A travel e-commerce business wants to redesign their website to increase sales and integrate their store and blog cohesively.See Prototype
Team: Self and client
Role: Strategy | UI and UX Design
Duration: 1 month
Retrofit Travel is an e-commerce business that sells travel gear and essentials (luggage, flip flops, portable door locks, etc.)They are a small business that was established in 2019, and have started marketing themselves through social media and paid advertising channels. They want to increase sales as much as possible through organic means.
Retrofit Travel believes integrated content through a blog is the right approach to getting more website traffic to increase sales. They want to design the website so the blog and store are linked together better.
For this project, I wanted to first see if Retrofit Travel's current strategy made sense. Should the company continue to sell travel gear and essentials? Who were the type of travellers who generally bought online, and who were the type of people who bought from his site?
After extensive research and iterating on a few designs, I determined that a website that focused on blog first and store second resonated with the vast majority of people. People tended to go online, and search for information before they bought a high-quality product; they wanted to do research first.
I created mid-fidelity wireframes of a blog to highlight the type of content in that could be posted on the website, which includes product lists, packing lists, and travel tips to encompass the type of research people did for their trips.
The packing guides usually have a link to a specific item that can be bought through their store or on Amazon. It also links out to product guides that include a pros and cons list for each product. This was consistent with how other online product guides display information, and a way to show trustworthiness and less bias. However, a top pick is still included for those who did not want to go through all the information.
The main blog links out to a store microsite in the top navigation. The store lets you find products by activity (hiking, travelling, or beach) or by destination. Many travellers have mentioned that they tend to research and buy items based off of where they are going, and a way to find the necessary items that are relevant to that destination could prove useful.
Once you’re in a product category page, you can continue to filter by gender, activity, brand, price, rating and more.
Full Design Process
Starting from the beginning, I wanted to understand the type of travel blogs and e-commerce companies that exist right now, who they serve, and what they do differently in comparison to each other. I also wanted to learn about companies that successfully integrated a blog and store.
Aside from big stores like Amazon, who cater to those who value convenience and price, many of the other competitors were geared towards travel and had a strong brand, valued community, customer service, and generally provided high-quality and well-designed products. These stores also had a blog, that was secondary and focused on thought-leadership and community.
There was an opportunity to mirror these travel stores, and use high-quality content to target the market that valued high-quality travel gear, but I wanted to first see what different people think.
My research goals were to learn everything about the type of people who are buying travel gear/essentials. I started with a survey to get quantitative data on the type of travellers who buy online, the type of trips they buy for, and the type of products they buy online. Is there anything specific that people tend to buy online? Do people who travel for different purposes buy differently?
From my survey of 40 participants, I determined that there wasn’t anything special about the type of traveller who buys online. 90% of participants travelled at least 1-2x a year for pleasure, and 60% of participants travelled for at least 1-2 weeks per trip.
Most people went on various types of trips, but 80+% of participants travelled to new countries to experience different cultures, and these types of people didn’t have different purchasing habits from those who did.
In general - most people bought clothes, electronics, and travel accessories online from Amazon or big brands, regardless of the types of trips they did, which meant that I would need to talk in-person to more people to get more insights.
From there, I went and chatted with a wide-range of people at train stations, hostels, and within my own network to learn about the people who buy things for their trips online, why they buy online, and how they do research. I had conversations with 20+ people and was able to gather insight from 8 people.
Persona & Empathy Map
Using this information, I wanted to build a persona of the best audience to focus on.
The persona, Jenny, The Frequent Traveller, was created so I could understand the behaviour, needs, wants, and pain-points of the ideal target market for Retrofit Travel.
Jenny typically goes on 2 trips a year, with at least 1 being 2-3 weeks in length. However, she has done longer trips abroad in the past, and likes travelling to a wide variety of places. She is adventurous, likes hiking, and needs specialty items for her trips. She does a lot of research into what she’s buying if it’s an important piece of clothing or equipment, and doesn’t hesitate to shop around.
While Jenny knows what to research to find the best products online, they hesitate when buying online only because of unknown shipping and returning processes.
There is opportunity to design around Jenny - and focus on the content and research side of travelling. There is opportunity for Retrofit Travel to have a blog first website that is integrated with a store, with compelling content to keep people on the site.
I first started visualizing the website as a joint blog / store, where both elements were laid out on the front page. I also sketched out elements of other pages including the product page, and the product category page.
After sketching some of the main pages, I brainstormed different versions of a blog category filter, blog tiles, and navigation for mobile.
I created mid-fidelity wireframes to showcase the homepage, which featured both the blog and store along with additional blog, blog post, and product pages.
I quickly realized that having both the blog and store on the homepage could be confusing. Many people who were previously interviewed mentioned that they did research first before they bought, so there was an opportunity to create the main site as a blog and have a secondary microsite with the store. This was also different from many e-commerce stores that focused on their store first.
Testing & Iteration
I tested the flow of the website to see if a user can successfully purchase a specific product from the information on the blog pages. At first, I wanted to see if there were any usability problems going from the blog to the store, and areas of confusion that might prevent a user from buying an item.
The flow started on a specific blog page (What to Pack for a Day Hike in Iceland) and users were able to click around to ultimately purchase an Osprey Talon 22L Day Pack.
After conducting my first usability test, it was evident that it the website was easy enough for users to jump straight from the blog to buying the product. Instead, I asked users if the blog post content was enough for them to consider buying a bag, and what would they do to buy one.
Content and Information
The biggest feedback I got was that that most people did not like an item card in a blog post about packing guides. At best, participants would ignore it, but at worst, participants said it would decrease their trust in the website. The item card was removed, and a text link would be embedded in the blog post copy instead.
This feedback was consistent with ⅗ participants’ comments that they would shop around on other sites to find a cheaper price for the product, or additional content to support the blog/reviews. ⅘ participants mentioned that they would also browse around the blog first before deciding to buy a product.
⅘ participants had no issues with the checkout process.
However, 1 participant would have liked to compare different products by their specs. This was consistent with ⅖ participants who also really liked the product guides with a pro/con list. A comparison feature was added in to show more trustworthiness and allow people to see the differences between products.
Reflection & Challenges
Redesigning Retrofit Travel’s website was challenging from a research perspective. There were a lot of unknowns and questions coming into the project, that neither I nor my client had answers to.
"Who are we designing for? Who is the main audience and who buys travel items online? What kind of research do travellers do online? What products should Retrofit Travel sell?" were just some of the questions I had before I could even think about how to redesign Retrofit Travel.
Only after conducting surveys, intercepting people in different places (and failing), and speaking to a lot of travellers was I able to gather enough data to push forward a solution.
On the design side, it was challenging to learn how to balance both a blog and a store on a website. Most businesses focus on the store and hide the blog, but given that many people do research first, it makes sense for Retrofit Travel to focus on the content and blog first.
After showing my research to my client, he took the time to think about the next steps but ultimately decided to discontinue Retrofit Travel due to some challenges associated with focusing on content, or with partnering with big travel product brands.