Project: Online and in-store shopping with personalized styling
Role: UX Designer, Researcher
Responsibilities: User Research, Wireframes
Style545 is a digital platform that combines online, in-store, and personalized styling services into one seamless shopping experience. Shoppers receive curated looks based on their preferences through a style quiz. They then reserve outfits or pieces to try on in-store or have them shipped to their homes. It also serves stylists by providing them a platform where they can build their reputation through outfits they curate, and serves retailers by providing them with customer data and foot traffic. Our client, Disha, came to us to define the user problem and come up with a working prototype.
I found in my research that online-only retailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos have been branching out into retail spaces to increase sales and brand awareness, spanning across physical and online spaces for omnichannel shopping experience. Department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s used click-and-collect programs, through which shoppers bought items online and picked them up in stores rather than pay more and/or wait for the items to ship. I saw Style545 could also be a player in exploring this space.
Another important consideration for Style545 was personalized styling. We spoke with Rachel Jiminez, a stylist who worked with Style545. My team had no experience with a personal stylist, so we had questions about the personal styling process and what prompted her clients to seek out her help. She pointed out her clients typically come to her when there’s a dramatic change in their life, which was an interesting insight for us.
“A lot of times, I work with [clients] when they are promoted or divorced; they come to me at a time when they have a big milestone or transition in their life.”
We realized shoppers actively searched for inspiration that suits their new life stage, whereas they passively browsed other times.
We also looked at the competitive landscape to identify the opportunity for Style545. We looked at two groups of competitors: physical stores that allowed users to make reservations (Nordstrom, Banana Republic, and Rent the Runway) and subscription boxes (Stitch Fix, Trunk Club, and Le Tote).
Nordstrom and Banana Republic both offered reservations to try on items in stores and other shopping options like getting items shipped or click-and-collect. The gap was in not offering personal styling recommendations.
Rent the Runway's app only allowed shoppers to order items for delivery. Shoppers also couldn't reserve items online to pick up in person.
Stitch Fix, Trunk Club, and Le Tote all had the style quiz like Style545, but they didn’t see the results of their quiz online. The results of their quiz helped stylists put together a box for users but users didn’t get to see those items until they got the box in the mail, whereas Style545 offered personalized looks upon taking the style quiz.
After studying the competition, it was clear Style545 could fill the gap where users took a style quiz and receive immediate personalized styling help.
To learn more about shoppers’ need for personal styling and their shopping experience, we turned to user research. We talked to six shoppers from age groups ranging from early 20s to late 50s. Through interviews, we wanted to find out:
One limitation we recognized early on was all the users the client sourced for us were her friends. We had concerns about how much exposure they had to the idea of Style545 and how that would influence interviews and testing, so we sourced a few of our own by guerrilla testing at Block 37, a mall in downtown Chicago.
We collected the following insights through the interviews:
Buying decisions aren't final until shoppers see the merchandise in person.
Shoppers needed to see and touch pieces to check the fit, size, and quality. This led shoppers to shop in stores or return merchandise they ordered online.
“I know I can shop online if I need to, but sometimes you want to go in and try it on.”
Convenience drives shoppers’ channel decision
Shoppers shopped in stores since they could get their merchandise immediately and returns were easy. They also shopped online from anywhere at anytime.
“It’s the convenience factor, Amazon is easy to return and the shipping is free.”
Shoppers need to see looks on people
Seeing looks on mannequins didn’t inspire shoppers to try out those looks because they couldn’t relate to the figure of the mannequins. If they saw a look they liked on a person, they were more likely to try out that look.
“I can go into stores and see something on a mannequin but I’m never like oh yeah like that would look good on me. I have to see it on a person.”
We created a persona to better define our users. Paige is the promoted professional and wants to develop a new style for her new position. She wants a convenient shopping experience and to feel good in what she wears.
Based on our research, we decided to focus on connecting the personalized styling and the omnichannel experience: The shopper in a life transition needs assistance refreshing her wardrobe with appropriate pieces that flatter her shape so she’s more confident in her new phase.
To address this problem statement, we came up with four design principles to guide our solution:
Give shoppers a unique, personalized experience.
Inspire shoppers to continually develop their own style.
Encourage confidence in shoppers through guidance.
Provide continuity and familiarity across virtual and physical spaces.
With the modified problem in mind, my team started ideating and brainstormed features through 6-8-5 sketching. We built out paper prototypes and tested seven concepts with five users. Below are our concepts and our findings.
Since most of the users were Disha’s friends, we wanted to combat bias and seek their honest feedback, so we came up with this farce concept. This concept was a body scanner that used the phone camera to scan the front, back, and sides of the user’s body and suggests outfits that flatter the user’s body.
Users said they want to know what clothes fit their specific body type, but they thought the body scan was strange. They also thought it would be hard to scan their bodies by themselves on a phone.
We heard from users that they saved photos of outfits they like from social media to their phone, so we tested a concept of uploading a user's photos of outfits to find those items in stores.
Users told us they struggled to find where to buy items they see on people online so this was helpful, but they weren’t sure how accurately the platform would identify specific pieces. They also didn’t want to upload photos to see more photos of similar outfits because they already browse that way on Pinterest or with hashtags on Instagram.
Since users cared about their existing wardrobe and pairing items, we came up with the concept of users selecting generic items like blue jeans or a black tee and then the app generating curated looks with the items and suggesting new items for purchase.
