AutoMail Web Application 

Overview

QuantumDigital helps businesses and marketing professionals target their marketing and reach customers through direct mail marketing, print, mailing, and on-demand services. AutoMail is one of QuantumDigital’s main product lines.

AutoMail is an automated tool for real estate agents who want to elevate their brand. This product allows agents to set up an entire year-long direct mail campaign of marketing postcards at one time, but it was lacking customization. Sales for AutoMail had been rapidly declining for years and there was a high percentage of cancellations. Based on customer feedback and internal research, QuantumDigital decided the product needed to be redesigned to be mobile responsive with several new features.

Tools Used: Figma, Sketch paper, Asana, Slack, and Google Suite.

Team, Roles & Responsibilities: Product Designer (myself), one front-end developer, one back-end developer, one product manager and two QA testers from IT.

Timeline & Launch: We launched the first release of the new AutoMail at the end of November of 2018, spanning a total of six months.The product is still being developed further and we are iterating as we receive product feedback.


The Problem

After years of customer phone calls with customer service and after lots of research, the company found that AutoMail had a lot of features missing that customers wanted. We identified what these features were and figured out what our main problems came down to. 60 percent of AutoMail campaign cancellations were because customers wanted to: add a promo code, change their designs, edit their campaign name, or change their mailing list. 

The website for AutoMail wasn’t mobile responsive and there were no customization features available. An agent couldn’t upload their own postcard design. They were stuck with the choices we gave them. So we were losing business from tech-savvy, creative agents who wanted that customization. There was no way for agents to view a snapshot of their return on investment for AutoMail other than manually counting the number of leads they’d received.

The Solution

In order to solve for decreasing cancellations to increase AutoMail sales, we needed to redesign the AutoMail web application to meet the needs of customers. We would create a better user experience where customers understood that they could create a campaign with the same set of designs for multiple lists. We would give customers access to a dashboard of features, including a way to access all of their leads in one single place and view other relevant campaign data.


Scope

We planned to do several releases of the product in order to gain feedback, make iterations along the way. But, we needed to launch the product by November, in time for one of the largest real estate conferences of the year. We needed to do releases in phases and work in an agile way.

The two parts of the product we would redesigned were:

  • The campaign ordering process for the postcards 
  • The campaign management area where customers could view and make edits 

The brand new part of the product we designed was a dashboard for customers to manage all of their marketing campaigns, view their analytics, ROI & spending.We scoped out time for research, design, user testing, development and QA.

Constraints

 We planned on doing a beta release of the product to a select group of users to gain feedback before release and catch any potential bugs we may not have caught during our own QA testing. This didn’t happen. Unforeseen development hurdles arose throughout the process, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the beta tests.

Some other large constraints we faced included working in a well-established legacy system. We couldn’t redesign every part of the system at once, so we had to choose what made the most sense first. Because of that, we would have to take customers from our newly designed software back into our legacy system in order to access some features.

This meant that the look and feel wouldn’t be seamless across all parts of the software at first. But this is sometimes a sacrifice that has to be made when you are redesigning an entire system with a company that has been around for over 30 years.


The Process

Research

I spoke with different departments across the company to learn about how each of them touches the AutoMail product in different ways. Then I did an analysis of the our major competitors. Xpressdocs was one of the largest direct competitors in the print marketing real estate space.

Defining the Users

The two main user types for AutoMail are real estate brokers and real estate agents. Real estate agents are very busy people. A lot of agents are constantly hustling for their next deal. Agents don’t typically get paid unless they are buying and selling homes, so they are always on the go. Some are tech-savvy but a lot of the older generation is not. And the ones that are on the go all the time want their marketing to be easy to set up and use. We had to consider all of this when designing AutoMail.

real estate brokers + agents

Job Stories and Feature Planning

After defining the customers, we were able to create job stories to get down to the core of what our customers really needed in this product. Similar to user stories, but more helpful, because these stories were coming from actual customers, with real frustrations, rather than us making assumptions about what our customers want and need. These came from customer insights from our customer support team, surveys to our users, and talking to real customers.

Then we went into feature planning. We outlined over 20 new features to design, as well as several current features we needed to redesign.

User Flows

There were lots of different user scenarios to cover and decisions to make. I created a document outlining all of the possible user flows to save on time.

