Reviving Sales During A Global Pandemic
After selling fine jewellery for close to two decades from a brick and mortar store, the 2020 lockdowns in India sharply deteriorated Studio Tara’s sales.
I was part of a digitization project to take Studio Tara online and revive its customer base.
All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Studio Tara or The Stewdio.
Studio Tara was a long time client of The Stewdio for social media marketing and production campaigns. Despite past discussions of an online store, they did not see the need as most customers were local and preferred visiting the physical shop. However, in March 2020, with the worldwide lockdown, Studio Tara was forced to close their shop doors and shift to an online store.
As a digital designer at The Stewdio, I was in charge of the look and feel, as well as the user experience of the e-commerce web app. I took the lead in the entire design process, creating all important outputs from September 2020 to November 2020. I collaborated with a team that included a freelance developer, a content strategist, and a product manager. In addition, I made sure that the client was aware of and fulfilled necessary administrative tasks, like setting up payment gateways and making sure they were done promptly.
A global business opportunity
Studio Tara approached us with the goal of showcasing their brand story and products on their website and making it easy for existing customers to search and buy their jewelry online. The requirement of participating in a virtual trade show hosted by Metal + Smith, where the brand could showcase their collections to international audiences, made the creation of a website imperative. Our team saw this as an opportunity to not only cater to Studio Tara’s local customer base but also to reach a nationwide and global audience. Our task was to design the Studio Tara online store and make it appealing and accessible for an international audience within a 3-month timeline for submission to the Metal + Smith virtual trade show.
Fine jewelry in India is no longer limited to special occasions. Modern Indian women wear it as part of their daily wardrobe, leading popular brands like Tanishq to adapt. Studio Tara wanted to stand out in the competitive market by showcasing their unique values and evoking an emotional connection with customers. Inspired by confident women, Studio Tara redefines grace and femininity through their handpicked gemstones.
Our approach to designing Studio Tara’s e-commerce web app involved extensive research into their customers, market trends, and user experience. We worked closely with the client, involving them in every stage of the project, to build a strong partnership and create a sense of ownership. Our goal was to create a product that was easy to maintain by Studio Tara’s in-house team, who had limited web design knowledge, so we chose a customizable yet user-friendly e-commerce platform.
THE DISCOVERY PHASE
Give the customers what they came for
The discovery phase was a fast, intensive effort aimed at auditing existing content, reviewing the competition, understanding the client’s vision, and researching user needs, behaviors, and pain points. The first phase of the product design process involved interviewing the founder of Studio Tara to identify existing customers. A goal of the project was to appeal to a global audience, but there was a lack of primary international customer data. To overcome this, research was conducted on consumer behavior in the global fine jewelry market, revealing that at the information search stage, consumers paid attention to brand image and word-of-mouth referrals but considered product features and service experience as the main factors in purchasing decisions.
“I’d love to add a new set of gold earrings to my workwear collection!”
Expendable Income: $500-$700 per month
Background: Sarah is a child-free woman who is passionate about her career. She likes to “reward” herself for her personal accomplishments by treating herself to spa weekends or jewellery purchases. She loves pairing interesting everyday pieces with classic outfits.
Goals & Ambitions:
- To get further ahead in her career.
- To build a personal brand.
- Fine jewellery that looks cheap or like costume jewellery.
- Fine jewellery that is either too minimal or too bold.
Favourite Collection(s): Mulino
“I can’t wait to wear my new cocktail ring to ladies night this weekend!”
Expendable Income: $10,000-$12,000 per month
Background: Bindhya is a married NRI socialite who loves making a statement in her social circle. She loves high fashion and pairing bold statement pieces with trendy outfits.
Goals & Ambitions:
- To write a book
- To hold an iconic status
- Generic fine jewellery pieces
- Low quality jewellery and gemstones
Favourite Collection(s): Dali, Frutti, Bespoke
Insights from our discovery work indicated areas where we should focus our efforts to deliver a stellar user experience:
Showcase the brand
It was important that visitors immediately understood what that brand was as this was a key factor in ensuring that the visitor moved forward in their purchasing journey.
