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Storefront

A discovery CASE STUDY for the users of Storefront. The goal of this exercise is to show how I explore and uncover new opportunities for this platform. Below, I’ve created samples of my approach.

Storefront is a platform for renting retail space. From single location pop-ups to multi-city star studded product launches, Storefront empowers retail businesses and property managers to create magic experiences in their communities.

Past Role

I had the opportunity to work with the Storefront team as a Product Designer back in 2015. We reimagine Storefront from the ground up and enabled thousands of pop-up shops, showrooms, galleries, and other event venues to open up all around the world.

"Roarke, I appreciate the work you contributed to Storefront. Your eye for design and user experience were critical for us launching the new product. You were always willing to go above and beyond what was expected. I'm grateful for the clean ux and graphics that you designed. Your commitment was very inspiring: you pushed the boundaries and made those around you consider new and better approaches. I look forward to seeing what you do next!"
Sincerely, Erik (Founder and CEO of Storefront)

Case Study

In this exercise, my focus was to answer the following questions from the perspective of a Product Manager at Storefront.

Questions

What new feature would you build and why? 

  1. Discovery (Going broad)
    Review
    the current product, stakeholders, & assumptions
    Brainstorm potential features
  2. Picking a direction (Going Narrow)
    Determine
    what feature to build and why 
    - Analyze options
    - Make recommendations
    - Define metrics for success
    - Share tradeoffs
  3. Design the feature 
    - How does it look and behave
NOTE: Typically, Product Managers handle duties such as gathering market/customer requirements, goal prioritization, and advocacy. They work closely with stakeholders and lead cross-functional teams of engineers, sales/marketing, and support to make sure that business goals and customer satisfaction desires are met. Effective PMs empower their teams to deliver value to customers, take advantage of network-effects, expand their product’s market share, and grow a thriving morale.

TLDR Summary

I recommend building a Dedicated Communication Feature because my analysis indicates, of all my considerations, it is the Lowest Execution Difficulty and Highest Product Risk/Reward opportunity (aka it’s most likely to provide customers and Storefront with the most value).

What new feature would you build, and why?

Each step in the process, shown below, demonstrates how I arrived at my recommendation. First, I’ll "go broad" by revisiting Storefront through research and then brainstorm features through category exporation to look at various potential answers. Then, I’ll "go narrow" by analyzing my work and selecting an option which is most likely to provide customers and Storefront with the most value.

1. Going Broad (Discovery)

UNDERSTANDING STOREFRONT (REVIEW/RESEARCH)

To refresh my memory and deepen my understanding I started with light research. Below are the key elements of what I found.

STOREFRONT

Storefront operates a marketplace product that enables Property Managers to rent their retail space to Brand Managers effectively. Storefront’s website, social profiles, and marketing material clarifies its positions as:

  • Storefront is the world's leading online marketplace for renting physical retail space.
  • Storefront connects 10,000+ retail spaces in 30+ cities with 100,000+ brands from individual to multinational organizations.
  • We aim to make 94% of offline retail accessible to any business. (94% of worldwide retail sales are done in physical stores.)
  • We are building the future of retail by making it more engaging, more transparent and more productive.
  • Our vision is to make retail globally accessible.
  • Rent shops, pop-up stores, showrooms, and venues around the world. Book by the day, week, month, or year.
  • 62% of e-commerce brands that became brick-and-mortar stores opened in the same city where they opened their first pop-up shop.
PRODUCT

Storefront offers a Platform, Features, and Services to its users. 

