Designing a Product for E-Commerce

Challenge:

How does E-commerce influence product design? How can the digital space enhance and support a physical product? We were tasked with developing a power tool specifically for the emerging world of E-commerce. We identified the emotional connection between parents and their children and found an opportunity there. We moved to design a power tool to aide in providing for their children and enabling choice for parents to make their own baby food. 

Teammates:

Abigail Maeder, Cameron Chartier, Kelsie Thomas, Rebecca Nicoara

Personal Research Role

Led Design Research, Stakeholder Identification, Benchmarking, Conducted Interviews, Task Analysis, Observational Analysis, Usability Testing, Journey Mapping, Insight Generation, Design Recommendations

Duration:

7 Weeks    May 2018 - July 2018

Project Overview
Objective
  • The primary objectives of the project included:

    • Discovering how E-Commerce influences or can influence product design.​

    • Identifying the intersection between the digital and physical product space.

    • Design a power tool that aides in parents providing for their children.

  • Research objectives included:

    • Understanding the physical product, limitations, and how people use it.

    • Empathizing with end-users and understanding their motivations and values.

    • Uncovering insights from observations, interviews, and qualitative analysis.

Methodologies Used
  • Observational Analysis

  • Market Analysis

  • Benchmarking

  • Task Analysis

  • User Interviews

  • Need finding & Need Hierarchy

  • Journey Mapping

  • Usability Testing & Analysis

  • Survey

  • Personas/User Identification

  • Affinity Mapping

Process
  • We identified our area of focus as a power tool that allows parents to better provide for their children.

  • We reached out and users to ask about their routines when caring for their children.

  • Once compiling initial statements and observations we identified providing food/cooking for their children was both an intimate action but also a pain point for most users.

  • Initial research included stakeholder mapping/identification, benchmarking competitor products, cost comparisons, and compiling major E-Commerce platform restrictions.

  • To better empathize with our target users, we reached out and observed their process of making food for their children. In a couple of cases we were able to make food ourselves to familiarize ourselves with the process. This led to detailed user observations and interviews, and directly informed our task analyses and journey mapping.

  • The same users were asked about their online shopping habits and how often they interact with the digital space. We observed several users walking through how they would shop on several major E-Commerce platforms. This led to our discovery of several "Mommy Blog" communities where our user base is greatly influenced.

  • We developed a survey to gather quantitative data about the perceptions of home cooking vs. store bought baby food and began to develop personas describing the needs of the two major groups as well as understanding how users shopped online, how they were influenced, and who was making purchasing decisions.

  • Insights were generated through the use of qualitative/quantitative data analysis including affinity mapping.

  • We placed our designed product in various E-Commerce platforms and asked users to go through their process of online shopping to see how we fared against competitors

Insights
  • There is a parent community online (social media/mommy blogs) where parents go for resources on purchasing decisions and cooking tips.

  • A growing mistrust of processed food is causing an increased desire for control over how parents feed their children.

  • Successful e-commerce models capitalize on product differentiation and custom purchasing options.

  • Direct involvement with the ingredients and cooking process creates an emotional bond between parent and feeding baby.

Design Considerations
  • Our insights led to the development of opportunity statements that we used to guide our design recommendations. We created a priority of features for our product.

  • For successful a E-Commerce design the physical design must have a distinguished form over competitors, have a form that easily communicates function, intuitive usage, and the ability to provide custom purchasing options.

  • The product must be easy to store. Users had difficulties with several pieces and parts and hiding competitor products to open up counter space. Should be able to fit in a standard cabinet altogether.

  • Operation of the product should be intuitive and limited in complexity (No dials, multiple input buttons, keypads, screens).

  • The user should be connected directly with the food throughout the entire process (Through sight/use transparent materials).

  • There should be a limited noise output from the product. The usage is usually in a high volume environment, this will add strain on the user experience. Small children are sensitive to loud noise.

  • Must have dishwasher safe components that are easily accessible.

Outcome
  • A more holistic product design required us to develop our own digital platform to meet the needs of our users, find a way to connect to the influential online community and best display our product in the E-Commerce world. Find the Industrial Design side of the project here!

  • With our design recommendations in mind, we designed a baby food maker that proved to gain more clicks across both Walmart and Amazon formatted E-Commerce platforms.

  • We fabricated a physical form and conducted usability testing with multiple components.

  • We compiled our research, product designs, and web design and presented our findings to a board of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

  • What I Learned:

    • The digital space has huge implications on the success of physical products.

    • While we were able to identify ways of designing a product for the digital arena, E-Commerce allows users to directly compare nearly infinite options. This ensures that our methods may help, but have no guarantee.

    • Strong brand names and name recognition carry the highest value in the eyes of most consumers.

