs a full-featured experience. With one full-time and one part-time engineer, I set out to research, plan, and design a vital sales tool.
How complicated could it be?
Cannabis products come by the gram, the ounce, and the number of items in a package. The industry has also embraced typical sale strategies you’d see anywhere. Such as day-of-the-week, veterans discount, 2-for-1s, loyalty discounts, and the like.
Language was also tricky. Each state had its own stipulation on which words you could use. For example, in Washington state “coupons of branded merchandise are banned”.
With so many permutations and clauses, what should the team build? And how can it be messaged across different states and stores?
How do you measure success?
… at any given time, there’s one metric you should care about above all else … getting you to focus on the right thing, at the right time, with the right mindset. - Lean Analytics by Croll & Yoskovitz, 2013
I drafted a few quantitive and qualitative key performance indicators (KPIs) to start. Together, we added a few more and highlighted the most important ones for this feature:
- Stores have a higher inventory turnover rate on sale items (than regular inventory)
- Stores don’t become deal-driven markets
Our assumptions about promotions:
- All stores will have deals and discounts
- Stores are motivated to have sales in order to gain customer loyalty
- Stores run multiple promos at the same time
- A customer will swap store loyalty based on a promotion
These assumptions seem obvious, so it’s actually more important to declare them. The simpler they are, the more likely they will go unspoken, and worse, unquestioned. Assumptions can be subtle and hidden, yet they are powerful and influential. They can drive the approach to the entire project, and all without anyone noticing.
Research: staff interviews
The Jane team had relationships with experienced store staff–from owners to floor personnel. I interviewed 5 spread across Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, and California.
- Understand operations to create requirements
- Understand motivations to validate feature need and priority
- Understand logistics to uncover complexities
The answers were synthesized into trends, for example:
- Nearly all stores don’t allow double discounts on a single item
- Nearly all stores apply discounts by category or producer; none mentioned per item
- Motivation for what goes on sale varies; from “promo” flowers, expiring inventory, off-loading unwanted inventory, to personal opinions on how to do sales
From requirements to stories
So what would be the most effective discount feature to build? Category-wide discounts. Almost every store pulled this lever every week, if not every day, at their brick-and-mortar. The discount was easy to remember and brought both regulars and newcomers in the door.
I listed job stories from three perspectives: the customer’s, the store’s, and Jane’s.
While I was writing these, I noted down an idea Edward de Bono wrote:
Quality is intentions matching expectations. -How to have a beautiful mind by Edward de Bono, 2004
This is especially true when I work with early startups. Without the resources of a well-established company, these startups need to go lean. This has become more difficult as consumer expectations grow. But what does quality mean to each of us? Edward de Bono’s idea strikes me as the baseline for defining quality. It acknowledges how its definition can change, based on who it’s for and where they are in this moment of time.
A job story from a customer’s perspective
What do I expect from an e-commerce experience? - As an online customer, I can see a tag for any item “on sale” - As an online customer, I can verify promotions are “applied” to items in my basket
A job story from a store’s perspective
What is the most valuable type of promotion I do now that I Heart Jane will support?
As a store owner I can set … - “Blanket-wide” deals on a specific product category - Most are recurring for a day of the week - Sometimes recurring for a range of hours - % or fixed $ amount taken off - With the ability to exclude certain items
Is this adding more work and frustration? - As a store employee and owner, I can see any promotion ending today
What is the most effective way to communicate the design?
I created a clickable experience journey where you could jump from the 10,000ft view to a specific screen. From the moment an owner plans a discount to its end when it expires.
The discount feature was on-time, on-budget, and was well received by stores. By January 2019, roughly 12% of all orders on Jane had some product on discount.
What I did miss was a store’s need to offer discounts on single items. Though it was never mentioned in my interviews, it turned out to be a much needed feature.
About the project
Lead designer at Substantial
Built in React JS