PLATFORM
  • WebApp - Storefront is a web-based marketplace platform. The platform can be accessed through a browser on mobile, tablet, or desktop. In lieu of native app notifications, Storefront uses texting and emails to notify users of activity on the platform.
FEATURES

List your space - Core functionality for Property Managers

  • Create A Listing - Add Availability, Pricing, Title & Summary, Photos, Address, Space Type, Features, Neighborhood Feel, Rules, Preferred Business, Permits-licenses-zoning, Occupancy.
  • Find a space - The core functionality for Brand Managers
  • Search - Neighborhoods, Cities, States, Countries
  • Filter - Date range, Daily Price Range, Space Type, Space Size, Space Features, Floor LVL/Access
  • Projects - A Project (campaign) helps orient and maintain the specific vision/goal of the Brand Manager as they use Storefront to find and rent spaces. In other words, A Project is a group of bookings associated to the Brand Manager's specific goal, such as a multi-city product launch or a single pop-up in NY. A Brand Manager may have more than one project. When a Booking Inquiry is created, a Brand Manager needs to either associate that inquiry with a project or create a new project for the inquiry.
  • Favorite Listings - a list of spaces that a Brand Manager has favorited. These lists can be generally associated with the user’s account or associated with a specific project.

Connect - Core functionality for both Brand and Property Managers

  • Booking Inquiry - A request sent from a Brand Manager to a Property Manager that opens up a channel for communication. Within a Booking Inquiry, Users may message, call, schedule site visits, attend virtual tours, and manage a booking (AKA: schedule, pay for, make, cancel, edit rental days of a specific property). Booking Inquiries also include helpful information for both parties to review and discuss. Bookings Inquiries stay open till they are completed or canceled.

Settings - Core functionality for all users

  • Account - User name, email, phone number, about, language
  • Notifications - phone number texts
  • Company Information - Company Name, Size, Entity type, website, address
  • Payment Methods - Card (to pay for bookings, subscriptions, services)
  • Support - Messaging with Storefront customer service. Includes file uploads
SERVICES
  • SAAS - For Storefront's SAAS, a 20% service fee is added to the price of every rental, paid for by the Brand side of the market.
  • Concierge - Managed accounts, Full service, Hand holding. (cost unknown/not scalable).
  • Equipment rental - Products rentable through partner service.
  • Wi-fi services - Wi-fi devices and plans are available through partner services.
  • Store or event design - Strategy, Idea generation, Deployment.
  • Staffing - Build a team for your popup. Hire a Store Manager, Sales assistant, Cashier
  • Insurance - Make sure your pop-up, event, or showroom is fully covered.
  • POS and ticketing - Rent Point of Sale or ticketing equipment and plans through our partner.
  • Analytics - Collect Customer insight, data management and actionable outcomes through our partners.
  • Company Registration - launch in new markets, international expansion, launch in China.
USERS

Users included Property Managers and Brand Managers. 

PROPERTY MANAGER

A Property Manager is a user who manages one or multiple rental properties. Property Managers are the supply (the hard side). Property Managers use Storefront to extract value from their property by easily advertising and renting out their properties to Brand Managers. 

BRAND MANAGER

A Brand Manager is a user who is trying to increase brand awareness for their brand. Brand Managers are the consumers (the easy side). Brand Managers use Storefront to increase their brand's visibility (brand awareness) by renting advertised properties and hosting pop-ups to “get in front of” their customers. 

NOTE: Ideally, I’d have the opportunity to talk with these Stakeholders to get a deep sense of what they are trying to achieve with Storefront.

STAKEHOLDER ASSUMPTIONS
Storefront desires
  • to Increase its net profit and increase its market share over competitors.
Both Brand and Property managers desire:
  • to increase net profit from their brand/property easily. 
  • to see real activity (More than examples and quotes) of brands launching in both spaces around the world and specific spaces, to feel confident and inspired about Storefront.
  • to increase their brand/property's visibility to their customers. 
  • to feel like the steps are clear, easy, and actionable.
  • to work with highly-rated people and want to avoid dealing with people that are hard to work with.
  • to easily communicate and collaborate successfully with each other
  • assurances of security, reliability, robustness, and visual finish from the platform. Bugs are a big turn-off (when they associate their valuable business with Storefront.
Brand Managers desire
  • to reduce pop-up costs. (Building a new brand is expensive).
Property Managers desire
  • to manage Storefront Services offered in their space. Why: Property Managers may want to disable some Storefront Services like Analytics or Store/Event Design while enabling others like Staffing.
  • the flexibility to be completely hands-on or completely hands-off. Hands-on means they manage inbound interest and communicate directly with the renter. Hands-off means they want someone to manage the rental.

