Improving Flax & Kale eCommerce experience: A product manager case study
The reason why I decided to work on this case study, is that I love almost everything related to this brand. I want to remark that I don’t work for them, but due to an event that I will explain later in the post, I decided to do this project to improve the Flax & Kale website.
As a Business Development Manager, I have always looked the way to improve companies by identifying and developing new business opportunities. Now as a Product Manager, I try o do the same, but from the product route.
During my path on transitioning to a PM role, I realized that the best way to put everything I learned into practice was by starting my first project of improvement, so that is what I did.
That said, let’s get started with my case study where I developed an idea from scratch of one of my favorite brands: Flax & Kale.
“Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring” That was the main concept when the founders decided to launch their first ovo-vegetarian restaurant in 2011. Nowadays, they have two restaurants in Barcelona and an eCommerce where they sell healthy products all around Spain. This last is what I am going to talk about today.
At Flaxandkale.com, you can buy an enormous number of different healthy products like kombucha, prepared healthy meals, snacks, and other beverages. Currently, they deliver only in Spain, but they do it very fast and are reliable.
Since I discovered their website, I probably have bought more than 50 Kombuchas, 20 snacks, 10 granolas, and 5 of their chocolate bars thus, I can say that I am an active customer.
It was a matter of time that I ended up recommending to my friends to buy kombuchas at their website. Most of them knew the brand previously and since we are in a pandemic situation, this is the most comfortable way to buy their products.
However, a few weeks later after I did my best speech to convince my friends, they told me they have stopped buying at their website for the following reason:
- Even after they registered on the platform, the process of purchasing products is still not very personalized and the steps are very long.
That left me wondering some questions, like if other usual or new customers had the same feeling through the whole purchase process, or how high was Flax’s churn rate, or if it wasn’t enough to have good products to end up selling on your website?
Therefore, I decided I put my PM hat and research, ideate, design, and build a high-quality mock-up of the solution I set with the following hypothesis.
I believe that current customers have a problem at the moment of buying new products, because the website doesn’t use their data to improve their purchase experience.
If we build a better and more personalized space, the churn rate metric will decrease and the customer retention rate will improve.
That said, let’s continue with the project.
Identifying the problem
Since I had an idea about what I was trying to resolve, I needed to validate if the problem that I recognized was real or not.
Therefore, in order to do that, I had to review the following: user feedback and interviews, understanding of our business, and competitive product analysis.
The reason behind the first is to gather enough insights to confirm that the problem that I discovered was real and what were the “jobs to be done” (or in other words, the motivation behind their purchase) that the users were looking for on Flax’s website.
Next, I needed to understand the business situation and key values, so at the moment to craft a solution, I could know the kind of constraints that exists. Last, the competitive product analysis will help me to identify key capabilities, and how well competitors meet customer needs.
Thus, I must start identifying and understanding the user.
We must remember, that our objective here, is to build a solution to decrease the churn rate (number of people that stop using or buying our product). It is crucial to have our business goals and intentions at the moment to craft the whole interview process, so we could get the right insight at the end of the process.
With that in mind, I decided to run customer interviews to get the real motivations behind every purchase, and a survey so I could get more demographic and quantitative data.
The insights obtained through the interviews and surveys were the following:
- Majority of women vs men / Ages from 20 to 30 / Not vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian
- Frequency of purchase through the website (once per month)
- Type of product purchased ( majority prepared meals and beverages)
- Satisfaction rate on the purchasing process / Satisfaction rate on the speed of the purchasing process
- Motivations for using Flax&Kale against its competitors
As soon as I gathered all the data related to the customer, I decided to build a user persona so I could better picture the kind of usual customer.
At the end of this exercise, I had a concrete idea of who were my main and most loyal customers, so I could prioritize my solution to them.
The second part of the process is to analyze the company. For this, I decided to use the Business Model Canvas proposed by Steve Blank. With this tool, I could visualize their business, and see if there is an opportunity that we are missing.
Thanks to the Business Model Canvas, I could recognize their value proposition, objectives, vision, and mission. To recognize this is crucial so I could know in advance what kind of constraints exists at the moment to craft my future solution.
Most of the users I interviewed use competitors to obtain similar products: healthy prepared meals or beverages online for their daily life. Thus, I had to recognize who were our competitors and compare how well they were meeting customer needs.
For the first part, I spotted every possible customer and some data as the type of competitor they were, core features, delighted features, and so on. I created the following chart.
I decided to pick only the direct competitors for the reason that they are the top type of competitors. The chart is filtered by the needs that we previously discovered during the process, the capabilities ( features that we have that are doing the job).
As you can observe, we have four points we must improve based on our web capabilities vs competitor capabilities. Those pain points will be crucial at the moment of crafting a solution.
Conclusions for this part
After all this process, I had a more concrete idea about our customers, their needs, our business situation, our product situation vs competitors.
Picturing our solution
Once I have got the pain points, the user, and the business situation, I needed to start picturing how a new implementation could help them to get what they want. Thus, in order to ideate a better user experience at the moment of the purchase, I started mapping my ideas.
Canvasing and deciding our solution
There are a lot of ideas that come at the moment of the brainstorm. We would probably start to have ideas even at the beginning of the project. However, we have to finish the step of discovery to build something that will be completely in accord with our customers.
