Image by Shivam Thapliyal

Unique Shopping Experiences

The opportunity has been massive and the time to act is now.

With the global growth rate of users coming online flatlined, India surpassed the US to become the second largest market in the world, after China. At almost 1.8x growth between 2015 to 2020, India is predicted to reach almost 650 million Internet users by 2020 year-end with a majority of them coming online using smartphones.

What did this mean for us?

This was delivering an incredible e-tailing opportunity at an infliction point with the potential to disrupt a $ 900B+ traditional “offline” retail market. Having said that, as a design team committed to driving India-first innovation, the stakes were high for us.

Replicating the offline shopping experience into online is an interesting challenge. There is an absence of the space, an absence of an assistant who helps you in a shop adds up to a really good experience. Solving for this new frontier, required a differentiated approach.

India: Home to many “Indias”

Know thy customers

The process started with us taking an outside-in perspective and dig a bit deeper to know our customers at a granular level.

Flipkart customers at a glance.
Photo by safal karki on Unsplash

A majority of our customers were coming from Tier-2 cities and beyond where the digital infrastructure and modern-day UX awareness leaves a lot to be desired. It was vital that if we were to succeed, we needed to understand what it is that really helps India shop.

We embarked on a herculean task to gather qualitative and quantitative insights on-and-beyond the field in collaboration with our user-researchers and analysts to understand the internet patterns and offline shopping behavior.

  1. Phone and Online 📱
    A mobile phone is an integral part of users life. Storage is limited and precious and hence, not every app will find that spot on the home screen unless it adds meaningful value to people’s lives. That is where the frequency and value of usage come in. Any action on the app should not cause the device to hang or over-heat else the people will avoid it.
  2. Interactions 🤝
    Community plays a very important role. Word of mouth is something that is still massively relevant and the most driving factor of how brand recalls are made. People still feel it is risky to pay online mostly because one of their acquaintances have had a bad experience. When it comes to money, ‘certainty’ safeguards time, respect in community and investment”.
  3. Tryst with English 🔠
    Our phones themselves come with English as a built-in language, and with time, people have now grown familiar with it enough to understand how to use basic features but this is not true for the ever-expanding app ecosystem. Every app is installed separately, and if a hard-to-understand vocabulary is used, people will give up on it. Preference is always to be simple and to use easy to understand words. In terms of language and textual communication wherever necessary, contextual content strategy becomes extremely relevant and critical.
  4. Online Shopping 🛒
    Users enjoy discovering and exploring what is new in the market. 
    Proof, Certainty, and Trust: Customers desire proof and certainty of security of exchange, return and refund when it comes to online shopping. Offline Shopping offers the above but is too exhausting and time-consuming. On the other hand, online shopping saves time but has uncertainty related to the product.

The real life

In addition to what is covered above, almost every vertical which we operated in had a very unique shopping pattern in minds of our customers. We understood this by visiting actual shopping points (small mom-&-pop shops as well as larger retail chains) to observe how purchases were happening on the ground.

A couple of the inferences which were drawn are below:

  1. 📱Mobile
    Mobile and other electronic appliances are recurring purchases in one or two years. So customers are extra cautious and they have these questions: Is the processor good? Does the camera take good pictures? How long does the battery last? How it is better in comparison to another model?
  2. 👗 Fashion
    Fashion is all about updating your personal self and being trendy with the rest. So questions asked here are like: Will this fit well? Is the material good? Will the colors wash away?
  3. 🛋️ Furniture
    Furniture has a traditionally longer buying cycle and customers buy it visualizing that how it would look in their homes or apartments. So in furniture shopping, personalized communication plays a good role, where shop owner builds an interpersonal relationship by giving guarantees, discounts, delivery, installation services, and other perks.
  4. 🌽 Grocery
    Similarly, Grocery exhibits a very different purchase behavior because Grocery shopping is something even customers are uncertain about. Navigation is one center-stage problem in online Grocery shopping that is very beautifully solved in supermarkets with the long distribution of different grocery products arranged in organized aisles with leading to a very simple and fast checkout process.

Hence, the overall conclusion drawn was:

“ Unique categories demand unique shopping experiences. ”

UX and UI Pillars

Now, that was a bold statement. But how do we build on that while keeping the experiences consistent and scalable?. We could foreshadow the complexities which loomed on the horizon as we look ahead and hence it became necessary to define a soul and a set of design ethos which would become the guiding light for us.

UX Design benchmarked and defined the core philosophy as:

  • Guide
    To guide users on how to get started with Platform. What they can do and whom they can fall back to when in doubt.
Guide using visual cues
  • Advise
    To play the role of a knowledgeable friend who advises optimal choices pertaining to customer’s tastes and preferences which eventually fits into their lives.
Advising customers through conversational discovery
  • Minimize
    To minimize effort in comprehending and retrieving information during the entire customer journey from discovery to purchase.
Minimizing effort using Deep Personalisations

… and hence, UI Design to extend that detail further for the consumer journey by creating the following pillars which are at the center of our design system:

  • Relevance: Is the rendition addressing a real pain point? Is there a disconnection between expectation and reality when customers discover this interface?
  • Value Proposition: Is the value being presented to the customer clear and convincing?
  • Usability: Are there any points of ambiguity or uncertainty in the experience, or do customers’ intuitively understand what to do?
  • Action: Are action elements rightly positioned and relevant, and do they properly guide and help users to move seamlessly in their journey forward and behind?

Little big details

Let’s Take a look at how the above influenced and “improved” our individual categorical experiences.

📱Mobiles and 📺 Large Appliances: Categories which need focus on specifications and affordability.

Mobiles and Large Appliances (App)
Large Appliances Search Results (Desktop)
Mobiles Product Details (Desktop)

👗 Fashion and 🛋️ Furniture: Categories which need focus on imagery and offers and hence, expose the available breadth of the catalog available.

Fashion (App)
Furniture (App)
Fashion Search & Browse (Desktop)
Furniture Product details (Desktop)

🌽 Grocery: Category which focuses on basket building, quick & easy checkout, and same day slotted delivery process.

Grocery (App)
Grocery Search and Browse (Desktop)

Test. Validate. Iterate

As we continued to ship these experiences iteratively, we were making sure that all of them were being tested in both qualitative and quantitative capacities for us to be confident enough to extend them to rest of our customers.

Test. Validate. Iterate

Thanks for reading! ❤️

The journey is just getting started 🚀. This is one of the many interesting things that we do at Flipkart. To check out more work from the Design & User Research team, follow us on:
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