    • Layout and flow of E-Commerce platforms heavily influence consumer purchases, understanding how and why people make decisions through a digital space is crucial to successful designs just as much as the physical product,

    • Feelings of belonging in online communities can be just as important as in-person communities.

Detailed Process
Understanding Objectives & Defining Goals

Our initial prompt required us to design a power tool with E-Commerce in mind. We took the opportunity to further define what a power tool is and defined that a power tool is any object that allows a person to complete a task that uses a power source. We researched various potential fields to design in including, construction tools, gardening, kitchen ware, and health/fitness. As a team, we became interested with cookware and appliances and further researched the extent of the field. We researched and found a unique emotional connection between people when making food and providing for others. This opportunity led us to investigate parents providing food for their children.This area revealed not only an intimate emotional connection but also a larger community that is founded online through mommy blogs, cooking trends, and various social media platforms. 

E-Commerce Research Questions:

  • What process do users go through when shopping online?

  • How do users decide on their purchasing options?

  • Which online factors have the greatest influence in a product's success?

  • What products have the most success on E-commerce platforms?

Physical Product Research Questions:

  • Why do people choose to make their own baby food?

  • What is the process of making your own baby food?

  • How can we design a physical product specifically made for E-Commerce?

Understanding the Marketplace and E-Commerce

We began our process by researching existing baby food makers, familiarizing ourselves with what constitutes a baby food maker, and how the world of E-Commerce functions.

Identifying Stakeholders

With the focus on the E-Commerce side of product design, we have introduced a far more complex and wide network of stakeholders. We set out to research and identify all parties that had a hand in an E-Com product. This visualization allowed us to view the interaction between the product itself, the E-commerce realm, target users, manufacturing, and traditional distribution methods.

Market Analysis

We investigated existing baby food makers in the market and created a market position analysis chart to visualize where they stand. Each product was evaluated based on functionality which was defined as the number of functions the product had. A function is either, blending, chopping, steaming, pulsing, etc. We assigned ourselves a budget and weighed the options in a direct comparison to see which one would best suit our needs. 

 

Benchmarking 

Once we received our baby food maker we used it to go through the process of making food. We began formulating questions and discovering the intense amount of time it takes to make a small amount of food through this process. After evaluating the packaging, product usage, and design we disassembled the product to determine manufacturing costs, methods, and necessary components.

E-Commerce Platform Requirements

We researched Amazon and Walmart restrictions to better understand how our product could fit within the two E-Commerce giants.We made sure to make our final product listings adhere to all their imposed requirements and see where we could potentially stand out from competitors. Here are a few restrictions that would directly impact our design:

No Branding On Box

Walmart does not allow branding on the outside of their boxes. Moving forward we designed a package without any external branding to reduce the number of necessary SKUs.

Naming Convention

Amazon recommends an 80 character limit for a products name due to the search algorithm bringing up names less than 80 characters. We kept this in mind when naming and adding headline descriptions.

Limited Product Description

Amazon imposes several restrictions on what information you can include with your product listing. Walmart has less rigid requirements, but the most successful products have a supplementary web page that allows users to learn more about the product.

We found that trusting the source of the food for their child was the biggest factor in their decision. If the parent decided the brand/company/store was a trustworthy source then they would be comfortable using store-bought baby food. On the other hand, parents that do not trust these stores would always make their own baby food. These parents were also all involved with at least one online community that focused on their parenting, cooking, or other aspect of caring for their child. 

Mapping the Needs and Journey

Once we identified the emotional connection between parents and their child when making baby food, we began to investigate the needs it met. Through observations, interviews, and online research we revealed these needs.

Journey Map: Making Baby Food without Baby Food Maker

From our earlier observations we mapped out the process of making baby food to better visualize pain points and to understand the process better. We found that the biggest pain points revolved around the contextual environment rather than the process itself. There were several pain points with the process of making the food, but bigger areas of conflict centered around the child, the dog, or a sibling. How can we create a product that allows the user to focus on what really matters? How can we reduce the necessary input from the parent to create a trustworthy and reliable system that allows them to save time during the process?

Journey Map: Purchasing Online

We developed a journey map through observing the online shopping process and going through it on our own. We found the process to be a heavily reliant on how  the user feels towards the object they are purchasing. If the user was eager to purchase the product, the process would be met with a higher level of satisfaction when comparing products, looking at reviews, and purchasing. If the user did not have positive feelings going into the process, every minor inconvenience would be magnified and the process would be viewed as a very negative event and poor user experience.  In both situations we found that users spend very little time looking at each individual product. Out of hundreds of options they would choose one of the initial few products they clicked on first. We needed to determine what their reasoning was behind their initial clicks. How can we design a product that would encourage a user to click on it first? 

