If you plan to make significant improvements to your web store experience within the next six months or so, this article is for you.
It shows you how to easily facilitate a powerful workshop that identifies three specific things you should consider putting on the top of your implementation list as you move forward.
“You’ll get a much better understanding of the problems your customers experience and areas of opportunity you are missing. You end up with new suggestions for solutions,” says Crisp consultant Jimmy Janlén
He has many years’ experience running participatory workshops at Spotify and other places, tapping into the power of having many brains work together to crystallize solutions.
This 4-hour plan, designed in collaboration with Jimmy, includes inviting your customers to participate.
Why invite your customers to improve your store?
Your customers are the ones who experience your web store first-hand, so it makes sense to dig deeper into what’s important to them.
The 4-hour process is far more immersive than just asking the ordinary customer survey questions “What do you want?”, “What are your problems?” and so on. Here customers have an active role in creating and innovating, while you as the merchant will elevate your thinking when it comes to planning and strategizing around your customer experience.
What you need to do before the workshop
There are some decisions to be made before you can send out invitations and finalize the preparations.
Who will you invite?
Jimmy recommends a mix of the following:
- Some normal customers
- Some repeat customers
- Some fans who love your products and your brand
- Some of your own staff
- Perhaps a couple of suppliers
The goal is to bring together 12 people. Keep in mind that people may cancel at short notice, so it’s a good idea to have 15 confirmed, plus a standby list that you can call last minute.
What’s their reward for participating?
The better the reward, the more likely people are to accept your invitation. Here are some ideas:
- A gift card for 200 euro that can be used to buy stuff in your store
- An invitation to an exclusive/high-value event
- A dinner for two at the most luxurious restaurant in town
Consider sending the gift as soon as they have said yes to participating. That way you will make it emotionally harder for them to change their mind later.
What are the logistics?
- The date – When is a great time for you and your customers? The further ahead you decide on a date, the better the chances of people being available.
- The location – Do you have a conference room available? Or do you need to find one? Be sure to make the reservation now, so that everything is set. Don’t forget to allow a couple of hours before the start of the workshop for preparations, and an hour after for a wrap-up.
- The food & beverages – What will be served? Who will take care of that? Pastries and sandwiches usually go down well, along with water, tea and coffee. And fruit for the breaks.
Once you have answered the questions above, you can send out the invites. Don’t make the invitation processes a bigger deal than it is, and consider making calls rather than sending an email. That will make people feel more special.
Just say something like: “Hi! I’m ____ from [your store]. Are you interested in being part of a test group for our store? (Explain more if needed: We are developing the store with a focus on the website shopping experience and are inviting people who have bought products from us during the last three months.)”
Mention your chosen participation incentive to close the deal. Feel free to modify this invitation as you please.
The 4-hour workshop agenda
Make sure the following things are ready:
- Three flip chart pages with the heading “Wow” and three with the heading “Doubts”, ready to be displayed in the room later
- Adhesive tape to stick the flip chart pages up on the wall
- A glass and a spoon or another way to make a recognizable sound to signal that time is up at the end of each exercise
- Thick pens for all participants
- Post-it notes
- At least ten large sheets of paper (flip chart pages are ideal)
- A whiteboard (or flip-charts) and pens
- A laptop projector
- Four internet-connected laptops
- Four smartphones that can record video (and a tested way to share their screens to a projector so that everyone can hear the sound and see the video full screen).
- A shopping code that the participants can use to make a test purchase in one of the exercises (without the order actually going through)
- Sandwiches and fruits – as well as coffee, tea and water – for all participants
The timing of the workshop
If your customers are consumers, you might have more success with people attending in the evening. The plan below is based on that. If you have a B2B e-commerce store, you might consider conducting the workshop in the daytime instead.
5.00-5.30 pm: Arrival time, with something to eat
Serve sandwiches before the workshop starts. Some will be coming straight from work, and will appreciate that energy refill. It also gives people a generous 30-minute window to arrive. Some will enjoy that time to make small-talk with you and the other people there. Others will be happy to arrive just minutes before the workshop starts to grab themselves a coffee.
5.30-05.45 pm: The warm-up introduction
Introduce yourself and clarify the context and purpose of the workshop: “To discover three specific solutions for our web shop that would give a better shopping experience”.
Then, spark some energy in the room with a simple discussion. This will make everyone feel involved immediately, focusing on the customers right from start:
Step 1: Pair discussion
Say: “Work together with the person sitting next to you for two minutes. Describe who you think our typical customer is.”
