Podcast: Mobile Retail Stakeholders and Onboarding Fails

Jan 6

Podcast: Mobile Retail Stakeholders and Onboarding Fails

In this podcast series we ask experienced Appreneurs for one success story and one fail. You get actionable ideas for your Apps in just 14 minutes!

This is part 2 of an interview with Henry Cho. To recap, Henry is a UX guy with over 10 years in Mobile UX and has been the design force behind pureplay mobile startups and large corporates – I forgot to ask him but I suspect his current work with Commonwealth Bank’s Apps would have millions of active users. Henry’s twitter is here.

As mentioned above, there was so much good stuff in here that I’ve split it into two podcasts – here is a link to Part 1.

Engagement Score

For all our interviews we ask the interviewee to score their own insight. In the retail example it was really a “service design” failure and the main problem was getting quality graphical content…not for the consumer but for one of the stakeholders! So a completely different axes to our scale.

So Henry self-scored his learnings and experiences from onboarding fails as 9,9,0 because of the reciprocity needed in on-boarding new App users.


Let us know on our Twitter account how you score it.



In this “Part 2”, Henry discusses the rollout of a mobile retail application and all the stakeholders that were involved. He calls this a “fail of service-delivery” so I think its a great podcast for Mobile Product Managers, Marketers or Entrepreneurs trying to crack a real-world retail App.

Henry also covers some interesting tips for avoiding user on-boarding fails.

Transcript Detail

David: This is the Mobile Engagement podcast where we talk to app developers and entrepreneurs who’ve been there and done that, and they will share one win and one fail along their journey. Hope you enjoy.

Hi, this is David Jones from Street Hawk, and this is the second part of an interview with Henry Cho. Henry is a UX expert who has worked with telco apps, large retail apps and banking apps. This particular piece we cut out from the original talk and broke it out [on a time] because it covers a retail experience which is probably pretty interesting as a standalone talk on its own. Anyway, if you want to get more information about Henry, have a listen to the first part of this interview series. I hope you enjoy this one. Cheers.

All right, let’s crack on with the sort of the centerpiece of the talk. We just want to look at perhaps one or two experiences that you’ve had during your career where you’ve had kind of like an “aha” moment. You’ve been struggling with something and then you tried something and it worked; you cracked the challenge. Have you got something?

Henry: Yeah, I do. The first one I’d talk about was where we weren’t struggling. We thought everything was good – which is actually worse. If you’re struggling, at least you know there’s a problem.

We were flying full steam ahead. We had a major magazine company in Australia that was doing a deal. They had a fashion magazine. It’s extremely popular. They drove a lot of sales in store through it. We had a major mall over here that was saying “Okay, well, we actually control all our retailers. Let’s use your magazine to sell their content through a mobile app,” which sounded like a pretty good idea, right? People read this magazine, they love it, it’s kind of like a “women’s trends” magazine, if you like, or how to wear this. So it seemed like a good idea, which is always dangerous.

As we progressed down the track, we didn’t really do… well, this is the big danger is that you’re really only thinking about what your business objective is. Ultimately there are three important stakeholders in this business. One was obviously the end user. So we were thinking about them. What do they want? We did use testing; that was progressing quite well. We got a good understanding of the sort of services that they would like, building their own wish lists and look pages and all this sort of thing. We validated that with research, and that was all performing quite well.

We knew what the magazine wanted to get out of it. They always obviously wanted to make a clip on sales. The mall retailer, I guess the overarching brand, they wanted to take a clip as well because they’ve got a very good deal set up with all their retailers, and any sales, whether it’s physical or online, they got a clip. So they’re just interested in the clip as well.

But no one had really considered what the actual shopper in this wanted. So when it came down to it, the magazine was focused on the latest trend, this season’s or just launched sort of clothes. The store owners didn’t really have any problem selling that; where they really wanted help was getting rid of stuff that they couldn’t sell.

David: Remaindering.

Henry: That’s right, yeah. So for them, they actually couldn’t see that much benefit and they were then not, I guess, motivated to do any additional photography. That’s the other thing that we discovered, that in doing this to facilitate the design direction that they want to take, it was quite an amount of production, so the quality of photography that was provided by the overarching mall was quite low, and then the desire for the individual brands to do high-quality photography, in addition to sales stuff that’s already selling, was then quite low.

That was kind of a perfect storm of badness, if you like. They realized that we couldn’t just build this platform. The hope was that, yeah, retailers would be really excited and that they’d provide all this content for you and off you’d go. You’d make your beautiful magazine start spreads on the app and you’d be able to sell simply with very little cost to you and most of the work going over to the merchants.

David: Yes. So you have this situation that quite often startups have as well too, where you come up with a really great idea for a delivery system where you’re going to disrupt something but you actually don’t understand what the stakeholder really wants, what’s the real business problem.

Henry: That’s exactly right. It’s that real Eric Ries issue. It sounds like a good idea at the moment. I think the real danger is when you think that it sounds like a good idea from multiple directions and then you sort of really start to back yourself off. It’s good for this business and it’s good for that business and it’s good for the user. What could go wrong?

Often that’s the case, so you haven’t really understood the whole service design aspect for everyone. So they hadn’t really understood what did the retailers want out of it? Did they want to sell online? Did they really want to drive foot traffic? The magazine was driving foot traffic because you couldn’t buy from there. So the consumer would say “I really like this top”, I’m going to Portmans or top shop or whatever it was—(probably not those)—and that would be good for them because then the sales team could take over and then they could increase the size of the cart, in the physical sense.

They didn’t really have the team there in place that would have supported doing that from an online sense. You know, David, that increasing the size of cart, or just purely increasing conversion rate, is a reasonably difficult subject in its own right. They were really just at the stage of if we put it up, they will come.

