Monthly subscription for retailers
1 product manager
1 product marketing
Abound is an online two-sided marketplace for buying and selling wholesale. A big incentive for retailers to order through Abound was our “free shipping on orders over $500” offer.
Our free shipping offer greatly helped retailers by lowering their expenses, however this incentive was a major cost for Abound. With the goal of improving unit economics and activating alternate revenue streams, the product team was tasked with replacing the current offer with a subscription that retailers could pay for to get free shipping.
To get a sense of the landscape, I looked at direct competitors (Faire & Tundra) and other companies (Amazon) that offer subscriptions for free shipping.
Faire and Amazon’s monthly membership fee is simpler and more intuitive for subscribers. Retailers don’t have to worry about spending a certain amount each month to maintain their subscription. Plus paying a monthly fee less than $20 feels way less overwhelming than spending $500 each month, especially for smaller retailers.
Our direct competitors have limitations on which retailers get access to the subscription so that they know they're covering costs for "good acting" retailers.
All the subscriptions either limit free shipping to select brands or for orders over a certain amount. Free shipping for all brands/orders could be an opportunity for us to really differentiate ourselves!
Our competitors have other benefits for their subscribers like early access and priority support. I kept this in mind moving foward as I want our subscription to be competitive.
Excluding Faire & Tundra, the majority of online wholesale marketplaces (Ankorstore, Handshake, Bulletin, Mable, etc.) do not offer subscriptions for free shipping! I saw this as a positive as our subscription wouldn’t be entering too saturated of a space.
I did a mini design sprint with key stakeholders. We discussed the insights from the market research before doing a round of crazy 8s, then dot voted on the ideas we found the most promising/interesting.
Ideas/patterns that emerged:
After our mini design sprint, I had a pretty good idea of what we should do for pricing & retailer eligibility based on the ideas/patterns I saw:
Now it was time to pinpoint what the exact benefits of the subscription would be! To help guide this process, I took a look at the pros and cons for the two main questions we needed to answer regarding the subscription benefits:
The biggest motivator towards selecting this option was that it's a significantly better offer than our competitors' and helps us differentiate. Plus this option has less risk of upsetting brands and retailers!
We’ve learned through feedback & interviews that our customer support team is a big factor in why retailers choose us over our competitors, so we want to leverage this strength that our cx team brings as another benefit for subscribers.
Now that we had our subscription program defined, it was time to start designing the different touchpoints: landing page, onboarding, shopping bag, etc. I started with some sketches then created wireframes in Figma. I specifically started wireframing for mobile since the majority of our retailers shop Abound on their phone.
Over Zoom, I user tested a Figma prototype I created with 9 retailers ranging from newer to very experienced. Instead of just walking them through the Premium landing page and asking for their feedback on the subscription, I asked them to do various tasks with a prototype that included our subscription touchpoints.
By structuring these interviews this way I hoped to learn 1) if these touchpoints had enough visibility and 2) if they noticed the touchpoints, were they interested in the subscription’s benefits.
In an ideal world, I’d be able to run in-person tests using a figma prototype on my phone... but since we were doing these over Zoom, I used a Desktop prototype for the tasks! These were a few of the screens that included the Premium subscription touchpoints:
I compiled all my findings from the interviews into a google sheet to help me identify patterns and key insights:
This showed me that the touchpoints we’re planning to add across the site are attention grabbing and give good visibility to the subscription
Validates free shipping as a benefit
It was repeatedly brought up how expensive shipping is getting these days, so anything that will help lower their costs is enticing! Plus a few retailers mentioned how they wouldn’t have to wait to place one big order over $500 anymore. Instead they’d be able to place orders more frequently, which is great for us since they’d be on the site more!
Unclear if retailers will use
This stat is a decent signal that people would subscribe, but what people say they’ll do doesn't always align with what they’ll actually do. Some retailers said they’d sign up right away without hesitation, but most said they’d need to look at their expenses to see if it’s worth it for them, especially since a few of them already use a competitor's subscription.
Doesn't validate priority support as a benefit
Most retailers talked about how their experience with our customer support team is already super great and fast, so they wouldn’t be interested in paying for this benefit
Unclear how removing the current offer will be received
Going into this project, we knew that our current offer was a really good incentive to place an order on Abound, but we didn’t know how much of an impact it had. Almost all the retailers I talked to were consistently taking advantage of this offer. This led to a few questions:
While not desireable to established retailers since they know our support team is already quick & efficient, I considered keeping priority support as part of the subscription thinking new retailers might find it enticing since they haven't interacted with our support team yet.
However my manager brought up the Presenter’s Paradox, which shows that when offers are bundled, people perceive the value as an average rather than a sum. In our case, since retailers aren’t perceiving priority support as valuable, this paradox suggests including it would lead to less sign ups than if we removed it.
After so many retailers mentioned their consistent use of the current free shipping incentive, we looked into some data on how this offer is being used—about 18-20% of all our daily orders are over $500. This is a big chunk of our GMV indicating we need to be really thoughtful about how we launch the subscription and remove the current offer.
After multiple iterations of ui and copy changes, I finalized desktop and mobile designs then added annotations for the engineering team:
I added touchpoints for the subscription in the navbar to give it visibility since the navbar shows on every page. I also included callouts in the order index and shopping bag, since retailers are likely thinking about how much they're spending when they visit those pages:
Premium subscribers will be able to view how much they've saved on free shipping, access their subscription invoices, and change/pause/cancel their subscription at any time.
As of today the retailer subscription is fully developed but its release is on hold. After I flagged the potential risk of removing the current offer from what I learned during user testing, our stakeholders, finance, and product marketing teams worked on creating a rollout plan that would avoid upsetting current retailers, but ultimately deemed it too risky to release with the stage our company was in.
Working at a startup, I've learned that sometimes that's just how things go! But even though I never got to see this feature launch, I'm very happy with the subscription I put together with my team.