A shift to e-commerce
When I joined Shopify Support as their first Service Designer in pre-pandemic 2020, I didn't expect the storm that was approaching. During lockdown, many existing and new business owners shifted to e-commerce. With the increase in new leads, we saw a 23% spike in Support demand, which put a huge strain on the company's biggest muscle.
At the time, Support was optimized as a cost center, focusing on reducing ticket handle times as much as possible. We quickly realized that this business model failed to acknowledge the value of longer interactions that involved business coaching. We had to evolve Support into a merchant-centric value center that prioritized helping people run a successful business during uncertain times.
Highlighted in our bi-annual merchant survey, Themes continued to be the most commonly mentioned areas of improvement (56%). Additionally, out of all Theme Support tickets, 71% consisted of theme customization requests. However, we were failing to bring the most value to merchants because our service lacked a voice and purpose. As a result, merchants were confused on which customizations were supported and Theme Support couldn't communicate the business value of certain customizations.
I collaborated with Theme Support to redesign theme customizations into a task-based, opinionated service with a clear distinction between supported and unsupported customizations backed by research and data. We launched in Q4 2021 alongside Online Store 2.0, which introduced our newest default theme — Dawn. I was responsible for:
Analyzing support data and conducting interviews with 19 merchants
Facilitating ideation and journey mapping workshops with Theme Support East and West
Co-creating new service guidelines for Support Advisors
Service design in a remote world
Developing the service design craft in a remote company had its challenges. For most folks in Support, design thinking was a new concept so "learning by doing" was a recurring theme throughout many workshops. This required preparing many digital artifacts such as Persona Cards to create a sandbox environment that encouraged people to be creative.
In a series of two workshops, I invited the lead and members of Theme Support East and West teams. Each workshop had about 5-6 participants who were very eager to contribute. The goal of the workshop was to introduce merchant segments into a newly realized theme customization service and brainstorm how their needs and journeys might differ.
At the end of the workshops, we were able to identify how we can cater our service to first-time sellers, merchants new to e-commerce, and merchants migrating from a different e-commerce platform.
The voice of the merchants
Theme Support's business model was originally agnostic to Shopify's Ecosystem (ie. Shopify Experts) and Themes products lines. This meant that there was a lack of understanding around why a merchant would want a customization and whom they receive it from.
Outside of workshops, I began interviewing 19 merchants segmented by their source of customization and maturity on the platform:
— No customization + Launched with Shopify Theme
— Customized by themselves + Launched with Shopify Theme
— Customized by a Shopify Expert + Launched with Shopify Theme
— Customized by Theme Support + Launched with Shopify Theme
— Launched with a Third-Party Theme
The interviews revealed that merchants weren't actually aware that Shopify offered theme customizations. The underlying problem was that we weren't clearly explaining what the service was, how it can help, and which customizations we support.
These insights prompted the team to consider "taskifying" customizations that were important to merchants but not included in the default theme nor offered by Shopify Experts. We also introduced a currency system to evaluate the complexity of customizations through 15-minute units.
For customizations that weren't included in our list, we created a decision tree for Support Advisors to escalate the request based on the merchant's business purpose. Our new theme customization service became more opinionated and intentional towards the success of the merchant's business.
2021 — Decision tree for customizations requiring a custom solution
A step in the right direction
One month after launching the service, we measured 75% of all theme customization requests were either supported or custom solutions. While this proved to be successful, we weren't there yet.
Like product design, services require many iterations to get us closer to meeting our customers' needs. Fortunately, we now have a benchmark to reduce the amount of unsupported customizations and design a better experience around them.
We've launched projects to improve internal and external communication about customizations with Support Advisors and established a partnership with Theme Design to propagate the most common customizations into native features.