Survey and Initial E-Commerce Testing

After observing several users go through and purchase baby food makers online we developed an interactive survey that tracked user clicks. This survey was a mock-up of an Amazon & Walmart E-Commerce page and asked the user to select three baby food makers they were interested in. Once the users selected their choices we then asked them to explain why they chose those options.

We had 32 users that are parents participate in our survey:

  • First Choice Reasons:

    • 41% (13 users) of their first choice/clicks were due to an interesting form/unique design/distinct thumbnail.

    • 22% (7 users) were due to the reviews/star rating.

    • 22% (7 users) were due to brand name or brand recognition.

    • 15% (5 users) said it was sponsored/amazon's choice/promoted.

  • Second Choice Reasons:​

    • 44% (14 users) were due to the reviews/star rating.

    • 31% (10 users) were due to brand name or brand recognition.

    • 16% (5 users) of their first choice/clicks were due to an interesting form/unique design.

    • 9% (3 users) said it was sponsored/amazon's choice/promoted.

  • Third Choice Reasons:​

    • 41% (13 users) were due to brand name or brand recognition.

    • 28% (9 users) were due to the reviews/star rating.

    • 22% (7 users) of their first choice/clicks were due to an interesting form/unique design.

    • 9% (3 users) said it was sponsored/amazon's choice/promoted.

  • Total Choice Reasons:

    • Brand Name/Brand Recognition: ​31%

    • Reviews/Star Ratings: 31%

    • Interesting Form/Unique Design: 27%

    • Sponsored/Amazon's Choice/Promoted: 11%

We allowed the users to have open ended answer for their decision reasoning. The four categories above became very clear after gathering the research data. Our findings indicate that the design of the product, or at least the physical appearance does influence the user choosing the product. We can develop our design to catch the eye of users, convey function, and differentiate our product from competitors. 

Task Analysis: Making Baby Food vs. Buying Baby Food

There is a vast difference between the task analyses of making your own baby food and buying baby food in- store. It is much more convenient and time effective to purchase pre-made food, so why do people still make their own baby food? We found that being in control, providing for your child, and savings are driving forces behind making your own baby food. These reasons are often enough for users to accept the trade-off of time effectiveness.

Making Baby Food

Buying Baby Food

Cost Analysis

Through our interviews we found claims of savings that we decided to test and research further. We used prices at Krogers in Atlanta, Georgia and online and compared them. We found that the weekly costs are approximately 50% less when you purchase raw ingredients. We then extrapolated that to a yearly costs and included the average price of existing baby food makers found on Amazon. These savings are also approximately 50%. Our interviews led to claims even higher than our research findings. Although there are large savings, purchasing raw ingredients require a time investment to prepare and make baby food. We have an opportunity to reduce this time investment but without automating the entire process and keeping the intimacy of making baby food.

Personas: The Two Options

We created two personas that visualize the two options that parents are facing today when it comes to providing for their children. Although they have chosen different methods, they still have the same priorities.

*Caricatures designed and made by Becca Nicoara

Empathizing with Target Users and Uncovering Motives

Our user group is one that none of our team was a part of, none of us were parents. This became a challenge when trying to conduct research and begin basic ethnographic studies. We found it difficult to join online groups for parenting, ask people for interviews, and trying to gain any observational data. Through family and friends we began branching out into this tight-knit community. 

Learning How to Make Baby Food

We had the opportunity to meet a couple mothers and observe their processes of making baby food for their children. Although each had their specific processes, they were all fundamentally the same. Through this we learned there is a high level of intimacy in the process, careful preparation of food, constant checking of food quality, temperature regulation, and even weighing out portions. This intimacy comes at a cost of time. 

User Interviews

We interviewed six different parents/couples. Four of the six parents made their own baby food and did not buy pre-made baby food from stores.

Some sample questions from the scripts for the parents included:

  • Do you/How often do you make your own baby food?

  • What drove you to begin making your own baby food?

  • What are the benefits of making your own vs. store-bought food?

  • Were your other children fed homemade baby food? Were you fed homemade baby food?

  • What are your favorite ingredients to use? Which brands do you trust?

  • How long does it typically take and how often do you make the food?

We also took this opportunity to ask about their E-Commerce experience and online shopping.

Some sample questions from that script for the parents included:

  • Do you have a preference for online shopping? (Amazon/Walmart?)

  • How often do you shop online?

  • Are you a part of any online communities? For fellow parents? Social media? Hobbies?

  • Who makes the final purchasing decision? (Which spouse)

  • What influences your purchasing decision?

Insights
  • There is a parent community online (social media/mommy blogs) where parents go for resources on purchasing decisions and cooking tips.

