This is the Secret to Finding the Most Important Things to Work on

This is part 3 of the series Retirement Isn’t All Sunshine and Palm Trees. If you missed part 1 or part 2, check them out. If you don’t feel like reading them here’s a summary so far: My Motley Fool colleague, Michele, and I looked into why we were seeing high interest and low retention on our paid Social Security offering. We took the opportunity to study the retirement planning and transition as a whole and where Social Security fit within it.

Retirement Journey

We found that the retirement journey is a long one, filled with uncertainty, mixed feelings, and big decisions. There were clearly many potential opportunities where The Motley Fool could help. The real challenge was determining which ones to pursue.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

Catch a Stakeholder by the Toe

The potential opportunities we identified in the research fell in or across multiple (silos) departments of our organization. To gain traction, we met with key decision makers from marketing, investing, product, wealth management, and business intelligence. We talked them through the journey, sharing the stress, uncertainty, excitement, and challenges people described. We highlighted the opportunities we identified, and the stakeholders identified additional ones that we didn’t include.

If he hollers, let him go

Next, we asked the stakeholders to write out ideas (more post-its!) of how we might pursue the opportunities. Some new ideas surfaced, and many of the stakeholders shared concepts they’d thought of years ago but hadn’t had a chance to test. The majority of the stakeholder ideas were centered around educational content (the Fool’s bread and butter). The group decided to start by testing some of those concepts in our retirement newsletter product, Rule Your Retirement (RYR).

Going Lean (UX)

I love experimenting with new frameworks, and this seemed like a great chance to try the Lean UX methodology described in Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden’s book, Lean UX. I liked that it would force us to tease out our assumptions about the project and start on the same page. It would also help us prioritize experiments and flesh out our research findings.

Don’t Make an Ass\U+Me

We conducted an exercise to identify assumptions we had about our users, product, and how RYR fits within our business. It was interesting to see how each person thought about RYR and how it could best be improved. Some thought it should be organized as a reference library. Others thought it should go beyond written content and provide more interactive tools. Yet others believed it shouldn’t be a stand-alone product and would better serve as an integrated information source within other products. The beauty of Lean UX was all of this was on the table and we could define hypotheses to put these assumptions to the test.

I worked with another Product Manager, Julia, to translate the assumptions to hypothesis statements with metrics we wanted to move. We brought the group back together to prioritize the hypotheses, charting them along axes of risk of being wrong and how knowledgeable and confident we were in our assumptions.

Risk and Confidence chart

The following surfaced as the riskiest hypothesis we knew the least about: “We believe our users’ needs can be solved with a product that teaches our customers the ins and outs of managing financial decisions for life events, helps our customers analyze their own situations, and provides example plans for our customers to follow. We will know we’re right when we see users engaging with content related to top questions/needs and completing the suggested activities/tasks.” This was quite meaty, so Julia and I broke it into testable sub-hypotheses before kicking off a group ideation session.

Ideas Are Like Rabbits

We challenged the team to come up with ways to test our first sub-hypothesis:

“We believe that building structured, step-by-step plans with completion feedback for someone approaching retirement will result in more people seeing and adopting our advice.”

Awesome pile of ideas

We were all drawn to a conversational approach. The majority of ideas started with questions for the user to determine retirement status, goals, and what they were looking to accomplish through our service. Our designs used the responses to tailor the displayed content and provided next steps to keep the user engaged.

What Once Was Old Is New Again

It became clear that the conversational approach was a natural enhancement to the paid Social Security offering, the original impetus for our research effort (detailed in Part 1). RYR was sold in a bundle with the Social Security report, and we were seeing higher than average refunds on those bundled orders. The report included a (confusing) decision tree and (very) long page of detailed information. Only parts of the offering applied to each person. Additionally, it was the first thing people encountered when purchasing RYR, there was no clear transition into the RYR product, and we were seeing that many people never made it to RYR after purchase. We decided to run a test that applied our conversational approach to the information in the Social Security report, looking to increase information comprehension, bump up the number of people that made it to the RYR product, and ultimately hoping to drive down new membership refunds.


In Part 4, I’ll provide details about how we structured the test and the surprising results!