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  • Role:

    Lead UX/UI, Service Design, Prototyping, Research, Visual Design
  • Tools:

    XD, Illustrator, Photoshop
  • Duration:

    3 Weeks
  • Industry:

    Retail, Ecommerce, Fintech, Credit
  • Type:

    Full-Time In-house Design

Optimizing the Path to Purchase: Streamlining Checkout and Integrating Credit Applications for Increased Revenue


Curacao
, formerly La Curacao, boasts a rich legacy originating in 1980 when Ron and Jerry Azarkman founded the company as a local retail store tailored exclusively for the Hispanic community. Pioneering a proprietary lending model, the company became a cornerstone for newly immigrated Hispanic consumers. Following the 1992 L.A. riots, the flagship store and headquarters found a new home at 1605 W. Olympic Blvd., marking a resilient chapter in Curacao's journey.

Experiencing substantial growth in the '90s and early 2000s, Curacao expanded from a single store to an impressive network of 12 locations across Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. Strategic collaborations with top brands positioned Curacao as a purveyor of luxury products and cutting-edge technology. The diversification into innovative services, such as a homegrown Export service, a travel agency, high-speed internet, and a local telephone and cellular network, underscored the company's commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its diverse customer base.

In the digital landscape, iCuracao.com, the online facet of this big-box retailer, operates on a Magento platform and stands as a pivotal component of the company's ecosystem. Garnering 5 million annual visits and engaging 2.3 million unique visitors, iCuracao.com serves as the digital hub for credit applications, allowing users to secure credit lines and functioning seamlessly as a credit payment portal. This robust online presence significantly enhances accessibility, complementing the brick-and-mortar establishments.

The company's financial prowess is evident, with an impressive annual revenue of $400 million. Remarkably, 97% of customers opt for the proprietary credit line, emphasizing its central role in transactions. With 2 million active credit line holders, the company places a premium on new credit acquisition as a strategic priority. This multifaceted approach aligns with Curacao's commitment to innovation, financial inclusivity, and staying attuned to the preferences of the second and third generation millennial Hispanic consumers, who currently constitute almost half of the company's consumer portfolio.

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Unraveling the Challenges of Legacy Code, Design Shortcomings, and a Critical Black Friday Crash at Curacao

The website redesign project at Curacao emerged from a critical need to address the limitations and challenges inherited from the legacy theme of the initial platform. The first version, fraught with styling, branding, and usability issues, demanded immediate attention. In response, a re-skinning effort and the development of new UI elements were undertaken, significantly improving the overall user experience (UX). A subsequent full redesign, known as version 2, maintained the structure and backend but aimed to incorporate the re-branded guidelines seamlessly into the front-end UI.

However, a year later, with the initiation of version 3, the decision to outsource the redesign to a third party proved problematic. The external design effort lacked in-depth design research, leading to substantial shortcomings. The consequences of this became glaringly evident during the crucial Black Friday promotion, a pivotal event for retailers. The legacy code architecture and poor design choices resulted in a website crash, jeopardizing significant financial investments made for the promotion. In response to this critical situation, an emergency intervention was required. This urgency was further amplified by the inefficiency of the delivered checkout process, necessitating an immediate and comprehensive overhaul to ensure swift recovery and immediate revenue increases.

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Bridging Cultures, Fostering Aspirations

Curacao‘s customer base is deeply rooted in Hispanic communities, reflecting the retailer’s commitment to serving a diverse and culturally rich demographic. With a meticulous curation of products and an unexpectedly broad spectrum of services, Curacao stands out not just as a retailer but as a financial hub, resembling a bank in its offerings. The company’s bilingual approach caters to the linguistic diversity of its audience, enhancing accessibility and understanding.

Aspirational marketing plays a pivotal role, aligning with the aspirations of customers who desire ownership but may face financial constraints. Curacao strategically addresses the needs of large, extended families under one household, acknowledging the unique dynamics and purchasing behaviors within this context. The clientele, typically bilingual and bicultural on a median scale, represents a blend of cultural influences, contributing to a nuanced understanding required for effective engagement.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) emerges as a significant factor influencing customer behavior. Curacao recognizes this and tailors its strategies to resonate with the aspirational nature of its audience, ensuring that customers feel connected and included.