To prioritize the ideas that came to my mind, I created a chart with the following criteria: feasibility, desirability, and viability.
The idea has to be feasible or in other words, it has to be functionally possible within the foreseeable future. Next, it has to be viable or is likely to become part of a sustainable business model. Finally, it has to be likable and that means that it has to make sense to people and for people.
Therefore, the solution I decided to build is the “customized my space” there, I will build the features that will resolve customer’s problems.
Based on my interviews, I decided to organized the ideas I gathered using an Affinity map. Each column represents a need shown by the user and the boxes below are the features that are going to solve each problem.
For this part, you usually have a big team supporting you, and thinking of new ideas filtering those that don’t match your objectives. However, since I am doing this by myself, I decided to keep it straight and simple so I could give the best recommendations avoiding those that maybe could be good but not optimal for this case.
User flowchart and user stories
At this stage, I needed to draw our first flowchart diagram. I am not an expert in UX by myself, so I had to read a lot about how these flowcharts work and what is the mindset at the time to design a flowchart. During the process, I had changed the flowchart a lot, but I can assure you that the following is the best version based on my current experience.
You can check the full flowchart here
As you can see here, I started to picture the 4 features that I wanted to include on my “custom my space”. However, I needed those four features in detail from the user’s perspective, so I had to write clear user stories to have a better understanding of how users will interact with the product.
Once I have got everything I needed, the flow and the user stories, I was ready to draw my first low spec wireframe. Fortunately, there are a lot of free online options to do this kind of task and most of them are very easy to use. As I said before, I am not a UX or UI designer but I was ready to learn the basics and draw my first wireframe.
For anyone who wants to see all the wireframes for each feature, check out this link.
The main point with the wireframes was to check if my solution was close to what users desired and expected, and most important if the features were solving their pain points. Thus, that is what I did, I interviewed the same users I interviewed before, so I could verify if my approach was solving their pain points. As a result, I realized that the UX wasn’t clear so I did some changes to my final version so it could be more clear to the user.
As soon as I rebuilt my wireframes thanks to the feedback I have got, I realized that the moment to create my final mockup had come.
Creating the final mockup
As I said at the beginning of the post, my case study consists of identifying a problem and confirming its existence, studying the scenario and the current product against its direct competitors, devising solutions and confirming that those are the right ones, and finally creating a low quality and high-quality prototype to test again and confirm my hypothesis.
Since this was only a side project of mine (and I don’t actually work for Flax & Kale), the deliverable was a high-fidelity mockup. With this, I could once again sit down with users and see if what I created was actually a viable product.
I asked a UX/UI designer who is a very good friend of mine if we could create together the final version. By helping him, I could learn the basics of how to use tools like Adobe XD and Figma which are the tools that he usually uses to design. However, I hadn’t that luck because he wasn’t available. Thus, I had to cover this part by myself as well as I could.
Lucky me, Figma has a tiny tutorial and there are thousands of videos on youtube to learn the basics.
With the final mockup completed, the last step of my project was to test with a small batch of users who agreed (from my first survey) to hop on a screen share and test out the product. The result was better than I could imagine, the UX part which I designed was clear for the users and as a result, they could picture themselves using the features easily.
Finally, I wanted to find some quantitative data to validate if the myspace page with the features included was something that could fit into the original website.
To test this, I sent a follow-up email just after each interview asking for a simple Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey asking on a scale of 1–10 how likely they would use each feature included, and if they would recommend them to a friend. The final NPS was 7,7/10 across the interviewed users which was a very good result. Nonetheless, there is something important to highlight here. Due to COVID, I hadn’t a big number of people interviewed (as I could expect) and surveys completed. To do the customer research part is essential at the moment to set the problem and figure out the customer, but due to the different scenario, I can say that this affected the number of people who participated.
For that reason, I consider we would need more data but it is a valuable starting point in case the company wanted to use this to create its next feature.
The last part of the project would be to test the new feature with the right metrics to validate if our solutions generated an increase in the number of people buying every month and a decrease in the churn rate. It is important to remark that when we apply this kind of solution we would probably see a decrease in the number of people navigating through the website. This is caused by the automatization process that we set on our MySpace page. Also, because we created a space where users could find and pick easy their favorite products or the most ordered products, the time spent browsing decrease.
In fact, that what I was trying to obtain from the start. A way to help users to automatize their orders so they could just enjoy the product without thinking about order their desired products every time.
In a perfect scenario and for this kind of task, we would have had a team of four members: a Product Manager, UX/UI Designer, Visual Designer, and Front-end developer. However, I only could get the help of one UX/UI designer for the last part which is the final mock-up. Even that, I learned a lot from this experience. I could put into practice a lot of experiments that I have been wanting to test in a real scenario, and that is everything that I wanted.
I hope Flax & Kale could use this case study wisely and adapt some parts so their customers could get some benefit from it. Actually, I would love to get the subscription option to order my kombucha instantly every month without visiting the website every time, but that is on them.
Thanks to my girlfriend Cristina who introduced me to the restaurant that later drove me to my passion for vegan recipes. ( I am not vegan though), and to Kim Mckenna who helped me a lot on my transition to Product Manager.
In case you are starting as a PM and are interested in knowing more about how I developed each part of the project, please contact me to: