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How to learn who your (new) customers are: a coffee break with Moonpig.com [đŸŽ„]

When the market changes—like it's changing right now—and you suddenly get different online customers than the ones you are used to, how do you make sure your website works for all of them:

Last updated

18 Aug 2022

Reading time

13 min


  • Those who are nervous about shopping online

  • Those who never wanted to do it in the first place (but now have to)

  • And those who would usually go to a competitor but are now giving you a try?

Plus, while you do all of the above, how do you keep your existing customers happy and make sure that they, too, can still find what they want on your site and leave satisfied?

To find some answers, I had a virtual coffee break with Aly Abel, UX researcher at Moonpig.com, who has been dealing with this issue since the Covid-19 situation began. We recorded our conversation, and you can watch the video /read the transcript below.

Key takeaways: getting to know your customers

  • Start a dialogue with new (and existing) customers as soon as possible—without overwhelming them

  • Use on-page surveys when the product team needs answers quickly but you can’t run user research or focus groups

  • Pay attention to where on a page you place a survey (spoiler alert: it can disrupt content flow)

  • Sharing customer insights within the business helps everyone empathize with the customer journey

  • Customer insight can lead to larger business questions, including ‘what new services should we offer?’

Here's the 17-minute video đŸŽ„ :


[Fio] Hi everybody. I'm Fio, the Senior Editor at Hotjar, and today I'm having a coffee break with Aly Abel who's a UX researcher at Moonpig.com, correct?

[Aly]: That's very, very true.

[Fio]: Welcome, and thank you for your dedication to actually having a coffee in front of you. So for those of us who are not familiar with Moonpig.com, can you just give us a very quick description of what the company does?

[Aly]: Absolutely. So Moonpig.com is an online ecommerce specializing in greetings cards, gifts, and flowers. It's British primarily in terms of our customer base, but we also operate in Australia and America as well.

[Fio]: I reckon, because of the situation we're all involved in, that now you've moved into being a remote team. Was the company set up for this? What kind of challenges are you encountering, if any, right now?

[Aly]: It's a really good question. I think the great thing about the company is that it was already set up for remote collaboration. And by that I mean we have offices in the UK. And as of last year, an office in Manchester. So because we need to work across locations anyway, we were already used to that. So we have Slack, Google Hangouts, and as a culture we're used to quickly jumping along and using technology as a bridge to those communications.

So from that sense, we were set up for remote working. But, saying that, the lockdown has been quite impactful on the business, and not in the way that we have already settled to be able to do our job, but in terms of how we work as individuals. So straight away, we identified as a company that things that will be hard on some people. Parents, for example, the people that are living on their own, and also the people that are just much happier working face to face with their colleagues and getting out of the house. And we've got HR coaches and our HR team were quick to react to that. We ran a Google Forms to check how people are, get a bit of a temperature check on them, how people were coping in the early days. And since then we built different activities. Some of them are on talk, so for example, our team, the design team, we have a stand-up every day, at 2:00.

And as of last week we've changed it to 12:00, to meet some of our teams' needs for parents. So there's lots of things that we've done to help cope with that. But it has been an interesting challenge, and I think that it's not necessarily something that is perfect remote working. And by that I mean it's not really perfect for everyone's personalities, but so far, I think we've coped well.

[Fio]: I'm glad to hear it. And obviously, you will have seen changes in your routine as the people who work at Moonpig.com, but I imagine you might also have detected changes in the way your customers behave and shop, or maybe I'm just making an assumption. So what do you think?

[Aly]: Not at all. You haven't made an assumption at all there. I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges that we've seen really. And by that, so actually I'm new to Moonpig. I started about six weeks ago. It was interesting because it was four days into starting at Moonpig, that lockdown happened, and it was a great time for the business because everything was going well and we were just giving ourselves up for one of the peak calendar dates for Britain, which was Mother's Day. So for that, we have to be ready deliveries, we have to make sure that our customers are able to enter the site, get what they need, and leave satisfied.

And it's always a challenge to meet those peak demands because year on year, it grows as a company that's been established for 20 years. Our customer base does tend to grow, but with lockdown happening, our biggest challenge was because high-street shops, people are going to move online and then make their purchases with an online greetings card manufacturer, like Moonpig.

So the biggest challenge for us was dealing with a whole new customer base that might not necessarily have used us before. And with that comes increased demand of deliveries, when delivery and factories are restricted in their usage because of lockdown, which got tighter and tighter as the weeks went on. So it has been a huge challenge for us, because we've had to really look towards Hotjar, for example, to really understand who are these new customers. Is it that, for example, some of them were a little bit nervous to shop online? So forcing them to go online finally with the lockdown, it's helping to overcome their fears, those barriers that we see. And therefore, it's helped them to shift their behaviors for the better. Or, is it a whole new customer base that doesn't want to go online, and they have to for now, but don't necessarily want to come back in the future. So, we've had to really think about how we can use our research to Moonpig, and that's been to challenge.

[Fio]: So talk me through one or two examples of how did you run this kind of research to understand who you were now talking to?

[Aly]: So we are still in the middle of it. It's very early days. And the reason for that is we don't want to jump in. Obviously, we want to start a dialogue with our new customers and existing, as soon as possible. But you don't want to rush with too many questions too soon. So the way that we've approached it, as a research team is we're breaking it down into small iterations. So firstly, our first exercise was to understand how has COVID and the lockdown impacted how you feel. You know, they - are they nervous, are they stressed, are they happy, are they taking it really well, are they coping?

[Fio]: And is this the same approach that you would have used under normal circumstances? Or, is this just a specific to this situation right here?

