VTEX Subscriptions App

Subscriptions App

Designing a strategic customer retention tool focused on actionable data for vendors

mockup-subscriptions-cover-copy-1

2019 . PRODUCT DESIGNER @ VTEX

About the company

VTEX is one of the world's largest eCommerce platforms and the largest in Latin America, with over 3000 clients in 45 countries worldwide.

VTEX is the first and only global, fully integrated, end-to-end commerce solution with native marketplace and OMS capabilities. They help companies in retail, manufacturing, wholesale, groceries, consumer packaged goods and other verticals to sell more, operate more efficiently, scale seamlessly and deliver remarkable customer experience.

The Challenge

When we talk about one of the most efficient digital commerce strategies, we are talking about consumer retention, and subscriptions is the main opportunity for that. So globally businesses began demanding and reaching for strong and flexible solutions on the market.

In 2019, VTEX already had a running Subscriptions application, but it was leaving clients frustrated and their management limited by it. The current system was demanding more workarounds than serving as a facilitator. There wasn't a way to easily visualize orders and customers, handle fulfilment (mainly regarding eventual errors), adapt to different market niches and to omnichannel possibilities.

In simple terms, our new version had to deliver a smooth and accurate process to manage subscription orders, plan out inventory and give visibility of customer retention, minding different subscription models needs.

My role

I was the sole designer on a team of two developers and one customer care expert. I was responsible for research, prototyping and testing, as well as some team backlog prioritizations, vision and roadmap.

What were our client's needs?

It all started with our main stakeholder, a tier one animal supply store (NDA protected). They have been using VTEX Subscriptions and therefore have been facing some serious issues.

On the down side...

65%

Of all subscription orders were being successfully fulfilled. This was mostly due to inventory shortage and error treatment.

The lack of visibility 

Demanded specialised and time consuming extra work through a number of complex spreadsheets and development.

On the bright side...

20%

Was the yearly income due to subscriptions orders

35%

Was the Customer Retention Rate growth of the current version.

They were deeply involved in the changes they had to do to improve those numbers and were convinced that VTEX Subscriptions would make their problems go away and their sales margins go up. Basically, they had one goal:

"We want to fulfil subscriptions orders easily, be able to plan our inventory accordantly and know who are our valuable customers, while spending less money doing it."

— CTO

How was this project most impactful for VTEX?

The current version of the VTEX Subscriptions app was focused on one of the three existing business models: Replenishment, or recurrent purchases, the same as our main stakeholder. A quick brief on them:

Access

Club/Membership

Subscribers pay a frequent fee to obtain lower prices or members-only perks, primarily in the entertainment, apparel and education categories.

Curation

Subscription Boxes

Subscriptions provide new items or personalised products as a bundle in a box. Categories can vary from apparel, to beauty and food.

Replenishment

Recurrent Purchases

Subscriptions allow consumers to automate purchases of commodity items, such as pet food, medicine, and other consumer goods.

Marcas-modelo-access
Marcas-modelo-curation
Marcas-modelo-replenishment-1

So on another perspective of this project, collaborating with the VTEX Sales team, we had to make sure to improve the product towards a direction of the company's growth and omnichannel strategy.

For that, we made a thorough research on the subscription market to discover that, although the Curation Model is the most prone to a higher revenue on single orders, the Replenish Model has particularly high long-term rates, higher than Curation or Access, enabling a much stronger growth on profits.

Building an optimised subscription management tool, with explanatory and actionable data, focused on customer retention and replenishment was a great way to align with VTEX's, clients' and other stakeholders' goals. After all, relationships have always been the center of good businesses.

What's new that we can bring to the market?

We analysed the 26 main global players and discovered that control is key. Our competitors offer flexibility through integrations with third parties as their differential. But they are costly and difficult to set up, creating more agency costs and still not working as expected.

VTEX offers the widest range of built-in solutions, all in one place with no extra costs, constant improvement and 24/7 support. In order to use this advantage, we had to make sure all internal systems would be plug-and-play to the subscriptions' environment.

Tabela-bench

Who are our focus users and what are their pains?

In order to understand how they were dealing with struggles, we went to visit operation headquarters to see first hand their employees in action. After all, they are the ones handling tasks on a daily basis.

During the interviews we found out 4 main user archetypes. Although they have very different goals, they all depended first on Daily Operators' outcomes to perform their own tasks. These are the employees that handle subscription orders, including dealing and fixing errors, they give support to customer care and still organize subscription data to give visibility for higher management to make better decisions. They are the true heroes here.

DAILY OPERATORS

OPPORTUNITY SEEKERS 

PROBLEM SHOOTERS

DECISION MAKERS

Maintain the subscription environment and handle data

Handle potential and current subscribers needs actively

Attend to current subscribers problems passively

Search for holistic data to take business decisions

Who are our focus users and what are their pains?

In order to understand how they were dealing with struggles, we went to visit operation headquarters to see first hand their employees in action. After all, they are the ones handling tasks on a daily basis.

During the interviews we found out 4 main user archetypes. Although they have very different goals, they all depended first on Daily Operators' outcomes to perform their own tasks. These are the employees that handle subscription orders, including dealing and fixing errors, they give support to customer care and still organize subscription data to give visibility for higher management to make better decisions. They are the true heroes here.

1. Overload

The lack of a cost-efficient process

The subscription system delivered the data in a very raw state, through unworked spreadsheets. Making sense of things demanded so much effort and technical skills in order for them to manage the business.

2. Unpredictability

The lack of transparency and fallback tools

The system wasn't giving enough information on orders' status and customers. It precluded them from preventing errors, such as inventory shortage, maintaining stronger relationships with buyers and from having a clear view on the subscription business success.

