Square for Business
A social media experience fostering growth and economic expansion.
Given the quantifiable benefits small business owners are provided when selling through social media, how might we develop an alternative that helps the process be more efficient while keeping their personal touch?
Square for Business - a platform designed to streamline the various communication channels and order management tools to help small business owners expand, while unifying the purchasing experience for customers.
I helped develop research objectives, recruited participants, conducted observations and semi-structured interviews, designed and analyzed the survey, and conducted affinity mapping, in addition to presenting the initial qualitative findings to our external partners. I also helped create personas and ideated divergent designs as well as the final design concept. I created the usability testing protocol for both user and expert evaluations, and conducted several usability testing sessions of the final prototype.
August 2019 - November 2019
Square, a financial services and mobile payment company, approached my team with an ambitious prompt: How could we create a platform that provides users with an omnichannel experience to foster growth and economic expansion? Through this “omnichannel experience,” they wanted us to develop a way for smaller merchants to expand their customer scope and their online presence without necessarily having to build an online store from scratch. While they envision the experience to be usable for any merchant, during the initial phase of our project smaller merchants were our focal point.
In this context, “omnichannel” refers to every context in which someone can take a payment and exchange goods.
Phase 1: Generative Research
The open-ended nature of the prompt gave my team room to explore, and we were excited to tackle this project! We knew whatever design we came up with had to be as much about the merchants themselves as it was about the overall customer experience, and it would require an understanding of where customers want to purchase things in addition to where merchants want to (and are able to) sell them.
We began by observing merchants at a farmer’s market and recruiting them for semi-structured interviews. Afterwards, we did a competitive analysis of the three most widely used social media platforms by merchants. We then created a survey to help us collect quantitative data to understand users’ online shopping behaviors. Lastly, we synthesized our findings through an affinity mapping session.
Pinpoint recurring themes and pain points small merchants face within the channels they are present on
Identify the barriers and fears merchants face when delving into online business
Understand the intersection of how customers want to shop and how merchants are able to sell
What are the benefits you find selling your product at the farmer's market?
Why do you use or prefer [platform they mentioned] instead of other platforms?
How do you manage your inventory, sales, and delivery logistics across all these platforms?
Merchants prefer conducting sales via social media rather than their own website, since personal touch increases their sales
Merchants are having difficulty juggling sales through multiple online platforms (e.g. Instagram, Facebook)
Merchants do not have the technological infrastructure to handle their business growth
Merchants lack effective and scalable order management and inventory management tools
To explore smaller merchants’ experiences and the challenges they encounter when considering an expansion in online presence, as well as to understand how they currently manage and fulfill the orders they receive through different channels.
Conducting semi-structured interviews will provide us with qualitative information on merchants’ experiences and opinions, as well as allowing us to hone in on each merchant’s largest pain point.
Observed and recruited at the Piedmont Park farmer's market
7 participants (5 from farmer's market, a local food catering business owner, and a jewelry-maker)
Interviews were conducted remotely via voice call
Analyzed data using affinity diagramming
While our findings from the semi-structured interviews helped us narrow our scope to social media and messaging channels, we still needed to understand the purchasing habits of customers, specifically as pertaining to online shopping and social media.
16 questions (mix of Likert scale, multiple choice, and open answer)
Distributed via Slack and social media
The survey can be accessed here
What do you do the most often when it comes to shopping?
Have you ever made a purchase decision after seeing the product on social media?
Have you ever contacted a store through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp to get more information on a product?
Customers are frustrated by the lack of product information available
Customers must reach out directly to merchants to complete purchase
There is a huge disconnect between the channels in which each merchant is present and the channels that customers can actually place an order and pay through
Asking both multiple choice questions and open-ended questions in our survey will allow us to quickly gather quantitative and qualitative data to start analyzing customer behavior and identify purchasing patterns.
Answers to "What do you do the most often when it comes to shopping?"
Answers to "Have you ever contacted a store through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp to get more information on a product?"
In order to develop a better understanding of our merchants, their online business practices, and their business environment, we decided to analyze their most commonly used platforms.
Conducting a competitive analysis allowed us to step into the shoes of our merchants and identify the process that they follow as well as the services and the features that these platforms provide to them.
Three platforms were analyzed:
Facebook (Business page or marketplace)
Instagram (shoppable posts)
Shoppable post on Instagram
Redefining Project Objectives
After gathering data through various research methods and analyzing our findings, we found that there were two very distinct user groups - and our project needed to address the needs of each one.
The original prompt given to us by Square was the following: “Create a platform that provides users with an omnichannel experience to foster growth and economic expansion.”