Step 2: Sharing with the group
Say: “Let’s hear what you have to say about our customers.”
Step 3: Clarify, and paint a clear mental picture
As a merchant, it’s time to share what you know about your customers. The goal is to help the participants paint a clear mental picture of the kinds of people they should have in mind throughout the workshop. Comment on what was said.
After that discussion, let participants know the timeline for the day – including breaks – so that everyone knows what to expect.
Finally, agree on some ground rules. For example, it’s best to have mobile phones turned off or set to silent.
05.45-06.35 pm: Deep dive into the shopping experience, as it is currently
During this section, the participants’ record videos that document what goes through their heads as they’re performing actions in your web store. Then they watch these together to raise awareness about the shopping experience as it stands.
Have four laptops connected to the internet and four smartphones that can record videos with sound to be played back to the group later? You will also need to decide on a product to buy.
Step 1: Create groups (5 min)
The goal here is to form groups of three, with at least one normal customer in each. You can do this by saying: “Who has bought from our store once or twice? Hands up! We will need four people.” (or however many are required to form groups of three from the larger group).
Place them in different parts of the room.
Next, you’ll need to assign participants as cameramen and questioners.
Say: “Who knows how to use the camera in an iPhone/Android? Hands up. We need one for each customer. Congratulations, you will be cameramen in this exercise.
“The rest of you, you will be asking a lot of questions. I’ll tell you more about what you need to do in a couple of minutes.”
“Spread yourselves evenly so that we have a customer, a cameraman and a questioner in each group.”
Step 2: Instructions for the recording exercise (5 min)
Instructions to the questioner: “Your job is to ask questions through every micro-step of the process. Ask questions like: ‘What do you see in front of you now?’, ‘What do you do next?’, ‘Now what, what do you want to do?’, ‘What do you think will happen when you click that button?’, ‘Can you explain what happened?’” (as a prompt, write examples of questions on a whiteboard or have them printed out).
To the cameraman: “Your job is to record the screen, so we all can see exactly what the customer is doing. The microphone will record the sound. The videos will only be used in this workshop, and for discussions internally afterwards.”
To the customer: “You have two missions: 1. Find and buy product _____ 2. Discover a product you didn’t know we had, a product that you would consider buying outside this workshop environment” (write these missions on the whiteboard).
Step 3: Recording for 6-7 minutes
Step 4: Watching videos & discussions (30 min)
Regroup by saying “Quickly find two people you haven’t been working with so far today”. Meanwhile you can set up the videos for playback on a larger screen.
Give new instructions: “After we have watched these videos together, you’ll be asked about when the customer was most enthusiastic and the most frustrated or challenged. So pay attention now.”
Make sure that everyone in the room can clearly see and hear the videos. Having a tech person around is a great idea. If you have good speakers plugged in, the experience is so much better.
Run one video at a time – followed by discussions.
“When were the customers most enthusiastic and the most frustrated or challenged?”
Discuss as a whole group.
BREAK: 5-10 minutes
06.45-07.20 pm: Areas of opportunity for a better shopping experience
This is the part of the workshop where participants identify areas of opportunity based on the insights and discussions before the break.
Step 1: Getting into groups
“Find the two people you were sitting next to during the discussion before the break.”
Step 2: Instructions
“We’re going to identify areas of opportunity based on the insights and discussions we had after showing the videos. In your group come up with ten suggestions and write each one on a post-it. Once that is done, select your three favorites.”
Step 3: Completing the exercise
Step 4: Sharing
Have one person from each group come up and post their favorites on the board, explaining each one so that it’s clear for everyone in the room what every post-it means.
Step 5: Prioritising
Say “What three areas of opportunity on the board are worth exploring further? Let’s prioritize. You vote by adding a dot to your personal favorite choices. Everyone in the room has six votes.”
Identify the three winning opportunities.
07.20-08.05 pm: Creating solutions for each one of the identified areas of opportunity
In this section, the participants use their creative minds to come up with specific solutions that address the three areas of opportunity.
Step 1: Form customer-based groups
Say: “Every customer in the room, hands up. We are now going to create three groups from everyone who is holding their hands up now. Try to find a person who is also holding their hand up who you haven’t worked with so far.”
Once the customers have formed groups, let the others spread themselves out evenly to these groups.
Step 2: Groups pick one opportunity to work with
Say: “In this next exercise you will come up with different ways to address the areas of opportunity we identified before. Each group in the room will address one area of opportunity. So who wants opportunity #1? And #2? And #3?”
