Best Stocks to Buy
A case study in finding new revenue opportunities through design
Taking a pull approach instead of the ingrained push model, and meeting users when they were ready to discover new stock ideas.
The Motley FoolTime
2 UX Researchers
1 Product Designer & UX/Front-end Engineer (me)
4 Back-end Coders
Representatives from Product, Marketing, Editorial and Investing.My Responsibilities
Product Strategy: Jobs to be Done (JTBD), Google Optimize
Product Design: Axure, Illustrator, Photoshop
Front-End Coding: HTML, SCSS/CSS, Django/Python, Bootstrap , Git
Product Management: Agile, Google Docs, Trello, SlackWebsite
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 result was the member was responsible to maintain their own list of stocks they were interested in, and the member had no way to verify if these were still good picks at the point in time when they were ready to invest.
And this doesn’t match the cadence of how people invest.
I collaborated on the Project Strategy, absorbing the Jobs to be Done methodology and designing a solution that met the members needs within the constraints of the platform.
I worked hands-on building out the wireframes, comps, prototypes, tested via Google Optimize and helped develop the production-ready code.
I provided project management collaborating with the key stakeholders from Product, Investing, Editorial and Marketing. Also prioritizeing the stories and leading the team of UI designers, front-end and back-end developers through a series of Agile sprints to complete the project.
User Research: How Members Invest
UX Research conducted through interviews and surveys conclusively illustrated that members did not invest in two new stock ideas each month. That cadence was not optimized for members, or even with the member in mind, but rather to meet the legacy constraint of the print newsletter.
While all members are different and there were no absolutes, it became clear that by and large members were more likely to purchase stocks they know and in bulk, say ten familiar stocks all at once every quarter. But when exactly (over the 90 days of a quarter) did a member invest was arbitrary, occurring 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 this project and my being brought in to help shape a new product strategy to help the member find the best stocks picks ideas whenever they wanted investing advice.
In each of The Motley Fool’s five (formerly newsletter) services there was an article that shared a list of the 5 to 10 Best Buy stocks for that month. Surveying of users told us that IP was high value but often missed as it was quickly buried down the latest article feed never to be seen.
Even without the member data, the Investing and Editorial teams that selected and wrote the Best Buys article felt it was being under-utilized and had collaborated with the Investor Analytics tech team to built out a new API that could be accessible in the products. By the time our product had started, we had the good fortune of having a new data feed of the Best Stocks to Buy.
It was on our team to find a solution to make this content more visible to members, and that meant producing a solution that met members on their terms, giving them great investing ideas when they were ready to discover it.
I participated in the brainstorms to follow. We used whiteboards, sketching and multiple Lean approaches to find the biggest boldest option we could accomplish. The result proposed to our stakeholders was a new service, one that would come bundled with the five other services (and therefore warrant a higher price point), and provide a new approach for understanding the provided stock recommendations.
User Interface Design: Best Stocks to Buy
When the new service, Market Pass was green-lit, it was understood that the new feed of Best Stocks to Buy was to be the centerpiece of the new product concept, so it was integral that an entirely 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. For clarity, we knew too the stock name and ticker were must-haves. The logo was added when it was it’s value in quick scanning for familiar companies was an acceptable trade off to its load costs on the server..
I built a prototype leveraging two views of both cards and table-based. When the prototype was complete and ready for testing, a common ask was to know which of the 20 or so stock ideas 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 a proprietary system for weighing the conviction of a stocks potential for success. This second new API provided order, and with the addition of number bubbles into the UI we had a service ready to sell that provided a rank-ordered list of the Best Stocks to Buy.
Not everything went according to plan.
- Getting to a good feed of the Best Stocks to Buy across multiple services was a gift but was was more complex than expected. Getting a good API 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 rounds of attempts to get right.
- It can be very challenging to get stakeholders to support disrupting your own business. This model was upending the way things had always been done and betting a polar opposite approach to the service would be more enticing to members. We anticipated that was going take a lot of conversation and convincing, and did get a new service out of the process, but did not get an opportunity to try this approach with the members already in any of the current services.
There were some great unintended wins
- The feedback was so rewarding. The list of the best stock ideas was tremendously praised as a fit for what users needed and meeting a key job they were trying to get done.
- This led to doubling-down on leveraging the Jobs To Be Done approach for further efforts to evolve 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. It was bold and a risk, and maybe it was expected to succeed, but you never know.
Two years in, the Motley Fool Market Pass product (currently priced at or around $1,499) has tens of thousands of members which would provide tens of millions in annual renewals.
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 try to inject into that member’s timetable 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 (or out-of-balance) a member’s current portfolio was. To be clear, the Fool’s membership business does not give personalized advice. Instead if a user selected a portfolio model that encouraged Small-Cap investing, and the member was underweight in Small-Cap stocks, the delta could be illuminated. At least I think it could. Lawyers at the Fool would know better. I’m going to stop projecting.
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”. 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 are powerful forces. Still the inertia of how it’s always been is a strong headwind 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 use the Fool’s services. Similarly the internal teams and stakeholders who are used to the ingredients needed to make a service successful can be uneasy to find their recipe altered or adapted.
- 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.