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Designing an App for Small Businesses — A UX/UI Case Study

To further understand the highs and lows of the experience for both sellers and buyers, we conducted a survey through Google Forms. The survey was a mix of both quantitative and qualitative questions to allow us to get an insight of the user’s demographics, use of technology, and experience with buying or selling products from small online businesses.

Competition Analysis

As we searched and asked around for apps frequently used by small business owners in Metro Manila, we found out that there was no application centered on online privately-owned businesses. We also found out that the most common applications used for small business transactions are the social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Viber. Grab also released a new service called Grab Merchant, where small businesses owners with no physical stores are encouraged to sign up to become merchants and partner with Grab to promote, sell, and deliver their food.

We then analyzed the different features each application brings for both buyers and sellers. This information would later help us identify key features to add to our application.

Survey Results

We made use of Google Form’s feature that allows the participant to go to a specific section based on his or her answer to a question. The first section of the survey immediately asked whether the participant owns a small business or not. Through this, we were able to separate the buyers from the sellers to ask them different questions.

22.9% of the survey participants owned an online small business. Majority of them sold food online. Other business owners sold clothes, kitchen ingredients, hand-painted bibles, accessories, and bags.

We also used the survey to determine the number of customers each seller has in a week, the common payment methods used, the common platforms used to sell products, and the rankings of different factors that affect their choice of platform. We learned that sellers use Instagram the most to market and sell their products, with popularity and method of communication leading the factors that affect their choices.

The survey also helped us determine the participants’ frequency in buying products online, the platforms he or she uses, and the different factors that affect their choice of platform. The results showed that food is also the most common category these participants buy from. Instagram is also their most used platform for buying from small online businesses. While popularity was the most important factor in choosing a platform for the sellers, the results showed that market saturation was the most important factor for the buyers.

Quotes from the Small Business Owners

“Promoting baked goods is difficult considering that the market is already saturated with tons of other sellers of the same products that I sell.”

Very easy to talk with [buyers] through IG and Twitter DM. I think the only problem is they both require wifi / mobile data to use, so if I don’t have either, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them.

“[Communicating with buyers] on Messenger got a bit difficult because messages get pushed down or moved to spam.”

“[Receiving payments is] difficult for BPI (bank transfer) because it does not really specify in real time who is paying you.”

Quotes from Buyers

“…I would say it’s pretty easy to find small businesses… Hashtags are pretty useful and you can also refer to an account’s “following” to possibly help you find more businesses to support.”

“It is very easy to find something that is accessible to me since my chosen platform (Viber) is created solely for the Alabang community. Two features that I like about Viber is that you can easily message the group for something you’re looking for, or you can search in the chat.”

“It’s difficult when there are businesses that have the same listing pictures, but reviews say otherwise. Also competing with a lot of buyers on a first to mine basis is hard because you have to be speedy.”

“The problem with online ordering is that the reply of the seller is not immediate. But in regards to sending messages, it is easier, especially since [Facebook] also has ‘recommended questions’ that pop up when you open the chat box.”

“[Paying] would sometimes be difficult for me as I have to shift from app to app.”

These direct quotes allowed us to understand and identify the pain points and gain points of users when selling and buying from online platforms.

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