BRAINSTORMING FEATURES

Feature Category Exploration

In this brainstorm, I identified categories that features could arise from based on the relationships I intuited from my Research phase. Then, I explored them by defining a key assumption, testable hypothesis, question, and feature solution for each category.

PRESSURE
  • Assumption: It is essential for current and potential users (Brand and Property Managers) to see relevant popup collaborations (pressure) on Storefront - to increase product adoption, stickiness, and reduce attrition.
  • Hypothesis: When potential Brand and Property Managers (users) see relevant successful collaboration (pressure) occurring on Storefront they will sign up and use Storefront with greater frequency than they currently do.
  • Question: How might we increase the number of relevant successful collaborations shown to current and potential users?
  • Feature Solution: Showcase Feature
    Showcase relevant upcoming, live, and past collaborations on the homepage of Storefront, on a Property’s profile, on a Brand’s profile, and on social media posts. 
INSIGHT
  • Assumption: It is essential for users to know how visible their products and properties are to their preferred target market - to increase Storefront's product adoption, stickiness, and reduce attrition.
  • Hypothesis: When Brand and Property Managers are empowered to acquire high visibility for their offerings through Storefront, they will rebook more often than they currently do.
  • Question: How might we further serve Brand and Property Managers who need to increase their brand/property's visibility to their respective customers?
  • Feature Solution: Data View Feature
    1) Give users relevant insights and analytics for their offerings.
    2) Give users a way to boost their listing to the top of the list, create promotions, and get showcased. 
PROFIT/VALUE 
  • Assumption: It is essential for users to achieve profit/value using Storefront - to increase Storefront's product adoption, stickiness, and reduce attrition.
  • Hypothesis: When Brands and Property Managers achieve high profit/value they increase their use of Storefront.
  • Question: How might we increase the potential for users to achieve profit/value?
  • Feature Solution: Notification Feature
    Give timely relevant notifications highlighting insights, suggestions, and occasionally support to increase the effectiveness of their offerings (like Facebook does) 
COMMUNICATION
  • Assumption: It is essential for users to experience high quality communication on/through the Storefront's platform - to increase stickiness and reduce attrition of the product.
  • Hypothesis: When Brand and Property Managers communicate effectively through Storefront they rebook through the platform more often. Conversely, when Brand and Property Managers can't communicate well or have to find other ways to get their message across, attrition occurs.
  • Question: How might we improve communication between Brand and Property Managers? 
  • Feature Solution: Dedicated Communication Feature
    Give users a natural way to communicate to increase the effectiveness of their conversations and dealings with one another. 
TRANSACTION
  • Assumption: It is essential for users to prefer to transact on/through Storefront's platform - to increase stickiness and reduce attrition of the product.
  • Hypothesis: When Brand and Property Managers receive loyalty reward points to use towards future payments they will transact over the platform more often. Conversely, when Brand and Property Managers don't receive incentive they will find other incentivized ways to get their payment across, causing loss of valuable data for Storefront.
  • Question: How might we incentivize Brand and Property Managers to transact on/through the Storefront's platform.
  • Feature Solution: Loyalty Rewards Feature
    Create a customer loyalty reward program for payments made over the platform that may be used towards future payments over the platform (Storefront points).
COLLABORATION
  • Assumption: It is essential users enjoy positive collaboration - to increase product adoption, stickiness, and reduce attrition.
  • Hypothesis: When Brand and Property Managers are able to identify the clout of other users they will have more positive experiences and will rebook and relist through Storefront more often. 
  • Question: How might we improve the likelihood of good collaboration between Brand and Property Managers? 
  • Feature Solution: Ratings & Review Feature
    Create a system so users can build clout. Enable Brand and Property Managers to rate and review their engagement after working together, so potential collaborators in the future have more insight when deciding who to work with. Enable users to filter using ratings and reviews. 
CONTROL
  • Assumption: It is essential users are empowered to control how they use and interact with the features and services of Storefront - to increase stickiness and reduce attrition of the product.
  • Hypothesis: When users have more fine-grain control over their experience they will rebook and relist through Storefront more often. 
  • Question: How might we increase users' control? 
  • Feature Solution: Services Control Features
    1) Give both Brand and Property Managers a way to indicate if they want to manage the rental/popup process themselves (hands on) or if they want the rental/popup process managed by a third party(hands off).
    2) Give Property Managers a way to indicate which services Storefront can make available to Brands popping up in their space(s). 
ALIGNMENT
  • Assumption: It is essential that Storefront's business is aligned with its users' businesses - to increase product adoption, stickiness, and reduce attrition.
  • Hypothesis: When Storefront aligns with its users' businesses more users will become returning loyal customers making Storefront's business more predictable (When users win Storefront wins).
  • Question: How might we improve business alignment?
  • Solution: Business Alignment 
    Switch Storefront's business model away from one where fewer customers pay large-fees (significant barrier to most e-commerce Brands) toward one where Storefront collects tailored subscriptions and reasonable fees from many more customers. In other words: 1) Remove the fee charged to Brands based on % of $ transaction between Brand and Property Manager (This fee is out of alignment because it is a barrier to entry that will stop most e-commerce businesses, even large successful ones, from making an account). 2) Create tiered subscription plans tailored for Brand Managers and Property Managers. For example: Both user types would get at least one subscription-less popup experience, then to keep using Storefront they would need to purchase their user type's subscription tier (a, b, or c) which would provide them with different affordances per month/year. 3) Charge % fee for brand product sales at popups. 