3. Complexity

The lack of connection across VTEX's platform

VTEX is composed of interdependent services. For setting up and maintaining VTEX Subscriptions, one has to navigate through a web of internal products. It's hard and time consuming both for our user and for VTEX Support team who is constantly on support meetings.

What are our pillars of value?​​​​​​​

1. Cost-effectiveness

Automated reports: For good business decisions to be made, we need clear and fast information. The product will no longer require the use of spreadsheet to that end. We will offer custom and automated reports for assertive actions.

Order completion control: The greatest perk of a subscription business, apart from customer retention, is the much higher control over operation. Once a customer subscribes to a plan, vendors can already know their incoming revenue and plan their inventory accordantly. It guarantees a happy ending for both ends.

2. Transparency

Revenue share analytics: The other face of management control is to keep track of what's happening live. When it all goes well, operator can just keep track and learn from well taken actions. But when it goes wrong, time is key.

Customers visibility: We have data not only from subscriptions orders, but from all orders, clients, pricing, inventory, catalog, among others. So we will collect it and give accurate relevant information for an efficient management.

3. Easy management

Setup: VTEX's architecture shouldn't impact negatively on user tasks. The subscription system uses several other services from the company, including the order management system, pricing, catalog, promotions, checkout, among others, but instead of navigating among them towards a distant goal, they will be guided with smooth flows and small bits of contents brought from external services to the task context.

Reliability: The system also needs to build trust. Fine tuning the backend will prevent common errors and increase the order completion rate, annulling avoidable error treating tasks and leaving users more time to handle bigger issues. 

How can the design take our product to the next level?

Following our pillars, I designed each stage focusing on the task to be done. It's important to point out that VTEX Subscriptions is a multi-device app that is available for mobile, tablet or desktop use. Let's get started.

An Onboarding

New components bring pills of content from other parts of VTEX to one unified and safer Subscriptions environment.

It includes not only updating 12-year-old legacy products to a fresh and consistent UI built with our Design System, but also, it ends the need for clients to navigate throught several parts of the platform, often requiring guidance from VTEX support team.

Subscriptions Dashboard

Explanatory and actionable data to keep track of the Subscriptions business' health and measuring its success, both for clients and for our team. It's critical for the C-level to make better decisions with customisable analytics for them to always keep an eye on their key performance indicators.

Also, the new detailed visibility over fulfilment enables a tool for error treatment and customer relation for the clients' customer care team to act upon incomplete orders.

The cherry on top here is also the custom reports. Besides the new native information from VTEX pannel, clients now have flexibility and control over reports, making the files assertive and lighter for VTEX's processing.

Subscribers Dashboard

Customer Retention also means increasing ROI, so keeping track of these efforts is utmost critical. An analytics section with CR metrics and behaviour will serve as a glove for operators and managers goals. For that, we started with general metrics while collecting the data to start a roadmap for constant improvements.

Settings

The comfort the onboarding provided lives at this safe space. When managing subscriptions, especially during crisis moments, we don't want to be distracted by anything else, just to quickly access all needed settings.

How are tests performing?

Since it was a very high paced high impact project, I had to make sure it was understandable and that we had the closest and easiest product from the get go. Fail fast and succeed even faster, right?

Our stakeholders were very understanding and supportive for that matter and allowed us to visit the stores as much as we wanted and to have them as first clients for every release, and so we did.

161% increase on recurrent order completion

161% increase on recurrent order completion

15% increase of orders on key client

15% increase of subscriptions orders on key client

Goal was 75%

It means errors were quickly identified and properly fixed, so subscription cycles were completed more often. We weren't expecting such a great success.

Goal was 8%

It meant our customers were able to make better decisions in order to sell more subscriptions orders and prevent them from losing cycles.

Also, one Daily Operator gave a feedback that meant the world to us:

"I stopped spending so much time putting together spreadsheets that it opened up the opportunity here (in the company she works for) to have a more strategic position that I’ve always wanted."

— Daily Operator

Are there any features that had to be left out to a future version?

Oh, yes. We saw a lot of opportunities for this product to grow and mature, but we always need to prioritise. Just so you guys can have a taste of all the ideas we had at the time, here is a top 2 short list of future I left for the future generations.

1. Inventory shortage prediction:
We planned for a feature to not only give inventory alerts based on upcoming subscriptions cycles, but also to predict on new upcoming subscriptions inventory needs, by analysing customer behaviour and machine learning models.

2. Customer score
Knowing which are the most valuable customers is a golden opportunity to increase retention and revenue. Also, knowing what to do with other clients to engage them further.

What were the key learnings?

This was a super challenging project from the start, but none of this would've been possible without the support of influential people, mainly of our customer care expert's close collaboration, internal and external stakeholders, and C-level close eyes of our CTO and CEO.

Secondly, I learned to not count on something that is out of my reach. Some features had a lot of dependencies from other teams, so I had to bargain and have several meetings to arrange an agreement on how to make things work at a decent pace, so everyone would respect each other's backlogs and limitations.

Thirdly, I learned the hard way not to publicize our product ahead of time. Not that the project has a secret or anything, but talking about it created a lot of expectations and at some point created some anxiety.

Last but not least, you can't bite off more than you can chew. I was the only designer, and in addition, I felt also responsible for some coordination and backlog action. There were times when I felt very alone, and an extra pair of hands would have made my job and delivery 10x smoother and with way less stress. Sometimes you just have to accept that you are not superhuman.

hi@avillaca.com

© 2020 Aline Villaça.