Lab Zero

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Case Study Newgistics

Getting real with eCommerce.

When e-commerce started to take off, established retailers hustled to find a foothold in the online world relative to younger, Internet-only competitors. At first, those established companies were willing to lose money on returns, but today the post-delivery part of the order cycle is starting to be addressed by many new innovators. 

We helped Newgistics (now part of Pitney Bowes) set a new standard for processing returns for some of the web’s largest retailers. We started by asking the question: Is it possible to enable the retailer to save time and money while deepening the relationship with the customer? Together we were able to answer YES.

Design for your customer’s customers

We had three customers to consider:

  1. Our primary customer (Newgistics) who processed the returns 
  2. Their customer, the retailer
  3. And, their customer, the online shopper

The shopper returning a product wants the return to be easy, and they want to receive a credit or refund as quickly as possible. The retailer wants the shopper to be satisfied, and also wants to maximize the value of returned merchandise while minimizing fraud. The processor of returns wants the retailer to be satisfied, and needs to keep processing times low in order to offer the returns service cost-effectively to the retailer. All our designs and implementations had to anticipate and balance the needs of these stakeholders, whether or not they had an explicit voice. Because if your customer’s customers aren’t satisfied, you’ll eventually fail.  

Newgistics Product Pipeline

Steel-toed shoes

How do you do user research on people who work in a warehouse? You go to the warehouse.

Before we started building the returns processing system, we put a Javascript prototype onto real scanning hardware in the actual warehouse to study the psychology of performing time-sensitive tasks under pressure. In this way, we really put ourselves in the shoes of the returns processing team, and learned enough from their interactions to substantially streamline their work.

Future-proof design

In order to prepare our partner to extend these interfaces quickly and easily, we customized a standard toolkit (Google Material Design). Subsequent updates and additions won’t need as much design effort because the toolkit already contains a rich catalog of interactions.

Because the original design was made from scratch and then modified many times, it had poor usability when we first encountered it. Because we chose a standard toolkit, the new design was better from the start and will stay coherent with subsequent iterations.

Save money by reducing thrash

The difference between profit and loss for Newgistics is how quickly their employees can make decisions while meeting a consistent standard for accuracy. Decisions like, ‘Should I restock this item, or should it be refurbished instead?’ If they err too often on the side of restocking, then satisfaction metrics drop when customers too often receive a defective product. If they err too often on the side of refurbishing, then the retailer ends up paying fees that are too high.

We had to anticipate the mental state of warehouse workers who have just seconds to make these decisions. Simple guidelines and intuitive yet powerful interfaces help them to achieve a ‘flow’ state while maintaining accuracy.

Seamless service for customers

Logistics partnerships take a long time to build and stabilize. When those relationships go sour, there is misery on all sides. Because our customer was keen to retain happy retailers as their customers, we made sure that any changes had a minimal impact on their existing integrations.