2. Going Narrow (Picking a direction)

Here, I "Go Narrow" by analyzing my work and selecting an option which is most likely to provide customers and Storefront with the most value.

CONSIDERATIONS

It's essential to use the right factors when analyzing different directions. The top two factors to consider are Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward. 

Execution Difficulty 

Execution Difficulty refers to the estimated amount of work (effort/resources) required to implement a given direction (Based on expert opinions).

Product Risk/Reward 

Product Risk/Reward refers to the estimated effects, considering both short and long term, expected from implementing a given direction (Based on data, user research, expert opinions, etc).

FEATURE ANALYSIS

Here, I show my (oversimplified) analysis of each direction's Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward.

Diagram: Each Feature’s Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward has been rated from low, medium, to high.
Diagram: Each Feature’s Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward has been rated from low, medium, to high.
Table: Each Feature’s Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward has been rated from low, medium, to high.
Table: Each Feature’s Execution Difficulty and Product Risk/Reward has been rated from low, medium, to high.

RECOMMENDATION

Based on my analysis, I decided to recommend the "Dedicated Communication Feature" direction because, out of all the potential directions I considered, it has the lowest Execution Difficulty and highest Product Risk/Reward opportunity to explore. 

It is the lowest Execution Difficulty, because the Storefront team has already built the bulk of the underlying technology for this feature (as evident by existing communication features), making it a relatively smaller amount of work to execute.

It is the highest Product Risk/Reward, because If tested, It would help us both illuminate whether communication through Storefront is important and illuminate how existing features can be improved in the future; If fully released, it would affect all users; If left untested, we will not know the value of the current communication tools and may be unwittingly causing friction and attrition.  

My goal is to determine whether user desires and business objectives would be met before releasing the new feature to all target users.

TARGET USERS

The recommended Dedicated Communication Feature would generally affect all Storefront users. 