Sketching, Hi-fidelity Designs, & Prototyping

I always start with pencil and paper sketching to start out the design process. I sketched multiple options and gathered feedback from my team before moving into designing in Figma. I didn’t design bare bones wireframes due to time constraints, but my sketches served as my wireframes for this project.

For the hi-fidelity designs, I started with the campaign creation process. I reviewed the legacy product’s UI and used that as a reference for improvement on the components being used. From there I moved onto the campaign management views. And lastly, the dashboard interface. I designed for mobile as I went through the desktop designs to make sure I was keeping responsive design in mind. This was important because our legacy product was not mobile responsive. I tried to make the design very clean and simple. The old design was very outdated so I was able to really modernize it and improve upon it.

I worked with a product manager on my team to prototype the designs in Figma as I designed the screens.

After we launched AutoMail, we found that our users were having some confusion around how the billing was displayed in step 4 of campaign creation. Because of this, we iterated the billing table to make it more dynamic for all of the different billing scenarios using an accordion component type.

Create a Campaign – New Designs

Campaign Management – New Designs

User Testing

We ran two sets of testing, one set was internal and the other was external with customers and prospects. We ran internal tests with 8 different team members in marketing, customer service and production design. The internal tests were done in person with only the test participant, myself and a product manager.

Our external tests were done via video and screen sharing of prototypes because a lot of our customers are scattered throughout the United States. The tests for campaign creation had 5 tasks, with some tasks having subtasks. We ended each test session with by asking for overall product feedback. We tested with five people total. After running testing sessions with several team members, we analyzed the testing notes and made some iterations to the designs based on the common feedback we received. It’s important to always be iterating.

 

Building the Design System

The branding for the company has been established for years, but as we began to modernize the product interfaces, we needed to reevaluate the UI of our products. We needed to think about status colors and graph colors.

In conjunction with the hi-fidelity designs, I started building a design system of reusable components that we planned to cascade across all of our projects. 

Development

Post user testing and making some design iterations, we began the development cycle. We worked in an agile way and released features to staging in two week sprints until we made it to our MVP for launch.

I worked closely with our developer to ensure design consistency based on my designs and documentation. I helped with QA testing and documenting bugs found throughout the development releases. I took ownership of organizing a system for bug tracking in asana where we could document what features were missing and what design inconsistencies were found. Our first release of the product was in November and we have been working in one-month sprints since then.

Outcomes

We are still working on phases of releases with new features currently and plan to continue to improve the product based on customer feedback we receive. In order to get customer feedback, we created a product feedback survey and added links to it in multiple places. We also get lots of feedback through customer support chats and tickets which is extremely helpful for interacting with our user base.

We have been running marketing email campaigns to promote the new product, along with our marketing department producing videos explaining how to use the product. We have set up Google Analytics on the product to track what features people are using to figure of what we may need to adjust or change.

One month after the product released, we were able to successfully meet our goal of increasing revenue by increasing sales by over 8,000 mail pieces. 

In November of 2018 at launch, our monthly revenue was $92,717 and we have been increasing the monthly revenue gradually since then, with a high of $130,848 in May and $119,308 in June. June 2019 was the first month in 19 months that had higher revenue than the previous year’s revenue.

Our monthly goal is $200,000 per month for recurring monthly revenue, so we are slowly climbing to that number as the months go on and we release new features and continue to track metrics. One thing to keep in mind with real estate is that our numbers are significantly impacted by the industry and when they are going through busy seasons. 

With that being said, from March 28th to April 6th, we had 40 AutoMail campaigns scheduled and from April 24th to May 6th, we had 150 campaigns scheduled. This was a 275% increase, which was very exciting for the company. 

 

% increase

We are still measuring sales results as we ramp up our marketing efforts. In order to measure if we have decreased the number of cancellations we have, we will have to wait for more time to pass as we collect those results. Customer and stakeholder feedback has been very positive so far. I will report more results as time goes on and we get more feedback and financial results.

 

Lessons Learned

We learned throughout this project that we needed to work in a more agile way with short sprints. Due to our lack of resources, our developer got caught up on other projects and didn’t start development as early as we would have liked. This led to not releasing the number of features we wanted to release at our initial product launch date of November. If we would’ve started developing more concurrently to designing, we may have been able to accomplish the goals. But, because of these lessons learned we have been very successful in our new processes moving forward.

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