Synopsis: This blog documents the journey and approach of a small team as they rapidly ideate and design a financial service product.  

Inspiration:  In the fourth quarter of 2022, online shopping accounted for 15% of US retail sales, or roughly $299B in purchases. Spurring the growth of this channel has been a competition for consumer engagement between three mutually dependent parties: merchants, engagement hubs, and financial services payment providers. 

These players all benefit financially and otherwise from this ecosystem.Merchants benefit from more inventory being moved via their own properties, thanks to the diverse payment options available, or via engagement hubs, which expand their reach, and are willing to pay those parties for their contributions to sales. Engagement hubs prosper from the inclusion of brands that drive traffic and from their piece of transactional flows. Financial services players earn a percentage of each transaction from merchants and any interest income and/or fees derived from financial products paid by consumers,  as with credit cards.

But what about the consumers’ financial interests? How could that be better represented? And how might their needs further support growth across this ecosystem? These questions are what the team chose to ideate against, beginning with framing it in the form of a hypothesis:

How might we… Ideate and ultimately design a solution that, leveraging much of the technology that powers the interests of merchants, engagement hubs, and payment providers, would provide consumers with optimal e-commerce options that are centered on their overall financial health and wellness.  

The Process 

1. Establish Design Principles. Values that guide product development. For this, the team selected the following:

    • Consumer-centric, not consumption centric
    • Frictionless
    • Available, but not Big Brother
    • Insightful beyond the current transaction

2. Conduct a Competitive Analysis. Perform a convergent and divergent review of what’s working across the following:

    • Account aggregation/financial health and wellness
    • Browser extensions
    • e-commerce checkout tools, such as loyalty programs and discount hubs

3. Analyze Customer Needs. Investigate what consumers are looking for when making a purchase.

  • I need to know whether or not I should buy this now.
    • Based on my financial situation
    • Based on potential changes in price, I need to know what merchant has the best price on…
      1. Available discount
      2. Available coupons
    • I need to know what payment option is best (has the best rates, rewards, etc.).
    • I need to shop and share with someone else who will make the purchase.
    • I need to make a purchase now.

4. Ideate & Prioritize Features. Conduct a rapid ideation session and systematically prioritize ideas based on design principles and desirability. Resulting ideas included:

  • Buy later option, based on personal finances, price drops, timing, and other factors
  • Auto-populate payment details
  • Coupon search and/or alerts
  • Price comparison across merchants
  • Share with others option, via text, email, or other channel
  • Suggested alternatives to products

5. Define the High-Level Journey. Document the engagement loop to answer:

  • How will the customer come to interact with the product?
  • How will the product keep them engaged?

  • Design the Concept. Start with low-fidelity sketches for rapid validation and use these learnings to create high-fidelity, clickable prototypes.
    • Phat marker
    • High fidelity
  • Test the Concept. Here’s where you can participate. Take a look at what we’ve done, then add some comments to share what you like, don’t like, and/or would like to see.