Tuft & Needle Retail Checkout

Brooke Kao
Suitcase Words
Published in
3 min readApr 15, 2020


Redesigning beyond aesthetics to context, utility and speed

My role: User Research

Team makeup: One project manager, three software engineers, retail stakeholder

What I did: Uncovered pain points for retail workers through generative studies, created roadmap of opportunities, evaluative testing

The Problem

Tuft & Needle is a mattress, bedding and bedroom company that’s always been online-first. When they began opening retail stores a few years ago, they relied on checking out orders through the system on their dotcom website. This process became slow very fast, so a specific checkout app was created for retail. Design-wise, they thought to continue to riff on the checkout on dotcom. No-brainer, right?

Wrong. Even as an separate app, checkout proved to be a slow and cumbersome process for the Retail Experience (RX) folks. Why?

Context matters. When you buy something online, most likely you’re looking on your computer or your phone, getting enticed by big images, discounts and possibly comparison shopping. As an RX-er, you do none of those things in the store.

Retail Experience folks (RX-ers) smile for the camera.

Research Roadmap

We knew we needed to streamline the checkout process, and we had a vague idea of the solution, but we needed to observe what was actually happening to empathize with RX. With the engineering team, we conducted a series of generative and evaluative studies with the RX and discovered a number of issues.

Stages of the research phase: general retail research took place Nov 2019-Feb 2019, retail problem interviews during July 2019, prototype testing during August 2019 and live environment testing during January 2020

Research Process and Takeaways

The before: pretty, but cumbersome.
  1. While large images and large type contrast on the existing checkout were aesthetically pleasing, they proved to be unnecessary and result in much more scrolling than necessary to find an item.
  2. The large real estate of each product also forces the RX-er to remember where exactly on the page they have to scroll to purchase a specific item. The navigation categories are too broad.
  3. Return customers are frustrated by having to give their shipping information all over again.
  4. Customers frequently request specific delivery dates for their items. There’s no ability to do that in the app, so RX needs race to a separate website and request a new date, all while a customer breathes down their neck.

We ran a kickoff with Retail and Engineering stakeholders to develop a roadmap for Retail Checkout opportunities.

A diverging activity where the cross functional team sketched out their ideas
A converging activity where we sketched a task flow of a proposed new experience. Ideas were captured on posts-its, then prioritized by impact and effort.

The Solution

Significantly reducing the size of product information and hiding behind an accordion helps RX-ers find an item quickly. We also enhanced the product page with more available shipping options.
Pulling up previous customer info allows the RX-er to skip the cumbersome process of typing out shipping information.
RX-er can request new delivery dates during the delivery step of checkout, eliminating need to rush to CX admin after an order is placed.

The Outcomes

Decreased the time an RX-er takes to place an order, leaving the RX-er more time to interact with customers.

Increased overall RX-er happiness. Seriously! They told us, unprompted:



Brooke Kao
Suitcase Words

NYC based Researcher and Strategist // @brookekao