TEST USERS

Specific users who will likely provide unbiased data & feedback so the team can objectively analyze whether the recommended feature and its hypothesis are successful.

SELECTING TEST USERS

We select test users by sampling a cross section of accounts which exhibit a combination of relevant metrics & signals. Each of the following user metrics & signals are on a spectrum. The cross section of users chosen to test will be segmented from the low, medium, and high end of each signal/metric’s relative spectrum. 

USER METRICS

Measurement of general usage of a product.

  • User account age
  • User session length
  • User session frequency 
  • User time-in-app
  • User flow patterns
USER SIGNALS

Measurement of a user’s interaction with a specific aspect of a product. 

  • User booking (rental/popup) count total
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / week
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / month
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / quarter
  • User use/ lack of use of current communication features
  • User satisfaction/ dissatisfaction with communication recorded via feedback
DEPLOYING TO TEST USERS

We would deploy to test users with a Feature Management solution such as LaunchDarkly.

Once chosen, these users will be notified that they may participate in the alfa test of this feature and be asked to turn the feature on. They will have the ability to revert and provide feedback directly to Storefront.

Success Metrics

We define and track metrics and signals to evaluate how the new feature affects user engagement. This will assist us in determining whether business objectives would be met by making the new feature available to all target users.

I covered most of this in b. Going Narrow > TARGET USERS > TEST USERS > SELECTING TEST USERS > USER METRICS & USER SIGNALS above.

MEASUREMENTS

In this exercise we would track and measure the User Metrics and Signals we already defined: 

USER METRICS

Measurement of general usage of a product. 

  • User account age
  • User session length
  • User session frequency 
  • User time-in-app
  • User flow patterns
USER SIGNALS

Measurement of a user’s interaction with a specific aspect of a product. 

  • User booking (rental/popup) count total
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / week
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / month
  • User average booking (rental/popup) count / quarter
  • User use/ lack of use of current communication features
  • User satisfaction/ dissatisfaction with communication recorded via feedback

How does the feature look and behave? 

User Stories

To start, I wanted to explore at the highest level, showcasing a few realistic user stories we could expect for a Dedicated Communication Feature.

A user story is a brief, general description of a software feature written from the perspective of the end user. Its aim is to explain how a software feature will benefit the consumer. Though It's easy to mistake user stories for system requirements, they are not. User stories are only used to gain empathy in order to advocate for users' desires. 

BRAND MANAGER STORIES

Jeff@ThicccJerky.com

Jeff Diamonds is the Brand Manager for Thiccc Jerky, a new e-commerce brand targeting bodybuilders with protein rich jerky. Jeff is interested in hosting a popup near the Los Angeles Convention Center leading up to TheFitExpo which happens January 14-15, 2023. In order to maximize the use of the space he has rented, he needs to keep an open dialog with the Property Manager. He needs one place he can manage all the technical aspects of this campaign. One place that has all messages, media, and transactions recorded for reference. 

Jeena@WayFairy.com

Jeena Chan is a Brand Manager for WayFairy, a massive ecommerce store that sells many products. Jeena and her team are interested in creating attention leading up to Black Friday by setting up a multi-city product showcase. She and her team need the ability to easily reach and coordinate with Property Managers across the United States for this campaign. She needs a consolidated view of her campaign(s), a view of activity related to specific properties, and all the relevant details so she can reach Property Managers, plan ahead, and manage situations as they arise. Her team also needs the ability to login with their own @wayFairy.com accounts to handle the workload. 

PROPERTY MANAGER STORIES

Obree@PropForRent.com

Obree Thorson is a Property Manager for PropForRent, a property management firm operating in Los Angeles. His team’s priority is to maximize the rental income of their properties. To maximize rental income, he has found his team needs to eagerly support tenet’s efforts. He needs a way for his team to quickly track active conversations and keep an open dialogue with each of his tenets. A tool that keeps all relevant information close at hand and focused on each tenant’s campaign goals. 

