Smoothing transactions across partners and platforms
A case study of foundational research via diaries and journey mapping
Users of a global e-commerce marketplace were reporting negative experiences when dealing with third-party vendors for specific kinds of transactions. In this project we set out to identify pain points in users’ interactions with third-party vendors during the user journey.

• to identify areas of friction for users across partners and platforms
• to evaluate the alignment between communications from the marketplace and communications from third-party vendors

My role
UX researcher

Collaborators & stakeholders
UX researchers, client stakeholders from product, design, developer, and content teams

Core skills
• diary study facilitation
• journey mapping
• video editing
• case studies

AI rendering of a stack of notebooks, pen, and film camera on a workbench. In the background are other workbenches with a laptop.
Our team conducted a diary study with participants in two regions. Each participant documented their journey of coordinating with the marketplace and a third-party vendor. Participants’ diaries included:
• written reflections
• photographs
• still screengrabs
• selfie videos
• screen recordings
I was responsible for screening and recruiting participants in my region. Throughout the three-week study, I engaged with the participants to keep participants motivated, give feedback, ask clarifying questions, and provide positive reinforcement when they submitted diary entries.
I then led the analysis of the diary entries from my region, paying particular attention to pain points and emotions they experienced in each phase of the user journey. I analyzed the participants’ diary entries thematically to investigate commonalities among their experiences. 
To complement the analysis, I employed journey mapping to identify common highs and lows of the user journey. I also collaborated with a researcher in another region to identify similarities and differences between the experience of working with third-party vendors in our two regions.
AI rendering of a whiteboard covered with notes, arrows, and sticky notes.
Findings & recommendations
The main takeaway from the study was that most communication difficulties arose at a specific point of interaction with third-party vendors. This point of friction was different in each region because of differences between the vendors’ processes. In each region, the resulting negative experiences then reflected poorly on our client. 
Our team identified several opportunities to keep users better informed in order to prevent uncertainty. We also recommended specific ways to improve alignment in communications between our client and the third-party vendors.
Our final report illustrated the highs and lows of the user experience through high-level takeaways accompanied by quotations, photographs, screengrabs, and video edits. We included journey maps for each region as well as multiple side-by-side comparisons of specific points in the user journey. We also included multiple case studies to provide an in-depth view of the experience each third-party vendor provided.

Our insights helped the client team to better anticipate users’ needs during phases of their experience that were previously a black box to the client. Based on our recommendations, they have provided additional detail on their website about third-party vendors’ involvement in the user journey. Having greater insight into third-party communications has allowed them to better support users’ needs through follow-up communications that align with the messaging they receive from the third-party vendors.
Through this study I learned that it can be difficult for product teams to set aside their insider knowledge of how a product or service is supposed to work. Diary studies can build empathy by showing them what is actually working (and not working) from the perspectives of real customers.

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