China is a potentially lucrative market for western businesses, but it’s also a challenging one. Even mighty Amazon has retreated from China after attempting to launch products there. For companies to gain a foothold in China, they need to figure out how to succeed on the super apps and platforms that dominate Chinese eCommerce and culture. That’s what a multinational business is doing by creating a better customer experience on WeChat, China’s dominant digital platform.

Our client is a global shipping company that services businesses around the world. The shipper is working with me and my colleagues to revamp the experience it provides to China-based businesses that use WeChat to ship their packages to their customers. After offering a first-generation shipping service through WeChat, our client is figuring out how to make the experience better and relevant to their digitally fluent customer base. Here’s how design sprints are helping:

What question did you want to answer in your sprint?

The shipper had already launched a WeChat mobile experience, whose purpose was to help small businesses in China manage delivery of their packages domestically and internationally. Users were able to manage aspects of their shipping activities, including scheduling pick-up from drivers to tracking the status of packages in transit. After getting customer feedback, the client sought to make its WeChat experience better. The key question the client wanted to answer:

How do we improve the WeChat user experience and in doing so increase the number of monthly average users?

Moreover, the shipper believed that by improving the user experience, the company would see a decrease in call center volume owing to fewer customers calling for help.

Who was on the sprint team?

Alignment in Action

Our design sprint was large — primarily because this was the very first design sprint this group had experienced, and the stakeholders were curious and excited to participate. All told, we ultimately had six stakeholders who joined us from various parts of their organization and geographical locations. Their focus ranged from marketing to customer service to IT. The director of marketing was the decider.

Complementing the stakeholders, we had the following individuals collaborating in the design sprint:

Interaction Designer — helped maintain proper and elegant user experiences principles throughout our solutioning and prototyping. There are specific interaction models and patterns to consider when designing an experience on WeChat, and she provided that domain expertise throughout the sprint.

Product Manager — helped guide the team through the ideation of the solutions always with a customer-centric point of view. He championed the customer throughout out the sprint and ensured the teams were solving for the most critical challenge to bring lovability to the end user.

Product Designers — expertly translated the thoughts, ideas, and collaborations into a beautifully articulated WeChat experience. Their cultural understanding of the digital customer base and the macro digital landscape in China provided the necessary inputs to make the prototype experience engaging and relevant.

Spring– IT Manager — pressure-tested the feasibility of the solutions and offered insights on how the prototype could be made production ready, able to support global operational readiness and scale.

How did you make your prototype?

The team interviewed the shipper’s stakeholders and its business customers in China to better understand apply empathy to the pain points of the current WeChat experience. We uncovered a number of issues small businesses have with the experience of sending packages, including:

  • Business customers need more and pointed guidance on how to prepare a package to ship overseas. With more guidance, they could ensure a more successful process.
  • Business customers don’t know when their driver will arrive to pick up packages for delivery. A pick-up time at a business could be at 8:00 a.m. but the driver may not arrive until noon, leaving businesses in the lurch.
  • When packages are going through customs, business customers cannot track their status properly. When issues in customs arise, the business customer isn’t aware there may be complications.

These insights and a whole lot more prompted the team to identify several “How Might We” (HMW) questions, such as:

  • How might we onboard new customers?
  • How might we alert the customers about changes in a driver’s pick-up time?
  • How might we conveniently display all shipments and details?
  • How might we provide better visibility into the status of packages?

As a result of creating the HMWs, we agreed to prototype a solution that would focus on improving the shipping process for existing customers as opposed to onboarding new ones.

Its features included:

  • The status of the shipper’s driver, shown in real time as Uber does with their drivers.
  • The status of a product in transit all the way up to delivery.
  • Alerts on any issues affecting package delivery, especially as it relates to a delay in customs. The app not only reports delays but also reasons for a delay, such as the actual weight of a box not matching the weight of the box label.

In essence, the prototype is an interactive wireframe. In addition, the prototype incorporates distinctive WeChat design features, such as WeChat’s unique location of menus and the search bar being at the bottom.

Although we voted on a single prototype, we incorporated ideas from other prototypes developed by team members, too. For instance, one of the concepts included a useful calendaring feature, which we incorporated into the prototype.

After we created the prototype, we tested it with former and current business customers. We visited their place of business in Shanghai and showed them the prototype mocked up on a phone and a tablet.

Testing the Prototype with Customers

Then we observed customer reactions, such as:

  • What did customers respond well to?
  • What experiences did the customers completely ignore?
  • What improvements did we need to make?

For instance:

  • Universally, business customers loved knowing the status of their driver, which gave them peace of mind akin to the experience of knowing the status of you Uber or Lyft driver.
  • They disliked a GPS feature we designed, which was supposed to help the business customers easily enter in the address of the pick-up location. Addresses in China are complex and not uniformly understood. The assumption was that by utilizing GPS, the business customers would no longer have to enter in a complex address. The GPS would locate the user via technology and this experience would be easier and less painful.

However, when we tested for this with real customers, they balked at the concept of using GPS because GPS does not work as well for businesses located in dense urban locations with high rises and other signal-interfering infrastructure. Customers preferred to enter their addresses manually even though doing so is more complicated and time consuming.

At the end of the 4-day sprint, we felt confident that we had created the right prototype. We also had a priority for which changes we’d make to the creation of the minimum lovable product (MLP) based on the insights we gained while testing the prototype with actual customers.

Happy (and exhausted) Sprint Team

What did you learn from the test?

The experience affirmed that design sprints can address a complicated business challenge in an international market with a large, cross-functional team. We manage design sprints all the time for our clients. This one involved several stakeholders. We relied on our client’s resources and presence in China to get rapid access to actual customers in their natural business setting.

What’s next for your project?

Our client is now gearing up to launch its fully functional WeChat app experience.

What worked/didn’t work about the design sprint process?

What worked:

  • We got an exceptionally large and complicated cross-functional team to rally around a problem.
  • The design sprint did its job of keeping the customer at the center. As it turns out, the GPS feature we envisioned would have created a strain on the client’s engineering team. The design sprint process did its job by identifying a feature that was not going to work well for the intended audience.

The main challenge of the project was finding a business customer who had not used the first-generation WeChat app that the client had designed. We preferred to get a completely fresh perspective by talking with customers who lacked exposure to the current experience. We were unable to do so because the client has broad reach in China. So we needed to rely on current or ex-customers.

Did you make any modifications to the process?

We adapted the design sprint to four days by following the Design Sprint 2.0 approach, which was a more optimized used of our client’s time.

Will your team sprint again?

Yes. Moonshot uses the design sprint with many clients. We’ve incorporated the design sprint into our FUEL methodology, which helps companies rapidly develop products at scale.

Michael Kim

Michael Kim

Practice Lead, Digitalization