Give the customers what they want
“The interest in fine jewellery and engagement rings has definitely not died down,” says Katie Reusch, the marketing director at Canadian jeweller Birks. “We started selling diamond engagement rings online, which in the past (during pre pandemic times) was never something that we were thinking of, because we saw such an interest,” says Reusch.
Our research allowed us to understand how customers interacted with similar websites and what they expected from them.
A smooth online service experience
We had to translate the seamless in-store service experience to the online platform. Our research showed that customers who shopped in-store appreciated advice from the salespeople during their decision making process and enjoyed the simple checkout process.
Introducing Studio Tara
Our vision was to create a simple, clean web app that showcased the brand and its products along with an intuitive user journey and checkout process.
Where are the customers at?
In Q1 2021, mobile devices accounted for 54.8% of global website traffic and have remained around the 50% mark since 2017. During client discussions, it was revealed that Studio Tara has a large following on Instagram and many customers reach out through DMs to inquire about products. To improve customer experience, the brand needs a mobile optimized website to redirect potential customers to product pages from Instagram.
The challenge of finding a CMS that the client could learn and use without supervision was addressed by researching available platforms and comparing Woocommerce/Wordpress and Shopify. After a comparative analysis, Shopify was chosen due to its ease of use and better onboarding, despite higher set up costs.
Building a sustainable structure
Once we spotted the challenges that we needed to address in our user flows, we started working on the information architecture. Our main goal here was to help customers find the products they were looking for and guide them towards the checkout process. Another consideration was to build a scalable framework that could accommodate product and business growth.
Devising a solution on a limited budget
The challenge for Studio Tara was to design an effective online shopping experience with a limited budget due to the nationwide lockdown. To meet this challenge, we looked into existing Shopify themes on the market and narrowed down the choices to Narrative and Debut, ultimately choosing Narrative due to its visual design features aligning with Studio Tara’s brand. We focused on the user experience and were prepared to adjust to any visual design limitations as long as a great user experience was achieved.
CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY
Getting the homepage right
We had to pay special attention to the homepage because that is what users see first and it is the most important one among the touchpoints. Since we had a tight schedule, we had to find a UX research method that made creating and testing the iterations really fast.
We used the story-framing method, a UX technique that works especially well for landing pages, homepages, or long-scrolling pages that are trying to tell a unified, cohesive story.
Based on our research and the visual features of our chosen theme, I had a homepage concept in mind. We used Google docs to design the page with words and existing brand images and build the brand story. Then, we made quick iterations – we could easily modify the copy, swap out images and change the order of the text blocks making the iterations very quick.
Guiding customers’ purchase journeys
Our research showed that customers who shopped in-store were guided by salespeople in their purchase journey and enjoyed the simple checkout process. We wanted to translate this service experience to the online store.
We structured the store to allow customers to shop by product or shops by collection. Studio Tara had a small inventory so we did not have to include filter features. By steering the customer to shop by jewellery type or collection, we guided their exploration of Studio Tara’s products in a way similar to how the salesperson would have guided them in-store.
We also took into account the Self-Gift Sarah persona, who often knew exactly what she wanted to purchase. To facilitate her purchase journey, we used the “Buy it now” CTA below the “Add to cart” CTA. This allowed customers to skip going to their shopping cart and jump straight to checkout.
Designing a stress-free checkout
All of our personas became stressed at the online checkout process, being afraid of technical problems or security issues, especially due to the high price point of the products.
We used a straightforward web checkout process with three simple steps:
- Information: To collect customer email and shipping address
- Shipping: To show shipping methods and related charges that the customer can select from
- Payment: A secure checkout process that offered multiple popular local and international payment options
The progress bar at the top allowed the customer to see their position in the process and they could also easily go back to a previous step.
Our research showed that in online shopping, customers perceived the checkout process trustworthy if:
- We reiterated that their payments are processed securely
- They could use the interface easily and have an overview of all the steps
- Trusted partner companies (banks, shipping companies, etc.) were mentioned