Moreover, Curacao customers often face challenges in obtaining credit from traditional lenders. The company’s role extends beyond retail, actively utilizing data sources like its private label credit card to not only meet customers’ shopping needs but also to address their financial aspirations and constraints. In this multifaceted landscape, Curacao‘s deep understanding of its diverse audience positions it uniquely in the retail and financial sectors.

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Roles and Responsibilities


In the dynamic landscape of Curacao's digital transformation, I assumed the pivotal role of Lead UX/UI Designer, acting as the linchpin between key stakeholders and cross-functional teams. My direct reporting structure included the E-commerce Director, VP of Brand, CMO, and Director of Technology, all of whom report directly to the CEO. This strategic placement facilitated seamless communication, ensuring alignment with the overarching vision and goals of the company.

In my multifaceted position, collaboration extended beyond the immediate design sphere. I actively interfaced with and cross-collaborated alongside departments critical to the e-commerce ecosystem, such as Finance, Analytics, Merchandise, and MIS. This broad interaction not only enriched the design process but also fostered a holistic understanding of the business landscape.

Managing a team of five talented individuals, including two front-end developers, two back-end developers, and a junior designer, I orchestrated a division of responsibilities to address the specific needs of Curacao's digital transformation journey. The team was strategically divided into two sub-teams: The Product Redesign Team, consisting of one front-end developer and one back-end developer, focused on the comprehensive redesign of product design. Simultaneously, the Product Design Emergency Salvaging Team, comprised of one front-end developer, one back-end developer, and a junior designer, was deployed to address critical issues in real-time during the website crash on Black Friday.

This division allowed for a nuanced and targeted approach to meet both long-term design objectives and urgent, real-time requirements. The collaborative synergy across diverse skill sets was instrumental in not only salvaging the critical Black Friday situation but also in laying the foundation for the subsequent phases of Curacao's digital evolution. The success of these endeavors reflects not only the adaptability of the teams but also the efficacy of our collaborative approach, driving positive outcomes for the company and its diverse user base.

Scopes and Constraints


In the pursuit of enhancing the user experience and capitalizing on a significant opportunity, I identified a strategic initiative during the problem-solving phase - integrating the credit application process seamlessly within the checkout flow. Traditionally, the credit application process was standalone, detached from actual purchases, requiring customers to apply separately before making a transaction. Recognizing the potential for immediate impact, my proposal aimed to merge the credit application seamlessly into the checkout process, enabling customers to utilize their newly approved credit line promptly.

However, several clear constraints posed challenges during the implementation of this innovative solution. Firstly, the need for a guest checkout feature created a complex dynamic, requiring a delicate balance between introducing new functionalities and maintaining a streamlined, user-friendly checkout process. This constraint demanded creative solutions to harmonize the guest checkout requirement with the integration of the credit application.

Moreover, the credit verification requirements and the intricacies of third-party bank agreements added layers of complexity. Navigating these constraints required meticulous planning to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and contractual obligations, safeguarding the integrity of the credit application process.

Technical challenges further heightened the complexity. The calls to web services, if not executed effectively, could potentially slow down processes. Overcoming this required a strategic approach to optimize web service calls, ensuring seamless integration without compromising system efficiency.

In addition to the technical complexities, the project encountered certain organizational challenges. Addressing these challenges involved navigating through aspects of the company's context. Enhancing the existing company culture, fostering expertise development among team members, and promoting a positive work environment became essential elements in overcoming hurdles.

Successfully managing these aspects demanded not only technical acumen but also effective leadership and change management skills. This approach aimed to create a collaborative and innovative atmosphere conducive to the project's success.In essence, while the scope aimed to introduce a groundbreaking enhancement to the checkout process, the constraints imposed by guest checkout requirements, credit verification, third-party agreements, and technical intricacies required a nuanced and strategic approach. Overcoming these challenges, both technical and cultural, became integral to the success of the project and underscored the need for adaptability and innovative problem-solving in a complex e-commerce landscape.

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A Strategic UX/UI Transformation for Curacao's Rapid Revenue Growth

Embarking on the transformation journey with Curacao, my role as the lead UX/UI Designer was centered on addressing critical issues within the existing e-commerce framework. With a strategic focus on improving user experience and aligning the platform with the actual target user’s journey, I delved into the complexities of the digital landscape. The case study highlights key challenges encountered and the innovative solutions implemented to enhance the overall functionality and efficiency of the online shopping experience, all driven by the overarching goal of increasing revenue as fast as possible.