David: Right, yeah. That it will just magically work and there’ll be no abandonment and there’ll be no UX issues.

Henry: That’s right. And, you know, because we’re a major magazine and we’ve got all this readership, you just want to be here, right? It’s all on you to want to put your product up here, so we didn’t have to do anything. You’ll just want to come, so it’s up to you to provide good photography. We don’t have to do it. In the end…

David: It was a wasteland?

Henry: Yeah. They had to do an about-face. They had to actually—a bit like AirBnB—they had to take on photography themselves. So what we discovered was, and not surprisingly, the quality of photograph really, really mattered to that magazine audience. It mattered less to the shopping online sort of catalogue audience, but for these guys, they wanted to see the look and really understand that they needed high-quality imagery.

So they had to dial back what they were doing. They had to make it sort of not open to everyone and they had to make a very specific curated editorial “you can buy this limited number of things” because of the cost involved in actually curating those shoots. It changed their whole business process. So they would go not just shoot for the magazine but then they’d have to reshoot for the mobile site as well, which they hadn’t thought of.

David: No, no way.

Henry: They’re just sort of “Look, we’re already shooting this photography. That’s great. We can just reuse all this stuff.” It turned out the amount of reuse was very low. A lot of stuff had to be reshot and a limited amount. So that’s an interesting one from a UX perspective or a service design perspective to really understand the whole ecosystem that you’re working in.

David: And understand what the ultimate consumer, the quality of the experience that the consumer wants as well too.

Henry: Yeah, that’s right. So that’s a very, very interesting one for us. I guess I’m guilty as charged there, just focusing on the end consumer, like what do they want? How can we make it a service that the customers would be interested in?

David: They’re considering the retailers, yeah.

Henry: That’s right, yeah. I see that sort of coming up a lot with the location-based marketing. They’ve been marketing all those sorts of things. Often there’s one side of the equation being looked at, and not everyone in that equation. That’s a problem. That’s probably a strong one for service design.

David: Is there anyone massive fail that you wanted to kind of share with us?

Henry: Well, the big fail that I can remember—and this is sort of related to everything as well—is the fails that we’ve had on onboarding. When we’ve done some work and they’re ranting, “Yeah, we should do some onboarding like, you know, Gmail does or like LinkedIn does or like someone else does,” and if you can get that, that works well. But probably if you think back to when you did that onboarding, you probably just clicked right through it like a demon anyway.

We found that onboarding is one of the most difficult things to get people – to sort of run that balance between “We’re going to make you click through this, you can’t just skip it” and annoying people. We’ve had an incredible amount of failures with that, I would say, in different services that are being involved in time. You can get dropped out in “Zombiehood”. We got dropped out during onboarding. They got too many things, too hard, seemed too complicated just at the start. So because it didn’t have progressive onboarding, so it’s like “Okay, you need to do this, this, this, this…I’ll see you later.” You don’t even get them engaged.

David: There was no sort of surprise and delight right up front.

Henry: No. You just made it a chore, which is never a good thing. So that was a big failure for us and a big learning. Yeah, the big learning, I guess, or a big failure that I’m sure is commonplace, but hopefully no one does it anymore, is asking too much up front in terms of credentials, like “Hey, tell us who you are. Give us your login for this.”

I mean, there are two schools of thought on that, I know. One is that if you can get them to do it there, then they kind of validate the customer. The other is you haven’t actually shown me any value yet and you’re asking me to give you something.

David: Yeah, I’ve written a couple of blog posts on that. It’s kind of like it’s a first date, so you’re not trying to get to third base straight away, you know. It’s all about some sort of reciprocity really, isn’t it? If you can give them that value, then they’ll maybe save their search or save a fave or something like that.

Henry: That’s right. It’s that basic value exchange. If you can give me value and then you become habituated to using it, then that’s where you get that strong life cycle, I guess, or that strong engagement because I need you now. How did I live without you as a service? But you don’t get that from onboarding.

I will just say: make sure you test that stuff because there are so many patterns out there that you can just think “Yeah, that’s really easy. I can use coach marks. I can use full screen takeovers. I can be interruptive. I can do a whole bunch of stuff up front. These are just items off the menu that I can choose and any one will work.” In reality, that’s not true. That was quite a shock for me. I thought, “Yeah, we can do…” It was spectacular fails in things that we didn’t think would fail.

David: Right. And right up front, that really hurts.

Henry: Yeah, that’s right, like it’s the unexpected ones. We thought “Okay, this will help us.” Mind you, luckily for us in those examples, the app itself was self-explanatory enough that it didn’t matter that much. When we took it out, they still understood how to do it. But what we hadn’t learnt is where it weren’t be, how do we do it? Where it’s a secondary or a secret sort of feature—secret is probably not the right word—you know, in iOS how you can swipe on an email and reveal the delete and trash and do more of those sort of advanced interactions. When we get to those things, how do we expose those to people? So we didn’t know how. We were lucky that we got through, but we didn’t learn how to do the thing that we wanted to do, and that’s a big danger.

So I would just say, yeah, test the hell out of your onboarding. Measure it if you got analytics. Measure the hell out of it to see what’s going on there, seeing if people are clicking. Then if you can, try and do some sort of closed loop around we provided onboarding for this feature, it seems like people are just missing it in an incredibly short amount of time and the features being used fully and we’re getting a lot of questions about it on whatever support framework you’ve got in place. So, then you can start doing first some patents of use from those things. It’s probably difficult to do just from one of those things but…

David: Right. It’s good to have multiple things in the toolbox.

Henry:  Yeah, that’s right.

You’ve been listening to the Mobile Engagement podcast where you hear learning from experienced mobile entrepreneurs so you can apply them to your own mobile apps.


  Get our Referral Program Guide