Step 3: Drawing exercise, part 1
Distribute two large sheets of paper to each group.
Say: “Each group should now have two empty sheets of paper. Now, use a pen to divide one of the papers into six sections.”
Then say: “One of the customers in the group will spend 12 minutes drawing six different ways to address the area of opportunity, so you’ll have about 2 minutes per section on the paper. Just capture the essence, and over-simplify.”
Instructions to the others in the group: “For you who are not drawing, your job is to keep track of time, pay attention to what is going on and note your reflections and insights. Those insights may be very valuable later in this workshop.”
When 12 minutes is up, it’s time to stop.
Step 4: Feedback – and choosing a favorite
Say: “Stop wherever you are. Now customers, explain your different drawings to the other customers in your group, who in turn will give feedback and choose a favorite. You have about 2 minutes to give feedback and choose a favorite. When that is done, you switch roles.”
Step 5: Drawing exercise, part 2
Say: “Now, use your pen to divide the paper you have not yet used. Six sections again.”
Then say: “You are now going to build variations on each other’s work. You have 12 minutes to draw six variations to the solution you picked as your favorite a couple of minutes ago”.
BREAK: 5 minutes
08.10-08.40 pm: Choosing the best variations & building 3 cases per small group
Step 1: Find the 3 best variations (15 min)
Say: “You as a group will soon get to choose the variations you like the most. However, to be able to to that, the customer who came up with the variations first needs to explain them to the rest of the small group so that everyone understands the essence of each variation. We are not focusing on how pretty the drawing is, but rather on the effectiveness of the solution.”
“Customers, take three minutes to explain your variations, then let your small group – including yourself – choose three favorites.”
After eight minutes, indicate that they have two minutes remaining.
Step 2: Build a case for each one (15 min)
Say: “We are now going to build a case for each variation of the solution. What are the arguments for moving forward with each one, and what are the premises for those arguments? Is there any data to support them? The purpose is to make a strong case for each variation — and those will then be presented to the rest of the group.”
08.30-08.40 pm: Customer presentations & full group voting for a winning solution for each area of opportunity
Let the customers from each group come forward to present their collaborative solutions – making a strong case for each one.
Say: “First, talk about the area of opportunity you have been working on, and then do your best to argue why solution A should win, then the same for B, then for C. Then it’s up to the rest of the people in the room to choose the winner.”
Voting method: Let everyone in the room vote by raising their hands, following each group’s presentation: “How many votes for solution A, hands up? And how many for B, hands up? And how many for C, hands up?”
Post the winners up on the wall, each in a different section of the room.
08.40-08.55 pm: The gallery walk
Post a flip chart paper on either side of each winner – one saying “Wow”, the other one saying “Doubts”. There should now be three stations in the room, one for each winning solution, and each winner should have the Wow page on one side and the Doubts page on the other.
This workshop format is called “Gallery walk” and is useful for collecting a lot of thoughts and opinions simultaneously.
Step 1: Re-group
Say: “You’ll have 30 seconds to spread yourselves out evenly between these three stations. I want about the same number of people at each station. Bring a thick pen.”
Step 2: Give instructions and begin the exercise
Say: “This is where you start but every two minutes I will ping the glass. When you hear the ping, you stop adding your thoughts to the station where you are and move to the next station. Once there, read what’s written so far and add to it. Feel free to clarify what’s already written. When you have finished at all three stations, we are going to wrap this up.”
08.55-09.00 pm: Wrap up
Thank everyone for their willingness to participate in the workshop.
Mention what the next step is for you now, having collected their valuable input.
After the workshop: Jimmy’s best advice to proceed successfully
Jimmy recommends you quickly validate that the solutions are not just something that customers say they want, but can be backed up by behavioral data too. It might sound great in a workshop setting, but until anything is implemented you don’t know.
He suggests taking an incremental approach to each winning solution.
“That means you don’t spend six months building a full-scale solution, but rather you ask what you can have ready for customers in one week or two,” Jimmy says. “Imagine the full solution as a big house. One way to approach it is to build a little bit of everything simultaneously, which means no-one can use the house until it’s finished. The other way, which I recommend, is to focus on a small part that can be used until the whole house is ready, for example, the kitchen or the bathroom. That way you deliver one value piece at a time.”
“From the solutions that are suggested in the workshop, find ways to launch scaled-down versions as a starting point. That way you can also collect valuable feedback as you proceed. If a solution is about adding a review feature for all products in the store, why don’t you just implement a super-simple version of that, on one product, as a start?”