Best Stocks to Buy
A case study in finding new revenue opportunities through design
By taking a pull approach instead of the classic push model, we were able to create a website that met users when they were ready to discover new stock ideas.
The Motley Fool
2 UX Researchers
1 Product Designer / Front-end Coder (me)
4 Back-end Coders
Representatives from product, marketing, editorial and investing.
Product Design: Axure, Illustrator, Photoshop
Front-End Coding: HTML, SCSS/CSS, Django/Python, Bootstrap
Product Management: Agile, Google Docs, Trello, Slack
The Motley Fool premium membership had moved completely online but was stuck in the structure of a print newsletter business. The world of printing and mailing forces a model where communication is sparse and on the publisher’s limited terms, in this case, one issue with two new stock ideas delivered each month.
The constraints of the print business were likely no longer relevant but were still in practice. The result was the member was responsible to maintain a list of stocks they were interested in, and the member had to hope these were still good picks at the point in time later when they were ready to invest.
The problem is that doesn’t match the cadence of how people invest.
I collaborated on the project strategy, designing a solution that matched the Jobs to be Done feedback with what was feasible within the constraints of the platform. I built out the wireframes, comps, prototypes, tested via Google Optimize and helped develop the production-ready code that is live today. I also prioritized the stories and led the team of designers, front-end developers and back-end developers through the Agile Scrum development process all the while collaborating with the key stakeholders from Product, Investing, Editorial and Marketing.
User Research: How Members Invest
UX Research conducted through interviews and surveys showed members did not invest in two new stock ideas each month. That cadence was not optimized for members but rather a legacy constraint of the print newsletter.
Also noted through the research was that member’s seldom bought a stock the first time it was exposed to them. A rare member would buy immediately or do diligence on the spot and then buy in the same session, but more likely the member would note the new idea and monitor it for some time before actually making the purchase.
What became clear is that a member was more likely to purchase ten familiar stocks at once every three months or so than to follow the Fool’s current expectation that they purchase two completely new stocks each month. To make things more complex, that point in time when the member did invest was completely arbitrary, occuring on their individual timetable and seldom influenced by the newsletter publication schedule.
User Experience Design: A Stocks at the Ready Service
The research made it clear the business was misaligned with the member. Illuminating these challenges led to a new product strategy to help the member find the best stocks picks ideas whenever they wanted investing advice.
In each of the five front-door newsletter services there was an article that shared a list of the Best Buy stocks for that month(typically 3, 5 or 10). While the advice was valuable, the packaging in an article was easily overlooked and quickly buried down the article feed never to be seen.
We were able to collaborate with Investing and Editorial to built out a new workflow for entering this list into a model where it could be fed into an API that would be pulled into the product templates. This meant we now had a source we could leverage of what the Investing advisors through were the Best Stocks to Buy. This was the missing link in being able to produce a solution that met members on their terms, giving them our best investing ideas when they were ready to discover them.
This always-on list could be the backbone of a new service (at a higher price point) that provided access to all five front-door services and acted as the curation of those stocks ideas in a new UI approach.
User Interface Design: Best Stocks to Buy
The Best Stocks to Buy list was slated to be the centerpiece of the new product concept, so it was integral that a new user interface be crafted to show all these current ideas in a clear discernible order.
Rounds of user testing taught us that members wanted to know the stocks price and change as table-stakes when learning about a new stock. We knew too the stock name and ticker were must-haves. The logo was added when it was noted it’s value in quick scanning for familiar companies.
What was unsurprising in retrospect was when presented with 20 or so stock ideas users wanted help knowing what was the best of the best. They requested a means of filtering or sorting, some sort of rank order for the stocks. We collaborated with the Investing team to be able to repurpose their proprietary system for weighing the conviction in the stocks potential to help members understand the order we recommend these Best Stocks.
Since we had learned from user research that member’s seldom bought a stock the first time it was introduced to them, but rather followed the stock for a while and bought it on a future opportunity, we proposed a solution. Leveraging a user’s active Watchlist, if one of the stocks was both a Best Buy and on their Watchlist, it got highlighted and added to a filtered list that met those two criteria. This made for the strongest Buy case possible: the member likes this stock and the Fool like this stock to buy today.
The resulting workflow was that whenever a member came was ready to think about buying a stock, this new service would show that the Fool had a list of stocks to buy at the ready and potentially a super-set of that list that the member already said they were considering purchasing that Fool advisors were saying now was a great time to buy.
Not everything went according to plan.
- Getting to a good feed of the Best Stocks to Buy across multiple services was more complex than expected. Getting a good feed that could pull in the base stock information plus active price data plus advisor conviction and rank order plus highlighting which were new additions plus which were on a member scorecards was a bit like herding cats and took multiple attempts to get right.
- It can be very challenging to get buy-in to disrupt your own business. This model was upending the way things had always been done and taking a polar opposite approach to how member could and should use the service. We anticipated that was going take a lot of conversation and convincing but the business was unwilling to take the risk within any of the current services.
There were some great unintended wins
- The feedback was so rewarding. The list of the best stock ideas coupled wit the best stock ideas that a user already likes was tremendously praised as a fit for what users needed and meeting the job they were trying to get done.
- This led to doubling-down on leveraging the Jobs To Be Done approach to product development and made that a core framework for the Product, Design and Tech teams in how to approach updated and further evolving of the products.
- The reluctance to overhaul the current service led down the path to creating a new service which became Motley Fool Market Pass, a service without monthly picks pushed from a promoted advisor, but rather an aggregation of the best ideas available for when the member is ready to buy new stocks.
Two years in, the Motley Fool Market Pass product (currently priced at or around $1,499) has more that 25,000 members which would make (back-of-the-napkin net revenue) off the new service $37M annually.
Not everything can make it into the release. Here were items on the roadmap for improving and evolving the Best Stocks to Buy concept.
- Email Alerts. Notifications via email that one of the stocks on a member’s Watchlist was being added to the list of Best Stocks to Buy to give a nudge that now was an ideal time to consider investing in that company.
- Allocation Guidance. A desired filter on the list of the Best Stocks was the Best Stocks for Me based on knowledge of how balanced our out-of-balance a member’s current portfolio was. The Fool’s membership business can not and would not give personalized advice, but they were able to note if a user was, say, underweight in Small-Cap stocks and be able to highlight the Best Stocks to Buy that a member added to their Watchlist that were also Small Cap stocks.
A few key learnings that I took away from this project
- It’s hard to break away from “the way we’ve always done it”. While clarity of purpose, understanding of the previous choices that got a product to where it is and the delta between where it is now and where member’s want it to be is powerful, but still the inertia of how it’s always been is a strong tailwind to have to push against.
- Change can be scary. This is true for both internal and external stakeholders. The members can be unsettled to upgrade to a new product that doesn’t work the same way, in fact that works almost the opposite way of how they have learned to user the Fool’s premium services. Similarly the internal teams and stakeholders who are used to the roles needed to make a service successful can be uneasy to find their role altered or unnecessary for a new approach.
- Collaboration is key. With so much uncertainty and need to build trust in a new concept, meeting early and often with the representatives of Product, Editorial, Marketing, Investing, Commerce, Legal and DevOps was required communication to get everyone on the same page to produce such a bold new initiative.