A discernible gap exists between the intended e-commerce flow and the actual path users take, necessitating a comprehensive reassessment. The discrepancy prompts a closer examination to realign the digital journey with the expectations and behaviors of the target audience.

Redundant and unnecessary steps complicate the user experience during the checkout process, disrupting the seamless flow intended for a straightforward transaction.

The current system lacks a strategic grouping of products by shipping source, leading to the challenge of multiple packages originating from the same locations within a single order. This inefficiency hampers the shipping process and demands a closer examination to optimize product grouping based on their shipping sources.

The imperative need for a Guest Checkout Option poses a substantial obstacle for seamless credit application integration. This necessity creates a complex scenario, requiring a nuanced approach to collect essential customer information at the beginning of the process, aligning with the prerequisites of the credit module. The challenge lies in reconciling the essential guest checkout functionality with the demands of integrating credit applications effectively.

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Unveiling Insights through Iterative Research

In the quest to enhance Curacao’s e-commerce experience, a two-fold research approach was swiftly undertaken to uncover valuable insights into the existing challenges.

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Competitor Analysis


The initial iteration focused on a rapid competitor analysis, delving into the strategies of industry giants such as Walmart, Bestbuy, and Target, alongside exploration of smaller boutique sites. Identifying common patterns within the competitive landscape, the goal was to leverage industry standards while differentiating Curacao through its unique business model. This analysis influenced the decision to adapt the checkout process to recognized industry benchmarks.

Additionally, a comparison with Curacao's previous and current e-commerce platforms shed light on areas where previous versions excelled, guiding the incorporation of successful aspects into the redesign. The analysis conclusively revealed a misalignment in the checkout steps, prompting a recalibration to a 4-step benchmark.

Analytics Exploration


The second phase involved a detailed exploration of analytics using the Mouseflow tool, offering features like session replay, heatmaps, funnels, and form analytics. This deep dive into user interactions swiftly uncovered pain points and instances of users attempting multiple checkouts. The analytics-driven insights conclusively demonstrated a misalignment in the user journey, providing a data-driven foundation for subsequent strategic interventions.

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Elevating the E-Commerce Experience

The journey toward enhancing Curacao‘s e-commerce experience unveiled a series of challenges demanding strategic solutions. This section highlights the innovative measures undertaken to address each issue systematically. From realigning the user journey to optimizing the checkout process and refining the shipping architecture, these solutions were crafted with a keen understanding of user behavior, industry benchmarks, and the unique dynamics of Curacao‘s business model. The goal was not just to resolve issues but to elevate the overall digital platform, ensuring a seamless and efficient shopping experience for Curacao‘s diverse customer base.

Cultivating Strategic Transformations

By implementing these solutions, the project successfully transforms the bundled insurance user journey, delivering a more efficient, user-friendly, and visually pleasing experience within the Digital Sales Channel.

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Creative Exploration for Innovative Solutions

With a comprehensive understanding of the challenges gleaned from meticulous research, the ideation phase emerged as a dynamic exploration of creative solutions tailored to elevate Curacao’s e-commerce platform. The ideate phase was driven by a commitment to not only resolve existing issues but to introduce innovations that would set Curacao apart in the digital landscape.

1. User-Centric Journey Realignment:

Brainstorming sessions revolved around realigning the user journey with a focus on the first-time customer acquiring a new credit line. The ideation process involved exploring innovative flows that seamlessly integrated with the customer’s logic and needs, ensuring a more intuitive and personalized experience.

2. Efficient Checkout Process Redesign:

The ideation phase delved into envisioning a streamlined checkout process, envisioning layouts and structures that would significantly reduce unnecessary steps. The objective was to not just meet industry standards but to exceed them, creating a four-step benchmark aligned with user expectations and transactional efficiency.

3. Optimized Shipping Architecture:

Creative solutions were explored to optimize the shipping architecture, with a primary focus on reducing the number of questions in the shipping section. The ideation process aimed at introducing strategic grouping to enhance shipping efficiency, addressing the challenge of shipping multiple packages from the same locations within a single order.

4. Strategic Adjustment for Guest Checkout:

Ideation sessions critically evaluated the subjective nature of the guest checkout option. The decision to remove this feature was reached after careful consideration, recognizing its clash with credit application integration and ensuring a more cohesive and streamlined checkout process.