[Aly]: Again, that's a really good question. It's difficult to answer because - I'll give you an example. In the first week beginning, starting at Moonpig, we decided to run a project on our home page. How are people's experiences, how could it help with the home page be designed better for people. And even though I'm a UX researcher, I come from a qualitative and quantitative background, so I'll always think about different methodologies you can use. So, when I was briefed by our product team over what we wanted to understand from the home page, I immediately thought of Hotjar as a starting point.

And then, a customer workshop. So get customers in our WeWork office in Manchester, share some stimulus ideas of homepages, and then work together to re-design the home page in their minds, which then will probably give us some different ideas, which we then take forward to user testing. So lots of different approaches, but that was all in the same week as a lockdown.

Of course there are online alternatives, which I've used many times before. Online call focus groups for example, but because it was so fast, and I hate to say, in some ways a little unexpected when locked down, in terms of what are we going to do for research. And we had to think more quickly, because the product team needed answers quick. So that's when Hotjar plays a much bigger role because it's there, everything's subtle and it can take three to five minutes max to run a survey.

So instead of the two interactive approaches, which was Hotjar then the customer group, we scrapped the customer group and just went with Hotjar. And that's probably a good example of what we would normally do if lockdown wasn't happening, We would probably think about all the methods and build in that time, but when something like this happens, you've got to just think what's the best and the quickest approach, and that's Hotjar.

[Fio]: And so presumably, you set up a few surveys on strategic pages of your website. How did you go about choosing which page to put things on?

[Aly]: So wow, I messed up in the beginning, because I just didn't think about the fact that when you're on a website, content is arranged in a very careful and considered way. So if you can imagine it's peak time, so Mother's Day, which is the busiest time of the year. Every little thing on that website plays a role into what customers are looking for, and our content team, really are very good at putting the right information in front of customers at the right time.

And then stupid me came in, a few days into working here and put the Hotjar on the front page to a hundred percent of customers. And obviously it blocks one critical piece of information. Now the team were absolutely wonderful and reacted to it, but said, "It's not a problem. But obviously, we could do with it being shown to fewer people." So I'm much more aware now these days.

How to do it: Aly is describing using Hotjar on-site surveys to gather information from her customers. You can do the same from your Hotjar account by following these instructions to create an on-site survey and placing it on any URL(s) you want to investigate.

Hotjar will start showing the survey to your visitors as soon as they reach the URL you’ve placed it on—but the speed at which you get answers, and the quantity of answers you get overall, will depend on people’s willingness to submit them.

[Aly]: So I think you have to think about what the topic is. So at the moment, we're testing customer language. So we have different names for different cards, card ranges. Trending, for example, is one of them. And we want to ask people about the name, Trending. Does it work? How do you interpret it? Could it be named in a better way? So for that, it needs to be on the home page because it needs to be shown where Trending is, so that people can look at it and take it in, absorb it, and then react.

And that's the approach you take. You think, what's the topic? So then this one on that page they need to be thinking about. And then the second part, where is it going to have the least impact on a customer's experience. So, if it's a low priority topic, or a time when you know that customers aren't going to want to see it, then you move it towards the latter part of their journey, which is order confirmation page for example. So they've completed their mission. And now, you want to ask the question.

[Fio]: Which unexpected discoveries have you made after posting surveys around the website in the last five or six weeks?

[Aly]: So it's probably going to be how our customers reacted to our questions about COVID. And so I can share with you a summary of how... So what we did is, it's just a word document summary. And what we tend to do is we'll use a word cloud. If we're asking people what word comes to mind to describe how you're feeling at the moment, with the lockdown. And then there's words [inaudible 00:12:47] all together. And the unexpected discovery... Well, it was expected firstly, but people were saying that they were pretty much split half and half. Half were okay, coping or satisfied and feeling fantastic to some extent, about the situation they're going through. And then the rest were quite worried, so anxious, stressed. Really, really concerned about the future. Obviously for employment, for example.

And that was the kind of split we saw, and that was expected. And then we asked people about how their interactions have changed. And obviously, we know that people are going to talk eventually. But what was interesting is that people were saying that there's this new way of thinking, and I'm just looking at the summary now, that the lockdown's completely altered the relationships for the better. And it's been an important lesson about reaching out to be more caring about everyone, not just about their families and friends, but their community.

And there was this sentiment that this has been increased connections and they feel that they're having better quality conversations and activities, online, phone, daily check-ins with family, more people beyond their inner circle. Taking a moment to post a comment, for example, on social media. And for me, that was something that I thought was wonderful because it's a really trying time. It's very up and down situation with people. You'd never know how you're going to feel for one day to the next, but to see that most of our customers are saying that actually they feel empowered by it, and they feel completely different about how they feel about the world and the people around them. It's actually quite cathartic in my mind as a researcher, so that's been wonderful discovery.

[Fio]: Final question before we go. Do you think that once this is all over, you're going to keep using a system of serving on the website?

[Aly]: Oh, a hundred percent. It lived on before, and it will live on long after lockdown finishes. And probably long after we as a company exist in the way that we are, I don't think Hotjar will disappear any time soon and I'm very grateful for that. Thank you.

[Fio]: I'm very happy to hear it. I like qualitative feedback myself. So I'm always happy to know when it's there, and when it's actually being used. Because, people are giving you their time to answer, so...

[Aly]: Absolutely. I agree

[Fio]: It's only fair that we actually use it. Okay. This was great. Well, thank you very much for sharing all this insight with us.

[Aly]: No, no. Thank you very much for your time. Thanks for the opportunity.

[Fio]: Okay, speak soon.

[Aly]: Bye!

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