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Blue Skies

VFC/The North Face
X
 Bentley HFID

Streamlining the returns process
for online purchases through an

improved mobile experience

TIMELINE: 5 weeks

TEAM: 4 graduate students in the Bentley HFID Master's Program; HF710: Managing a User-Centered Design Team

MY ROLE: Design concepting and prototyping, client presentation design, research support

 

TOOLS: Figma, Miro

The Challenge

VFC is the parent company of a family of prominent e-commerce brands, including The North Face. Representatives presented our class at Bentley with the challenge of improving the returns process for products purchased on their online platforms. 

We were asked to consider quick wins in the digital space that would reduce customer churn, reduce customer service call volume, and increase customer lifetime value. 

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The Solution

After considering these constraints, our team created an updated mobile-first return flow to simplify the digital returns process, focusing on The North Face as one of VFC's most widely known brands. Major factors considered in this solution included:

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Matching mental models established by other leading competitors

Emphasizing flexibility and customer control with convenient options

Providing transparency into the returns process 

Blue Skies

The Journey

In investigating best practices for returns in the digital space, we found that the process should be:

FAST & EASY

  • Frictionless

  • Intuitive

  • Seamless

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TRANSPARENT

  • Display user's status

  • Set expectations

  • Explain the process

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FORWARD-THINKING

  • Mobile-first

  • Paperless

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We researched returns best practices demonstrated by leading companies including Amazon, Patagonia, Nordstrom, REI, Walmart, and GILT Group for design inspiration.

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We conducted five user interviews to discover the most important factors in the returns process for consumers. Key points that arose in these interviews were in line with findings from our general research on returns. 

  • Everyone wants returns to be easy.

  • It is important to set timeline and process expectations; the customer should not be confused about how long it will take to receive their refund or where they are in the process.

  • Many people choose to return their item in-store because they find the process to return by mail so inconvenient.

  • No one likes printing!

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After identifying a mobile-first solution as the best direction for our project, we evaluated the current mobile returns experience for The North Face based on User Experience design heuristics. This allowed us to identify specific areas for improvement. 

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SIMPLICITY

  • Confusing directions on how to make a return 

  • Unclear expectation setting

  • Too many numbers to keep track of 

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TRANSPARENCY

  • Not clear where the user is in the returns process 

  • Lack of status updates

Design Process

Our preliminary research narrowed our focus to create a design that meets the following criteria:

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MATCHES

EXPECTATIONS

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MOBILE

FIRST

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CONVENIENT OPTIONS

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TRANSPARENT

PROCESS

Each team member developed sketches demonstrating an idealized flow through the returns process based on these principles. 

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We created a prototype in Figma, bringing together several components from our sketches.

 

We conducted testing with five new users to determine any changes that should be made to the design to finalize it for presentation to the client. 

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Blue Skies

The Final Product

Our final design incorporates the following updates to improve the returns process from the perspective of the user and client. 

Simplified Account

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Our design keeps things simple and minimal. It reflects a familiar mental model for online accounts (e.g. Amazon). Users can see the current status of their orders and critical information about each immediately. 

Improved

Task Menu

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When the user selects an order to view additional information, they are taken to this simplified menu. A lack of clutter makes it easy to understand how to proceed with the appropriate task, and options are tailored to reflect the most likely tasks the user might want to complete at this stage.

Guiding &

Supporting 

Users

Screen Shot 2023-01-09 at 10.57.08 AM.png

When the user chooses to return an item, a friendly approach guides them through the process. We were careful to highlight the benefits of in-store returns as this option is preferable from a business standpoint and results in a faster refund for the user. We also included an online exchange option which emerged as a desired feature in our interviews. 

New Return

Reasons

Interface

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After the user selects their preferred return method, the next screen asks about the reason for the return. This updated interface was received positively by our users as a more delightful alternative to a traditional drop down. We also pared down the choices to reflect users’ desire for a simplified list of reasons. 

Clear

Refund

Options

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The next screen includes important details about each refund option. The “Instant Credit” option incentivizes users to keep their money within North Face, and a concrete refund timeline for the original method of payment sets appropriate expectations. 

Modern

Returns

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The final screen reiterates all the details the the user has provided, restates the refund timeline for transparency, and includes clear instructions on how to complete the return. To reduce waste and inconvenience, a QR code is provided in lieu of a return label, similar to an Amazon return. The user can save the code or add it to their wallet and then simply bring the code along with their item to the post office to have their return packaged and shipped for them.

TRANSPARENCY & EXPECTATION SETTING

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 2.26.37 PM.png

We created a visualization across the journey of the return that will be available in the user’s account. This fulfills an expectation for clear insight into where the package is and when the refund will be issued. 

Simplified Account

VFC_ACCOUNTSCREEN.png

Our design keeps things simple and minimal. It reflects a familiar mental model for online accounts (e.g. Amazon). Users can see the current status of their orders and critical information about each immediately. 

Improved

Task Menu

VFC_ITEMOPTIONS.png

When the user selects an order to view additional information, they are taken to this simplified menu. A lack of clutter makes it easy to understand how to proceed with the appropriate task, and options are tailored to reflect the most likely tasks the user might want to complete at this stage.

Guiding &

Supporting 

Users

Screen Shot 2023-01-09 at 10.57.08 AM.png

When the user chooses to return an item, a friendly approach guides them through the process. We were careful to highlight the benefits of in-store returns as this option is preferable from a business standpoint and results in a faster refund for the user. We also included an online exchange option which emerged as a desired feature in our interviews. 

New Return

Reasons

Interface

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 1.26.47 PM.png

After the user selects their preferred return method, the next screen asks about the reason for the return. This updated interface was received positively by our users as a more delightful alternative to a traditional drop down. We also pared down the choices to reflect users’ desire for a simplified list of reasons. 

Clear

Refund

Options

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 1.35.54 PM.png

The next screen includes important details about each refund option. The “Instant Credit” option incentivizes users to keep their money within North Face, and a concrete refund timeline for the original method of payment sets appropriate expectations. 

Modern

Returns

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 1.40.30 PM copy.png

The final screen reiterates all the details the the user has provided, restates the refund timeline for transparency, and includes clear instructions on how to complete the return. To reduce waste and inconvenience, a QR code is provided in lieu of a return label, similar to an Amazon return. The user can save the code or add it to their wallet and then simply bring the code along with their item to the post office to have their return packaged and shipped for them.

Transparency

& Expectation

Setting

Screen Shot 2023-01-10 at 2.26.37 PM.png

We created a visualization across the journey of the return that will be available in the user’s account. This fulfills an expectation for clear insight into where the package is and when the refund will be issued. 

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