  • A growing mistrust of processed food is causing an increased desire for control over how parents feed their children.

  • Successful e-commerce models capitalize on product differentiation and custom purchasing options.

  • Direct involvement with the ingredients and cooking process creates an emotional bond between parent and feeding baby.

Design Concept

Design Criteria and Considerations

Our design criteria originated directly from our above insights. We organized them into Must, Should, and Nice to have to prioritize our criteria. The Should and Nice to Have criteria originated from our user interviews, observations, and surveys.

Value Opportunity Canvas

User Side

Product Side

Design Result

We went through several iterations of form, feature sets, and design and created Nomi. Nomi is a baby food maker that strives to give busy parents the choice of making their child’s food, giving them control over the process and the ingredients that lead to their child’s nutrition. Nomi achieves this by providing parents with the proper tools, connections, and information.  

Find the Industrial Design side of the project here!

Designed for E-Commerce

Visual Selling Strategy

How does E-Commerce drive product design? Through our research we discovered when it comes to E-commerce, first impressions matter the most. Our product design was driven by having a distinguished form for product differentiation, having a clear communicative form-function relationship, and enabling custom purchasing options for a variety of users. By providing a unique form among competing products, we have provided a visual pull for customer’s curiosity. Our colors are bright, but clean and appealing. The title for the product immediately communicates its ease of use and it’s function. Without a well established brand name, we focused on a visual selling strategy.

Distinguished Form

Form Communicates Function

Custom Purchasing Options

Testing with E-Commerce Platforms

Our initial research showed that people made their decisions based off of the physical appearance of the product, brand name/recognition, product reveiws/ratings, and sponsored/promoted items. We created the same survey setup and sent our Amazon and Walmart search mock-ups but with Nomi in the lineup. We asked people who have never seen Nomi to select three products and provide why they made their decision for each of their choices.

Of the 41 user responses we found:

44%  placed Nomi in their top 3 clicks

67% of those chose our design because the product looked interesting

“Looks interesting, would want to know what features it has...”

“...looks easy to use...”

“It's interesting looking so there has to be some reason for it to look the way it does...”

“Orange color caught my eye”

“The colors are pleasing.”

We found earlier that 27% of our users chose based on an interesting form/unique design, this was kept in mind during our design process. We were aware that we would not have brand recognition to help us gain clicks, so we had to focus on how to make the design visually stand out to be considered successful in this test. We decided our product would be the average price point to not skew one way or the other, we would avoid using sponsored/amazon's choice/promoted placement, keep it in the center to avoid first/last placement bias, and give it the average number of stars in rating. We found relative success with the reason why our product was placed in the top three clicks for our users. The unique form along with vibrant colors drew attention and curiosity gathered more clicks than many of the direct competitors.

Building a Larger E-Commerce Presence

Benefits of an Online Platform

The design criteria we identified earlier included a larger vision that extends beyond just a physical product design. We found the heavy reliance on internet communities and values in the purchasing decisions. We believed we could create a website for our product that would hit those higher level design criteria, connect users with their community, inform users with recipes, and encourage sustainability in the product/process.

Website Purpose

We wanted our Nomi website to allow parents to become familiar and comfortable with the brand and products. It effectively provides information as well as connection to local farmers and other mothers to establish trust. We identified valuable information that our users would want to learn about. Many E-Commerce platforms limit information that can be added to listings, we want to provide users with a a place that can answer any and all questions about the product.

Providing Resources

Providing Connections

Enabling Choice

Communicating We Understand

"Bo" Nomi Mascot 

Offers Recipes for learning parents

Simple Stage 1/2/3 Options

Form Icons to Communicate Steps

Help Find Local Ingredients

Connects to Parenting Blogs

Provides Purchasing Options

Price Comparisons

Brief Product Descriptions

Communicate Product Function

Communicate Brand Offerings

Sustainable Option for End Life

Reinforced Quality of Design

Provides $$ Saving Option

for End of Use

Website Design - Screens

Outcome and Next Steps

Looking into how E-Commerce impacts product design allowed us to create a more holistic product design. One that incorporates the user experience in both digital and physical spaces. We were able to investigate user behaviors and motives to identify key points that we could design and potentially gain an advantage over competitors. These areas of the design included bright product colors, unique product form, a form that communicates function clearly, and custom purchasing options. Our product was tested on E-Commerce platforms and proved to draw more clicks than several other competitors.  

With the website layout, design, and features fleshed out, we would like to test the design with users. Trying to understand if our website with ingredient/recipe library, take-back program, and brand information is easily accessible in this format and what else we could do to better the user experience in the digital space. Looking into how often people continue onto secondary websites and how much time is spent on them would be another important aspect to research. 

A big thanks to my project team!

Thank You!

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