[Case Study] Zwende: Customizing Indian Artisan Gifts for Loved Ones
TLDR: Highlight of UX Research with Zwende
Some UX projects come with detailed briefs and goals while others do not. Zwende, despite having a wonderful website and unique features, belonged to the latter. When Zwende, an e-commerce platform that provides users with tools to customize handmade Indian artisan products, reached out to me to help them conduct user research and compile user personas, there was effectively no brief on what problems they really wanted to solve. As such, prior to starting the UX research process officially, I conducted a site review and came up with a detailed research proposal, where I proposed an overarching goal of capturing users’ emotional and practical needs surrounding customization and artisan objects in the context of gifting.
Additionally, Zwende had initially asked me to simply compile user personas. However, after analyzing and organizing the research data it became clear to me that persona wasn’t enough: gifting is a process with distinct steps scattered throughout time. As a result, instead of stopping at user persona, I built a 5-steps user journey map with happy points, sad points, user quotes, and opportunities for improvement. The result of this user research was a detailed user journey map aimed at making every step of the gifting process and design an enjoyable, rewarding, and effective gifting experience.
Before I dive into each step of the research process with a bit more detail, here’s what the four-steps user research process looked like: identify participants → conduct user interview → generate user persona → create user journey map with actionable insights.
I. Identify Participants
Zwende is located in India and targets Indian users. Naturally, the co-founder, Innu believed that to understand her users, I should conduct research with educated Indian women, 27–45 years of age, who lives in Tier 1 cities in India. However, the target segments she identified were largely marketing-driven, dividing customers based on the type of purchasing decisions they make. While I agree that contextualizing research to focus on specific cultures, demographics, and field sites is important, it was apparent to me that geographical specification wasn’t essential in our case—gifting is quite a universal experience and for feature and service creation, market research data is limited. As there are similar services worldwide, including Etsy and Taiwan’s very own Pinkoi, I suggested the following participant characteristics:
- 25–50 years old women
- Purchased a gift for a loved one in the last year
- Have experiences with customizing gifts, whether completely hand-made or used a service
- Uses web or mobile apps to purchase and customize gifts or cultural products
2. User Interviews
To conduct user interviews with both English and Chinese speaker, I compiled a bilingual interview guide and recruited and interviewed 5 Asian women between the age of 26 and 31.
Here are some of the key themes that emerged from the interviews:
Common experience and needs:
- Wants to express love and care through tangible gifts
- Believes shared context and memories are key to picking the most meaningful gifts
- Finds it difficult to discover gifts and generate gift ideas
- Wants the receivers to feel like they’re known and heard
- Believes that the packaging of a gift is just as important as the gift itself
- Finds products and gifts with a well-communicated story behind them more compelling and unique
Differing experience and needs:
- Some rely on social media for inspirations while others rely on physical stores and curated gift shops to help them find inspirations
- Some find customization helpful in achieving personalization while others find customization slightly tacky
- Some prefer experience-based gifts while others prefer tangible objects
- Some are better at and more comfortable with verbalizing the thoughts that went into picking a gift than others
3. User Persona
By the time I started organizing research insights into affinity maps I realized there was really only one prominent persona. Anything beyond one persona would be splitting hairs and would defy the purpose of building user personas. As such, while Zwende originally only asked for user personas, I extended the project to include more actionable user journey maps, which Innu happily accepted 😇 Here’s the user persona, which was used as the foundation for the later user journey map:
4. User Journey Map
Building on top of the user persona, I identified 5 steps “Inspiration Ivy” goes through in the gifting process: Daily browsing → Searching for gifts → Purchasing → Packaging & Delivering → Additional services & follow up. At each step of the process, I highlighted Inspiration Ivy’s emotional state, problems, actions as well as relevant quotes and opportunities:
Here are some actionable insights and opportunities for improvements for the website as well as their overall service and marketing/sales funnel:
- Reorganize the website so that the service and products are story-driven
- Streamline social media and other media outlets to communicate the same holistic story surrounding Indian artisanship
- Curate targeted and story-driven newsletter to inspire potential customers before they’re in need of gifts
- When customers visit the website, allow them to choose between “For myself” and “For loved ones” and ask them some questions that provide direction (e.g. style, shared memories, personality)
- Zwende offers its users an amazing 360-degree preview of their products before purchase already. It could be good to provide more “context-based” (e.g. a wallet in someone’s hand, a table lamp in the living room) preview photos.
- There are “description” tabs for every product but they often don’t include much. These tabs should be utilized better to tell the brand or the maker’s story! Story-telling is the best selling strategy!
Packaging & Delivering
- Provide customizable packaging options, including cards that are hand-written.
- Ask customers if they will be delivering the gift directly to the recipient. If not, include packaging material and directions to help customers package the gift themselves.
Additional Service & Follow Up
- Allow customers to include things like photos or even prompt them to make a video describing why they chose this gift specifically.
- Since gift-givers often feel embarrassed to brag about the effort that went into picking a gift, Zwende could brag for them on their behalf with a card, video, or some other creative means.
Takeaway: Stay Flexible & Know Your Expert
While Innu initially provided me with very little information I could work with immediately, working with Zwende was a breeze because Innu truly respected my UX expertise. As we are armed with different expertise and come from different backgrounds, we initially approached Zwende from very in different angles. Thanks to Innu’s openness to different approaches and willingness to trust my expertise, Zwende gave me an opportunity to communicate clearly what the UX process looks like and how flexible the UX process can be to generate useful and applicable insights depending on the context.
Whether it was separating market segments from user persona or deciding to take the approach of user journey map instead of user persona, I had the opportunity to explain, defend, and demonstrate a variety of UX methods that would truly benefit Zwende.
At the end of the day, UX methods do not exist in a vacuum. It isn’t about what UX methods and deliverables can be used or produced but what should be used to generate actionable insights that will benefit and help both the users and the company.