A make-first learn-second design sprint

A story about redesigning The Regulars — an app that helps merchants get predictable revenue and reward customers and how we did it by sketching first, learning second. An experiment run at Pivotal Labs.

Today, small merchants spend a lot of time worried about unpredictable revenue and expenses, buried in accounting in the back office.

The Regulars is a service accompanied by an app, that wants to help those merchants get more predictable revenue by offering a subscribe-and-save payment model. Merchants get to leverage their loyal customers and customers will be able to support the businesses they already love and save. Say my local cafe, I can pay $30 and rake in $35 worth of credit month over month.

Our design challenge: how might we turn a loyal customer into a Regular? And how might we take a stab at it in a 5-day design sprint?

DAY 1 — make assumptions

Munir (founder and CEO) and I sketched out the customer journey from awareness to sign up to delight from the first payment. We decided to focus on that first time a customer pays as a Regular.

I took those sketches and put some concrete screens to it.

Our flow was complex but hey, we get to validate that tomorrow.

DAY 2 — validate and learn

Armed with an InVision prototype in hand we were able to validate assumptions and empathize in the same session. Making this a hybrid of evaluative and generative research. We asked questions like “what’s difficult about paying for your breakfast burrito?” and then asked customers to complete their usual transaction using the prototype.

Tactical learnings:

It all starts with the merchant. The merchant often has a POS system independent from the payment processor. She’s ringing up all the items and then looks over to say “that’ll be $3.50"

Checking out is just 3 steps:

  1. “that’ll be $3.50 today”
  2. “Credit card ok? Here you go”
  3. *signs receipt* “Thanks! Bye”

Hm, how can we mimic this interaction?

Fuzzy learnings:

The way we pay is such a habit. “My mom is old school, she wouldn’t change the way she pays for bread”

DAY 3 —adjust and repeat

What I found is that once the prototype was working well the conversation became fuzzier, we started getting more into the latent needs and desires of customers.

Fuzzy Learnings:

Customers are loyal to the people behind the counter.

Customers are proud to support their favorite businesses. “I come here every day, I wanna support this place, tell me more.”

Automagic payment tools = distrust. “What if my credit expires?” “ What if I accidentally get charged for more?”

Everybody loves a good deal, it’s not just for couponers. “you buy gas, you buy groceries, might as well save money”

DAY 4: designing for lessons learned

  1. Have the merchant start the workflow. This way we can reduce the steps down to just 3.

Here we needed a token of payment without the physical payment so building up the language of the “open tab”.

2. Color code the screens by “whose turn is it now” so that we can spot from across the bar that the customer has or hasn’t completed their pay part.

Sextant Coffee Roasters are just a sample, they may or may not use The Regulars in the future.

3. Whitelabel. Use the brand language that customers already trust.

4. Personalize. Personalize the hell out of it.

Any opportunity to make the app feel part of the shop, will gain us trust by leveraging those existing relationships. I thought of my local hair salon and the salon bulldog named Egg, his adorable face will be a great touch here.

More sample branding, Cumaica and other may or may not use the Regulars in the future

DAY 5 — deliver and iterate

What’s next?

How might we minimize icky tech interactions? What’s a safer, more comfortable mechanism of authentication than a pin? Validating designs always answers some questions and poses many more.

In the end this process circled back to the oh-so-familiar THINK MAKE CHECK cycle, we just started in the middle by MAKING and found ourselves right back to THINKING, but now we’ve freed the assumptions lurking in our minds. We let them come to life, develop and get validated or invalidated and now we have fresh and concrete evidence to start the new cycle.