SkyKleine@gmail.com 

Sky Kleine is a Property Manager for her family’s property. It sits in the middle of town on the busy main street. She is well known in the community and has a very tailor fit set of tenants that frequently rent her space. In order to provide her tenants with the support they need, she needs a tool that consolidates all the relevant conversations and info related to her tenants’ campaigns. 

Product Feature Requirements

With the User Stories providing a backdrop, I set out some high level Product Feature Requirements for the Dedicated Communication Feature.

REQUIREMENTS

  • The interface must 
    - Be the same for all users. 
    - Organize content similar to normal text message threads.
    - Make activity easy to filter and search.
    - Provide a user with all relevant info related to the rental/campaign they are viewing.
  • User should be able to
    - Message
    - Make/receive calls
    - Make/receive payments
    - Upload/download files
    - Review activity/actions
    - Report issues 
  • The WebApp must 
    - Notify the intended recipient If activity hasn’t been seen for X amount of time via text or email. The email must bring the intended recipient back to the webapp to review the activity.

Brainstorming Visually

Now that I had a basic understanding of User Stories and Feature Requirements, I started to rapidly wireframe concepts for the Dedicated Communication Feature.

You’ll find that the feature concept ended up being 4 List Views and many ideated List Items. The biggest challenge here was identifying the necessary views users would need to conduct robust business conversations reliably through Storefront. Ultimately, I felt that it was best to structure the information architecture around views of Activity. 

  1. All Business Activity
  2. Campaign Activity (related to a Business)
  3. Property Activity (related to a Campaign)
  4. Conversational Actions (related to a Property)

Each view consisted of List Items with different requirements. I would be interested in running an A/B test on List Item requirements/layouts to see which performed better. 

UI Outline

*Activity View launched by clicking the bell icon. 

*Activity visibility based on user roles & permissions.

Spreadsheet sketch of UI
Spreadsheet sketch of UI

Wireframe Sketches

List Item Concepts
Sketch of List Item Concepts
View Concepts
Sketch of View Concepts
Wireframe Concept Refined
Wireframe Concept Refined
Note: The views illustrated here are for searching and reviewing all business activity from within the app. When a user receives a new notification about activity on their phone, clicking it will directly open the “Property Activity” view.

Mockup

Here is a quick mockup. 

Correction: The header should show the property logo and property title.

Mockup of Conversational Interface
Mockup of conversational interface

Summary

In this exercise, I focused on answering 1) what feature I would build and why, 2) how the feature would look and behave, and 3) what the trade-offs, risks, and metrics for success would be from the perspective of a Product Manager at Storefront.

The real magic happens when we layer proven product features together to provide customers with a larger net value, then Storefront can start to take advantage of network-effects and expand its market share over competitors.

Trade Offs & Risks

I covered Trade Offs & Risks in b. Going Narrow under Feature Analysis above. 

By focusing on a Dedicated Communication Feature Storefront would incur an opportunity cost by spending valuable resources that otherwise could be used to explore other options. 

The most important thing here is to make educated decisions based on the analysis of tradeoffs and risks of each potential solution. The goal is to learn from decisions quickly and continue to make more and more informed decisions to increase storefront’s profits by increasing Storefront’s value to users. 

Could it be utilized frequently and unsuccessful?

With specific regards to our hypothesis, “When Brand and Property Managers communicate effectively through Storefront they rebook through the platform more often”, yes, it is possible for the Dedicated Communication Feature to be adopted and accepted by users but unsuccessful if users don’t start to rebook more often. The average users’ rebooking count must increase for the feature to be considered successful.

With a broader perspective, if the feature is being used frequently but the booking count doesn’t go up, the effort could still be considered useful as Storefront is collecting much more engagement data and would be able to use that data to learn and make more informed decisions in the future. 

No items found.