Olapic Generative Research Strategy & Process

My ROLE: UX RESEARCHER & STRATEGIST, UX/UI DESIGN SUPPORT

Project overview

Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews, personas, customer journey mapping, brainstorming
Skills: Interviewing, synthesizing, facilitating, design critique
Deliverables: Customer journey map, personas, salesforce reports, research summaries
Tools: Post-its, Zoom, Google Suite, Adobe Suite, Sketch, Salesforce, Mosaiq (Wordpress)


Opportunity

Olapic is a complex B2B platform that aggregates user-generated, influencer-generated and brand-generated content (photos, videos) into one repository. By engaging and working with under-generated content, brand visual content costs decrease and efficiency of optimizing visual content for every, unique e-commerce touch point increases.

Having never conducted user research, Olapic was in the perfect place to create a research process that allowed the company to understand and empathize with users. There was little clarity on who the day-to-day users were, what their lives were like, any goals or pain points they had and how they actually used the Olapic platform.

Our objectives included a better understanding of how users used the platform, uncover gaps in our product, discover potential new opportunities and validate/disprove any assumptions and hypotheses held by different members of the company. These assumptions, biases and hypotheses were uncovered during initial brainstorming sessions.


Strategy

For this opportunity, I decided to begin the process of generative research, creating a holistic approach that enables finding gaps and opportunities within a product, helping generate new ideas and facilitating collaboration within solving client’s pain points.

For the first portion of this product, we decided to focus on our common day-to-day users: social media managers, brand managers, marketing managers since they had the most apparent feedback and are a huge source of revenue.

Through this project, we also found that there was little awareness around the end-to-end customer journey, from discovery of a need to renewal. We analyzed this journey from the back-of-house (what Olapic does) and front-of-house (what the customer is doing). This became a “secondary” deliverable.


My Process

1. Brainstorming workshop around proto-personas
Who was involved: me, account managers, support and sales
- My first step was to pull in internal stakeholders who had a large amount of knowledge around our client’s needs, tasks, personality traits and pain points
- I took the information, creating a proto-persona that gave us a jumping-off point as to what we might expect when interviewing these users
- Each person had 10 minutes to brainstorm ideas for each section and we then put the post-its on the wall. After a quick walk-through, we clustered similar ideas in each area and discussed the different ideas. Ultimately, we chose the top seven.

2. Interviews with clients
Who was involved: me, account managers, designers, product managers, developers

- Once we defined our target segment and proto-personas, I began the process of reaching out to clients. Fortunately, since our Olapic is a B2B Saas platform, our account managers were able to connect me with users through email and I scheduled both in-person and remote sessions
       - We specifically targeted social media managers in the ecommerce space who were logging into the platform daily
       - I conducted twenty interviews, covering both our US and European market

- Before starting the interviews, I had several meetings with stakeholders to form a collaborative research plan in Google Docs for this initiative to ensure everyone was on the same page and had the opportunity to get certain questions answered

- Each session was 60-90 minutes, depending on the client’s schedule, in which they shared their screen while talking about the usage and pain points. Designers, product managers and developers were required to view at least five generative research sessions a month. All sessions were recorded, with permission, notes were taken by colleagues and audio files transcribed

- Since this was generative research, all of the interviews were very open-ended and more of a conversation. I started with understanding roles and a typical day in the life, how they learned about Olapic (sales process) and then asked them to walk me through how they typically used the platform

3. Synthesis
Who was involved: me, account managers, designers, product managers, developers

- Workshops around validating personas
       - After holding all of those sessions, there was a lot of information to sift through. I held several synthesis sessions with different teams in which we put together affinity diagrams, bucketing similar ideas into major themes and, eventually, creating an (ever changing) persona

- Workshops around customer journeys (designers, product managers, developers, account managers, marketing, sales, support)
       - Through this process, we met with each team separately to discuss the end-to-end journey they thought a customer did and what their particular department did during each stage

- With these insights, I created detailed research summaries that highlighted patterns and trends I had found across the research
      - One challenge I faced was making these research summaries relevant to each team. Ultimately, I ended up pulling insights specifically for each team that were especially relevant to that area of the product. I continuously send these summaries to teams on a monthly basis

4. Ideation
Who was involved: me, account managers, designers, product managers, developers

- A very cool action that came out of this research was the thought of ideation through design studios.
    - I included different teams from the company in these design studios, where I posed a user story/problem statement and gave colleagues they chance to sketch and storyboard different ideas

- One of my favorite moments was when I facilitated a “low-hanging fruit” hackathon with the different product/development teams, where they tackled a long list of easy problems to fix


Deliverables

Who was involved: me, designers, product managers

Deliverables included: 
- Mosaiq (centralized research repository)
- Personas
- Customer journey map
- Salesforce reports


SOCIALIZATION

- Socialization and evangelizing of the user is a huge aspect of research. Through the different brainstorming workshops and design studios, I was able to help familiarize the company with the different personas and themes that came up in research
       - I presented the personas and customer journey map to each individual team, iterating based on any feedback
       - After each team, I presented the personas and customer journey map at our global all hands meeting, directing people to the dropbox folder and also Mosaiq, which holds all of the files
       - After presenting the files, I hung physical copies of the personas and customer journey map all across the office, kitchen area and conference rooms. I put a hanging pen next to each so colleagues felt comfortable giving feedback


Next Steps

We were able to move on to other personas that align with sales and marketing efforts. We have gone from zero to nine personas (with two more proto-personas) and two more customer journey maps in one year.


Postscript

Joys
- Listening to colleagues refer to users as different personas and watching research become a common language across the company
- Watching people from outside of product participate in brainstorming sessions with post-its and discussion
- Collaborating with every department in the company
- Seeing creativity flow during design studios (especially with developers)

Challenges
- Working with a remote development team, especially with design studios and synthesis workshops
       - We invested in cameras to show people’s sketches and became very familiar with all of Zoom video conferencing capabilities
- Getting people to buy into the brainstorming workshops before attending
       - Once people started seeing post-its hanging around, they got curious and wanted to participate
- Making the research accessible and applicable to many different roles
- By creating customized and relevant summaries/presentations for the different teams, I was able to engage colleagues more effectively
- Ensuring necessary follow-up with clients
        - After each synthesis session I would have a 20-minute debrief sessions with the relevant product manager and account manager to highlight any action items and next steps

Lessons
- Always be prepared for workshops/brainstorming sessions with food (for remote attendees too)
- Establish an agenda beforehand as more people are willing to come if they know what they are getting into
- Timeboxing always for a better flow and ensures you get to everything you need
- Have a parking lot for extra and less relevant ideas

Nikki AndersonComment