We validated users cared about shopping to complement their existing wardrobes, but they all said they were too lazy to upload all their clothes. Instead, they were interested in uploading a select few pieces.
We wanted to test a concept to be used in a store rather than online at home, so in this concept, users scanned items and saw suggested items it paired with in the store. It also alerted the sales associate to bring the items to the user’s dressing room.
All our users said they shop in stores regularly, so they saw how this concept helped them save time by seeing pieces that complement what they’re looking at. Users also thought having a sales associate help them while they’re in the dressing room was convenient and made their shopping experience better.
Disha’s style quiz needed to be validated, so we included it in our concept testing. We also conducted an online survey to determine what shoppers think someone needs to know about them to curate a style for them. We found from 50 participants their lifestyle, budget, self-described style, size, and body shape were the most important to trust someone’s curation.
Users really liked personalized results based on the survey. We found they wanted to customize their results depending on factors like occasion, look, and body type.
After discussing the problem statement with our client and talking to more users during concept testing, we realized we fixated on the shoppers in a life transition and narrowed our scope too much. We modified our problem statement to broaden the scope without losing sight of everything we learned from research: The always evolving shopper needs assistance refreshing her wardrobe with appropriate pieces that flatter her shape.
We also created one more persona, Felicity, the casual browser, and focused on Felicity and Paige because we realized the life transition for Paige encompassed that of Maggie, the new mom. Felicity enjoyed in-store browsing, while Paige didn’t have much time to browse in stores. When we considered Felicity and Paige, they both needed specific and personalized recommendations based on the pieces they’re looking at and what they’re looking for. Efficiency was also important to them, both in and out of the store.
Considering the concept testing insights, the revised problem, and Felicity and Paige, we decided to converge on the in-store pairing and style quiz concepts to address user needs. Due to the in-store pairing feature accessing the phone’s camera, we decided on a mobile app to build a better experience for shoppers.
When my team sat down to put together the task flow to understand the omnichannel shopping experience, we realized it can’t be represented in one flow; shoppers could begin their experience online and end up in stores, or begin in stores and end in purchasing online, or a combination of both. Since both online and in-store experiences were important and they overlapped at different points, we came up with two flows to test, one starting online and one starting in-store.
We tested our solution and the flows with four shoppers to gather more feedback. Below are our key screens and user feedback on them.
We designed the home to be a place where users passively received and browsed through current trends. We also allowed users to take the style quiz if they haven’t already so they saw more personalized looks.
Rather than seeing trending looks, some users wanted to see looks that were out of their comfort zone because they wanted to try new looks occasionally.
We recommended further research to determine what other categories could be on the home.
On this page, users searched actively for looks. We provided occasions and stores to act as filters so users could find what they were looking for.
While users understood this page, some said they wanted a search bar.
They thought a search bar would help them find things more quickly.We recommended further research to determine other categories as filters and whether a search bar would be beneficial.
From our survey, we knew the questions we needed to ask shoppers, but we also considered how to ask. We decided to separate the questions into mandatory and optional. We asked users about their typical weekday dress, their style(s), and body shape as mandatory questions, and their age and height as optional questions. We also provided more information on the meanings of styles and body shape to guide users.
Users believed answers to these questions were sufficient to trust styles curated for them. They particularly liked the body shape page because they understood their body shape better through the illustrations and descriptions, and they liked the fun names.
We also saw value in separating questions as preferences and filters. Preferences were variables that do not need to be changed often, such as weight and height, and filters were those that change more frequently, such as occasion and budget. Since we didn’t have time for it in our project, we recommended further research.
After completing the style quiz, users saw personalized looks from which they selected pieces they wanted to either purchase or reserve to try on in-store. We gave them 24 hours from their reservation time to go try on their pieces.
Users liked being able to make a reservation, but they wanted a longer timeframe than 24 hours. They also were confused about managing reservations if they wanted to try on more than one look or at more than one store.
We recommended discussing with retailers to see what timeframe would be feasible for them. We also recommended further research into implementing a cart that could accommodate multiple looks and pieces from multiple stores.
This feature allowed users to scan the barcode on a tag and see the item in different looks. If the user took the style quiz, those looks were personalized to them.
Users found the feature easy to use, and they said it would help them make decisions when they shopped in stores.
We recommended discussing with retailers about implementing QR codes to assess this feature’s viability.
Due to our limitations with time and vast scope of the industry, our recommendations for next steps to Disha were further research. If I had more time, I would’ve liked to work on the in-store experience outside of the app, such as going in for a reservation. Although I was confident in our design decisions and that our solution addressed the user needs, it didn’t feel like I designed a complete experience. Our solution also needed input from retailers, and while that was an important consideration, we knew more research would only strengthen the user experience and make Style545 a successful idea.
This was my first live client project, and I learned empathy for clients is also important in addition to empathy for users. I could’ve done a better job articulating design decisions and evangelizing the design process. Clearly communicating design decisions to clients with little design knowledge, whether based on research or best practice, is an important skill I learned.
I also enjoyed designing for users in an unfamiliar domain. As a man, I don’t think I’m presented with as many options as women, which would make the shopping experience more cumbersome for me. Being able to empathize with them regardless and designing a solution for them was fun.
I brushed up the old wireframes and went into Figma to breathe new life into them. You can check that out here.