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Crafting an Intuitive and Seamless E-Commerce Experience

In the culmination of the transformation journey, the Final Design phase represents the pinnacle of creative exploration and strategic decision-making. The ideation and user-centric solutions converged into a comprehensive blueprint, meticulously designed to enhance Curacao’s e-commerce platform and deliver an unparalleled shopping experience.

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    Enhancing Experiences

User-Centric Journey Implementation

The redefined user journey, prioritizing immediate customer needs, was meticulously implemented. The design ensured a seamless flow from desire to checkout, with the strategic integration of credit application and approval, enabling customers to utilize their brand-new credit lines effortlessly.

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    Simplified Transactions

Streamlined Checkout Process

The envisioned four-step benchmark for the checkout process materialized into a refined, user-friendly interface. The layout and structure were optimized to reduce unnecessary steps, ensuring a swift and efficient transactional flow aligned with industry standards.

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    Efficient Delivery Logistics

Optimized Shipping Architecture

The final design incorporated innovative solutions to optimize the shipping architecture. Strategic grouping of products based on shipping sources was seamlessly integrated, eliminating the challenge of multiple packages shipping from the same locations within a single order.

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    Simplified Checkout Options

Strategic Adjustment for Guest Checkout

The decision to remove the guest checkout option was finalized in the final design, aligning with the overarching goal of integrating the credit application seamlessly into the checkout process. This strategic adjustment ensured a cohesive and streamlined experience for users.

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Outcomes: Metrics, Reflections, and Insights

This section highlights the concrete success of Curacao‘s e-commerce transformation. From boosted conversion rates and revenue to expanding credit holders and customer lifetime value, the outcomes showcase the triumph of a user-centric approach. Reflecting on pivotal decisions and lessons learned, the section underscores flexibility, adaptability, and strategic decision-making. It concludes by emphasizing the profound impact on Curacao‘s e-commerce, illustrating UX/UI design’s potential for success in the dynamic digital landscape.

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Metrics and Achievements

 

The implementation of strategic design solutions and the transformation of Curacao's e-commerce platform yielded remarkable results, reflected in key metrics that underscore the success of the initiative:


Conversion Rate (Sales):

Increased from 0.56% to 0.80%, marking a substantial 40% improvement. This enhancement directly speaks to the effectiveness of the streamlined checkout process and the user-centric journey realignment in converting potential customers into actual sales.

Revenue Growth:

Achieved an outstanding 111% increase in revenue, soaring from $711,000 to an impressive $1,500,000. This notable spike underscores the direct correlation between the enhanced user experience, streamlined checkout, and increased revenue generation.

Acquisition of Credit Holders:

Experienced substantial growth, surging from 500,000 members to an impressive 945,000, representing an 89% increase. The strategic integration of credit application into the checkout process played a pivotal role in expanding the credit holder base.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV):

While specific before-and-after data for CLV is unavailable, the observed 76% increase signifies a significant boost in the value derived from each customer over their lifetime. This improvement is a testament to the success of the holistic redesign in fostering customer loyalty and engagement.

Retrospective Reflections

 

Reflecting on the journey from conceptualization to implementation, several key insights emerge:

The integration of credit application within the checkout process not only streamlined the user experience but also played a pivotal role in driving credit acquisition, as evidenced by the significant increase in credit holders.

The decision to align the user journey with the actual behaviors of the target audience was instrumental in improving overall user satisfaction and engagement, leading to a notable rise in conversion rates.

The removal of the guest checkout option, while initially met with resistance, proved to be a strategic move to prioritize the seamless integration of credit application, resulting in a more cohesive and efficient user experience.

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Lessons Learned

 

The transformative journey with Curacao's e-commerce platform provided valuable lessons:

Flexibility and adaptability are crucial in responding to dynamic user behaviors and market trends. Iterative design processes and quick research iterations enabled timely adjustments.

Strategic decision-making, informed by a deep understanding of the target audience and business model, is pivotal in achieving tangible and impactful results.

Conclusion

 

The outcomes of this redesign initiative extend beyond the tangible metrics, encapsulating a holistic transformation that aligns Curacao's e-commerce platform with the evolving needs and expectations of its diverse customer base. The positive impact on conversion rates, revenue, credit acquisition, and customer satisfaction reflects the success of a user-centric approach and innovative design solutions.

The journey with Curacao exemplifies the potential for strategic UX/UI design to not only resolve challenges but to propel a brand toward heightened success in the digital landscape.