We sat down with Joanna Vodopivec, Senior UX Researcher at Groupon to talk about her work to help the data-driven organization see and understand the human element of their customers and how she sourced and utilized responses from a difficult demographic.
On research built around "who" and "why"
Joanna: We wanted to understand small business owners and managers in a food and drink space. There’s a tendency for us to go “Groupon first” and look at the entire world through these green-colored sunglasses, but for this study we didn't focus on Groupon merchants, we instead reached out to a broader group who may or may not have used Groupon in the past to ask: “What are the things that keep you up at night? What are you excited about right now?”
We learned that slow times of day, for example, are a huge issue for small business owners wherever they are. In the study, we had participants literally across the United States, coast to coast, and to be able to find the insights that are common to all of them helped us understand how to meet their needs.
We also learned we're just a tiny blip on all the things that they are considering and already doing, even in terms of loyalty and how they bring customers back. To frame that perspective for stakeholders was eye-opening.
On recruiting and studying a challenging demographic
Joanna: I was initially apprehensive about running a diary study because it’s challenging to source and get consistent responses from small business owners, especially in the food and drink space. They're just too busy, they don’t spend much of their day on computers, and even if you pay them a lot of money they literally don't have time.
But I knew that a survey wouldn't get me these people that I was after, and I knew that the responses we would get there would be very shallow and we really wanted to probe a little deeper.
So we attempted a diary study using dscout, because we were able to create a flexible study that worked well with the participants’ schedules. They were allowed to progress through the research at their own pace and use the phones that were already used in their day-to-day lives, which was key to getting as many to complete the study as we did.
Even within a difficult audience, we had 23 participants finish the study, which I considered a great success. I needed rich data, not only close-ended answers but actually photos and videos. It was exciting to watch the responses come in—then analyze and use the responses to engage my stakeholders across various parts of the organization.
On data with depth
Joanna: A few of the videos we collected featured our participants sharing their own, compelling stories. For example, one respondent was a merchant who had just had a baby. She moved her entire office into her kitchen and showed it to us. You could hear her baby screaming in the background while she recorded. Another respondent was walking between two meetings during his entry, recording video on his phone while talking about his former life on Wall Street and his life as a small-business owner today. He has a teenage son with serious emotional issues, and this man sees his restaurant as a way to keep himself grounded. Everyone watching the video found it powerful, and left the meeting remembering the actual people for whom we're creating the product. They aren’t supply, they’re people.