Closing the Product Experience Loop

One simple way Rent the Runway could upgrade their end-to-end experience

As a product designer, I am constantly feature-gawking. I can’t help but find myself thinking about how I could improve a process, obnoxiously trying find “gotcha” moments where a product has a dead-end, or being delighted by a company’s ability to anticipate my needs as a customer.

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flikr

Rent the Runway, the online service that allows customers to borrow designer dresses for a fraction of the price, is a well-oiled machine. It’s not only a brilliant e-commerce service, but it’s also a pretty badass technology company to boot. And, from a design and consumer perspective, it’s one of the few online stores who’s accompanying app is actually worth the download.

They just have one tiny part of their process that keeps me from wanting to use their service every single time I have an event to attend. Let me explain.

The Product Experience Loop

All products, have an opportunity to optimize the what I call “The Product Experience Loop.”

The Product Experience Loop: Your product can and should aim to come back to ‘Impress’ multiple times.

Though there are many versions of ‘loops’ out there, my personal definition is: Entice, Engage, Impress, End Game, and if you did it right, you’ll earn the Repeat.

Entice: What is the offer that makes you want to try our product?
Engage: I’ve got your interest, now let’s not lose you — how do we hook you and get you to continue on your user journey?
Impress: Throughout your experience, how can we really delight you? How have we predicted potential pain-points and offered features you didn’t know you needed?
End Game: What would the ideal outcome be for both you as the user, and us, as the product owner? What’s our final interaction and how do we make it a happy one?
Repeat: This is not a given — how do we get you to repeat the process with us over and over again? In overwhelmingly dense population of products, what sets ours apart and makes you want to come back an start all over?

How to Get a Repeat: In order to get a user to “Repeat,” I believe the first step towards success is that you must close 👏 that 👏loop👏. Ideally include one more ‘Impress’ feature in their final engagement to really seal the deal. To do so, it’s imperative to always think one step after what seems like their ‘End Game’ in order to best position your project for a ‘Repeat’ user.

So, to close the loop effectively ask:
What is really the final step for a user?
Is it when a customer completes the transaction?
Is it when they receive the package in the mail?
Is it their engagement during a request to return?
When are they really “done” for the first time — because that’s the last impression they’ll have of your product before they decide if they want to use it ever again.

Rent the Runway is one of those experiences that genuinely delighted me throughout most of the process. If you’ve never witnessed the beauty that is RTR, let me breakdown the gist of the current Product Experience Loop for you:

In need of a special outfit for your cousin’s wedding, you:

1 . [Entice] Learn of RTR, see the website and/or download their app
2. [Engage] See options and filter dresses by size, occasion, color, etc.
3. Define what 4 or 8-day rental period you’d like to rent the apparel for and which area code you’ll be shipping to
4. [Impress] In-between searching for and reserving your dress, Rent the Runway has dozens features that ease your potential concerns about renting a dress for a special occasion that you won’t be able to try on beforehand.
5. Find “The One” and reserve the dress
6. [Impress Again] The dress is delivered to your doorstep in a package that doubles as a flexible hang-up garment bag for easy travel
7. [End Game] Wear dress, feel fabulous, take pictures, get compliments
8. Use the included prepaid shipping label to append to the same bag and return the dress via your closest UPS dropbox before your rental period is over
9. [Repeat?] Maybe upload pictures, write a review, potentially get sucked in by new dress offerings and consider if you’d use RTR again.

From a CX & UX perspective, RTR is exceptional at for-seeing the consumers concerns, needs and optimizing their experience in every way possible barring one small detail.

Rent the Runway for iOS: Screenshots exemplifying the users experience renting a dress via the app.*

Rent the Runway is the go-to for special instances where you don’t necessarily own the right type of dress or you’d like to wear something new and treat yourself a little. When discussing Rent the Runway with other customers and taking into account my own experience, I realized most occasions we rented for were not local and many times were for out-of-state events. And you see, no matter where you take the dress in those few days during your rental, you’re expected to return it promptly within your elected rental window to a UPS box.

Herein lies the pain point: That last day of your rental when you’re searching near-and-far for a UPS, usually on a weekend, in a town you’ve never been to before, trying to make sure your rental is returned before your trip home.

Although Rent the Runway does allow Monday returns for rentals ending on a Sunday, I still find that to be a half-solve. Remembering to get to a UPS or drop box before 12pm on a Monday after a weekender? Not the best.

To me, there is one final ‘Impress’ and dream feature that would close the loop and make me a repeat customer every time:

The UPS Locator and Reminder Feature:
1. On the last day, send the user a reminder of return & offer to locate UPS
3. The app would request to use their location/ask for their current zip code
4. They would list nearby RTR approved locations in order of closest proximity
5. Offer to plug the address into their map app of choice
6. Even better? Let me use the app to select a nearby dropbox before my rental is due to let me plan ahead and set a reminder to return when it’s day-of.

Example of how UPS Locator features could be implemented*

And voila now my entire RTR experience from introduction to return has been pain-free and even, might I say, remarkable.

Now, is this feature really RTR’s responsibility? Nah.
Am I a capable human with a smart phone? Yes (well, most days).

But, if you ask me, trying to find a UPS box under a time crunch is a special gift from hell.

Conclusion: Why skipping Impress + End Game hurts chances at Repeat
The first time I used Rent the Runway, I was in a small town Virginia, walking up and down their Main Street for 30 minutes, trying to find the godforsaken dot on my GPS that was supposed to a UPS box — and all of a sudden, after a night of compliments and feeling great about my decision, I had major regret with my rental.

Many of the wedding guests had driven by me and offered confused waves before I arrived the planned brunch pretty darn late. The clandestine UPSes that supposedly existed in that little town, at least, according to Google, were never found. Had I not flagged down a local who knew of a box in an alley discretely hidden behind a post of a building, I would not have found a way to return my dress in time.

Feeling like an idiot I walked into the brunch assuming I’d have to come up with a better excuse than the truth but instead of asking why I was late, one of the attendees immediately said,

“Were you looking for a dropbox for your dress? I know that RTR ‘Sunday Scramble’ all too well.”

My customer experience may have been flawless up until this point, but my loop had a hitch. Now every time I consider another rental from RTR, I also consider if I’ll have time for a potential time-suck like finding a UPS. And apparently, I’m not alone.

Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

The other common issue with RTR is returning via USPS instead of UPS. By helping locating the right kind of drop box, Rent the Runway’s inventory would be replenished more quickly which is a win-win for each party’s End Game.

By continuing the same predictive consumer thinking that the team at Rent the Runway has so elegantly accomplished throughout the rest of the app, I believe including my ‘UPS Finder & Reminder Feature’ as a final little luxury would be a seamless close to the loop — and frankly, a pretty classy move.

But, what do you think?

Any questions or feedback? Are you Jennifer Hyman & do you want to work together? 🙋 Follow Boss Sauce Creative for more product design and development thoughts, or message me and let’s talk!

* Just to be safe, I want to be clear that I have no affiliation or rights to the design of Rent the Runway and am simply visualizing a concept.

Lauren Manuel is Co-Founder and Principal Product Designer at Boss Sauce Creative. I like to help teams find creative solutions as well as execute some of my own. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Dribbble, or Twitter.

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