Talking the talk — in your design process

Using the power of conversation to empathize with and discover more about your product and your users

Conversations are at the heart of every relationship. It’s through the many details involved in communication that we really get to know someone: tone, voice, vocabulary, dialect, and more. At Memebox, we’re using the power of conversation and personality to build the friendliest, most personable ecommerce platform for the fastest growing beauty brand in the world. One tool we use to keep our product values in mind is conversational journey maps: imagined conversations between our product, which we named Unni, and our persona, Kayla. It helps us think about how our product should behave while interacting with our users, taking into account their thoughts, feelings, and actions — just like a real person would.

Conversational journey maps

It sounds like a fancy term, but simply think of a conversational journey map as something like a screenplay for a movie about your product and user. There are three main pieces to the journey: the characters, the setting, and the conversation itself. Here’s how we approach it.

1. Define the characters.

Who is your user? Who is your product? Define their personalities, their voices, and their attitudes. Essentially, you want to have a clear user persona and a personification of your product, since they are the core of your script. This exercise is largely based on learning from the interactions between them.

2. Briefly describe the synopsis.

What is the context of the scene? Is it the first time your product and user are meeting each other? Is your user nervous, excited, or bored? What are they doing? How did they get there? Set the scene with detailed, helpful context to orient yourself in the mindset of each character.

3. Write the script.

This is the easier part. Don’t think too hard! After all, conversation should come naturally. Imagine the conversation the way your two personas would typically think and speak, and write it in a screenplay format with your characters’ lines labeled.

Think Shakespeare, without ye olde English, of course. Unless you’ve decided your product talks like that.

4. Edit and revise!

Like in any writing exercise, revision is the key to success. You will undoubtedly run into parts that just don’t sound quite right. Don’t sweat so much on the grammar, syntax, and the small stuff — the goal of this exercise isn’t to make a perfectly polished deliverable script. It’s about the process, which will help you empathize with your characters as well as discover new opportunities you may have missed before.

Getting the right conversations

It sounds pretty simple because, in theory, it is. We exercise the same skills from steps 3 and 4 everyday when we speak to someone. We typically know what responses to anticipate in reaction to our own behaviors, and we make use of these observed patterns to craft appropriate conversation. The hardest parts, then, are in steps 1 and 2: answering the “who” and “why” — defining the characters and setting the stage. At Memebox, we’ve previously set up our user persona and product personification in the past (read about it here!), and a voice guideline for our copywriters based on the tone we want Unni to take on aligned with core values.

One thing to look out for is that the conversations may begin to feel forced. Because our product is an ecommerce platform, Unni’s voice in our scripts naturally started to sound like a department store saleslady, which just didn’t fit the purpose of these conversational maps. It’s easy to get absorbed on what your product already does/should/must do, but that’s not always going to sound like normal-people talk. For example, you might imagine product saying “You should share this product with your friends on Facebook!” but who really says that? Take it a step further and get more personable: “Don’t you think Jane would LOVE this hand cream?” It’s this kind of conversation we want to open up. Natural, novel, and never transactional.

We had to condition ourselves to avoid solutioning, because it would push the conversation in a direction that matches our pre-conceived notions rather than let it flow naturally. Consider it almost like improv — there’s no right or wrong answer. Nothing should be predictable! It’s all about making discoveries through the process, and the key is to go with the flow. Follow the conversation as it unfolds, without trying to “plan ahead”. The purpose of this tool is not only to exercise empathy, but also to open up opportunities for new, creative ideas that you might not have considered before. Thinking conversationally will get you to think outside the box of “what our product should do”.

They key is to go with the flow of the conversation. 🌊 Don’t try to calculate the end result.

For example, you might imagine your product telling your user “This lotion is good for oily skin.” But in context of how real people think, the conversation would more likely sound something like this:

(Kayla’s still fairly new to the K-beauty world and is hesitant on what to buy. She knows Unni will have the best advice, so she approaches her for help.)
Unni: Hmm, you need a new face wash already? Is something bothering you?
Kayla: I’ve been having really oily skin with dry patches lately. I’m not sure what’s going on but I don’t like it :(
Unni: Oh, I totally know what you mean! I had the same problem and this cream really worked for me. This thing fixed all my combination skin problems in no time.

And this might translate into a value proposition where users can take a quick survey that matches them to curators who have had similar skin types. Or, Unni might find patterns in Kayla’s browsing history and present “before and after” stories from similar shoppers. Maybe Kayla could send in a picture of her face to receive personalized recommendations from curators with similar skin types. The possibilities are endless, yet they all stem from the same conversation!

Applying the conversations

One project we’ve been working on that utilizes this tool is our communications redesign. Originally, we took a bottom-up approach by listing out all our email types, but soon realized we lacked context which made the emails feel impersonal. This is when we devised the conversational journey maps, which helped us think on a higher level within the context of Kayla’s life and Unni’s goals.

Example 1: Email subscription

Previously, we had users automatically get subscribed to our email newsletter after signing up for an account. One idea we’ve considered is to ask Kayla if she wants to subscribe a couple days after completing her first order.

(Kayla placed her order on Friday night and is checking her email for a shipping confirmation notice.)
Unni: Hey, while you wait for the goodies you ordered yesterday to arrive, wanna learn more about Kbeauty? You HAVE to hear about the 10-step skincare routine!

Example 2: Friendly check-in

For users who do not opt to subscribe to our newsletter, we’re thinking of sending a friendly email about 3 weeks after she signs up, the way a friend you haven’t seen in a while might reach out to you. It serves as a reminder to Kayla about Memebox, while also making Kayla feel personally cared for.

(Kayla is pretty busy with college and hasn’t visited Memebox in a while. It seems like she’s forgot about Unni.)
Unni: How’ve you been, Kayla? I’ve been eyeing these trends lately and thought of you. Hope we can meet up sometime, miss ya!

Example 3: Marketing campaign style

Our current marketing campaign emails have little text and many graphics, a pattern which we found during our research that users tend to associate with unwanted ads. We’re looking to run A/B tests to see the click-through rate between emails full of images versus emails with plain text signed with a real name.

(Kayla is checking her email and notices her inbox is full of newsletter ads. But one of these is from Irene. She thinks, “Huh, who’s Irene?” and opens the email.)
Hey Kayla,
I think this lipstick would look great on you! Which one’s your favorite shade?
- Irene

The conversational journey map tool is still a work in progress, but so far we find it useful to exercise empathy, discover new opportunities in the user’s journey, and — most importantly — keep our product design as personable as possible. We’re focusing on building the friendliest ecommerce platform in the world. And by using the power of conversation, we’re taking our designs to the next level and really bringing our product to life.

Our team is growing! Come say hello and join us 😊

Changing the face of the beauty industry, one smile at a time.