We took the original prompt and redefined it, specifying the direction we wanted to take with each type of user:
On the merchant side, our goal is to design a streamlined application that consolidates inventory management, communication channels, and financial transactions in order to help small business owners expand.
On the customer side, we need to unify the purchasing experience on an existing platform - eliminating the need to jump between various platforms to view product details, communicate with merchants, and make payments.
Phase 2: Design
After conducting generative research using various methods, it was time for us to get creative! Inspired by the double diamond design process, we brainstormed and came up with three divergent solutions to address the problem statement. Due to time limitations, we decided to focus on the customer side during this phase of the project, but we will dive deeper into the merchant experience moving forward.
Concepts (discussed below):
Square iMessage App
Interactive Message Bubbles
Concept 1: Square iMessage App
Leveraging the functionality, market share, and steadily growing popularity of the existing Square CashApp iMessage app, this concept explores the possibility of linking to an iMessage application from outside channels (specifically social media) to enable the user to purchase items from small business owners easily.
The customer will be redirected to iMessage from whichever social media channel they are on, with our iMessage app automatically popping up on the users’ screen. The user will be able to purchase the item they were initially interested in directly from iMessage, in addition to exploring the merchant’s inventory.
Concept 2: Interactive Message Bubbles
Inspired by the interactions involved with reacting to messages on Facebook Messenger, this concept explores the possibility of conducting transactions within a messaging service to enable the user to purchase items from small business owners easily, without having to switch out of the application.
Based on the contents of the message, the chat bubble smartly adapts it’s secondary functionality (enabled by long pressing it). Currently, long pressing any chat bubble opens the reaction emojis. This would be swapped out with a pop up that would allow the user to purchase products directly within the messaging window, without having to switch between applications. This popup would lead to a web interface created by Square, where the user could (a) view the merchant’s inventory and (b) make a purchase if necessary.
Concept 3: Square Keyboard
This design aims at introducing Square Keyboard, a custom keyboard that both merchants and customers can download on their phones. This keyboard has the ability to connect to the backend and carry out multiple tasks within the keyboard. For instance, merchants can publish their products through keyboards which are sent to their customers as an interactive message. The customer can directly purchase the product from the chat without having to use a third-party payment app. This plugin also allows merchants to view their inventory over a period of time and view their business reports.
We took these concepts to the primary stakeholder - Square - for feedback and direction. We picked the strongest concept and combined features from the three ideas to implement interactive messaging in a new way. We then wireframed an interactive prototype to then test with end users - the customers.
Our team presenting our design ideas to members of the Square team!
Organizing the feedback we received into a pros and cons visualization
Based on the feedback that we received from Square and expanding on the idea of leveraging the shopping experience by making use of a chatbot, we brought our ideas to life by designing a working prototype that would determine the customer’s journey when interacting with the app. You can check out our interactive prototype here!
Screenshot of the wireframe interactions
Some of our initial wireframe screens
The following schematic shows the current situation (left) of how a merchant has to post a product on multiple social media platforms to reach a wider audience. Our design (right) consists of a merchant-facing application that allows merchants to create a single listing for each product, and then distribute that listing on every platform they would like it posted on - eliminating the need for them to individually have to create a listing for each platform.
You can check out our interactive prototype here!
Old approach vs. new approach
The goal of this evaluation session was to identify possible accessibility issues, gaps within the purchasing process, and what features users considered to be the most and least valuable in the customer-facing design.
1 moderator and 1 notetaker
Mix between cognitive walkthrough and think aloud session
How would you purchase a green dress in a size small?
How intuitive was the process?
How would including this feature change your Instagram experience?
What features would make this easier to use?
Wireframes Feedback Session
Phase 3: Evaluative Research
We wanted our participants to attempt multiple tasks after freely exploring our prototype, to assess how intuitive the merchant side of our design is.
10 participants (3 of them considered "expert evaluators")
1 moderator and 1 notetaker
Average SUS Score: 82.5
Post a new product on Facebook and Instagram
Identify the sales data for the silk dress on Facebook
Change the status of an order from "placed" to "shipped"
Through our usability testing sessions, we learned a lot of things about both of our designs and how users would approach them. We organized our findings, created implications for each user need, and prioritized the feedback to integrate into a final iteration of the designs.
Three important changes are discussed below.
Finding: Customers are not aware that making a purchase via messaging is an option
Implication: Design should include an obvious element for customers to interact with and be redirected to messaging
Finding: The final options shown are confusing
Implication: Modify the final labels visible to customers so they can easily navigate their options after a purchase has been made
Finding: Merchants could be using a Square account to organize their inventory and may not want to have to re-enter the product details
Implication: Merchants should have the option to import their catalog from their existing Square account