A case study on a modern ecommerce experience
I’ve used Grailed throughout my college years. It was the ship that allowed me to the sail the sea that is fashion. As I grew, so did Grailed. It gives me joy to see the hard work they put into improving the site — from Dry Clean Only to Custom Filters and more. I explored possible ideas to further the experience for both buyers and sellers on Grailed.
I started out with listing some problems either I’ve encountered or others complained about on forums. At this point, I brainstormed specific pain-points I wanted to address for users. Based on my research, I decided to focus on the following goals:
- Browsing: Making it even more intuitive and convenient.
- Scams: Preventing them from happening in the first place.
I hypothesize by improving upon these factors, there would be an increase in the amount of successful transactions occurring. My next step was to ruminate on how I could tackle these goals.
Let’s take a tour through the current browsing experience in Grailed. On the top of the feed, there is a search bar that lets you search for brands, categories, etc. To the left there is a filter bar that let’s you accomplish a similar function to search. As you scroll down, Grailed dynamically loads new items for you to browse, resulting in an infinite page.
At a very basic level, a potential online buyer:
- looks through items
- expresses interest in an item
- decides whether to buy it or not
I envisioned different scenarios of people browsing through Grailed. A buyer could be hunting down a hyped piece from the Mcdonald x BEAMS collaboration. Someone else could just be looking for new jackets because winter is coming. The search and filter bars do a great job at helping the user find specific clothes. Another person could worship Raf Simons and wants to only collect pieces from all the different labels he worked at. It would be convenient to search for these at any time with the ability to save custom filters. These sort of scenarios involved users who generally knew what they wanted, and Grailed did an excellent job at catering to them. Next , I travelled down the spectrum towards the people who are browsing more aimlessly.
Some people could be browsing to pass time, or hoping to find something that catches their eye. It could be a result of not knowing which designers to follow, or wanting to discover clothes outside of their comfort zone. In most cases, it comes down to a very thrift shop-like experience of going in with high hopes and low expectations. There’s a sense of desire to uncover an exciting piece, but knowledge that every item won’t be that holy grail.
So how does Grailed support these users?
- One way is how it suggests popular designers in the filter bar to promote exploration of brands.
- Another aid is the publication of its Dry Clean Only blog, which functions as a sanctuary of fashion information. It contains staff picks, features and more, providing an informative alternative to manually wading through clothes on the site.
- Grailed even made a rotating list of pre-made custom filters to aid users in clothing discovery.
Grailed did a great job in many aspects at supporting a diverse group of users in their search of clothes. For good reason, this is why I rarely see complaints about the browsing experience.
Since there are a lot of tools to help along the first step in the buying process(filters, search, etc.), I thought about how I could empower the second two. In the case of Grailed, what happens when someone is more interested in an item? They click on it. They are taken to the item’s page where they can learn more about the item — such as additional pictures, measurements, shipping info, and more. What happens if they are still interested? What happens if they aren’t?
If they aren’t, they return to the last page and Grailed attempts to take them to where they left off in the search. More often than not, it doesn’t do a great job. You usually end up in a weird spot on the page. This forces you to either look around to find your original spot, or move on knowing you skipped some items. There is the option of opening a piece in a new tab, but the user would have to form the habit of manually doing this every time. This creates an unnecessary barrier to a smoother browsing experience.
For this situation, pop-up sliders immediately came to mind. Not only do they feel smoother than loading a whole new page, but they also prevent the issue of losing your spot in your search since the page never actually changes. This uncovered two new options for uninterested buyers — they could either seamlessly slide to another item using buttons or keyboard, or simply exit the slider and resume their search from their original place. Smoother than my moves on the dance floor. A potential con of sliders is being oversaturated and feeling too busy. As a result, I removed the related items and articles sections, as well as the comments section. I would keep the related items because of how it promotes quick and relevant discovery, but it’s behavior seems inconsistent (doesn’t appear on every item page).
Let’s return back to the buyers who are more interested in the item. There are a few options presented to these users, such as purchasing, offering, or asking a question. I thought about factors that would make an interested buyer change their mind. One common worry is that of scams.
With all the benefits of the advent of online shopping, came a new conundrum. Since the process is virtual, theres no way to see the item in person. In the case of clothes shopping, this carries the risk that an item may not fit. It may also look a bit different from the pictures since you didn’t get to closely inspect it in person. It is an inherit risk that people generally understand about online shopping now.
However, there are more sinister cases to worry about:
- What happens if the item is a knock-off?
- What if the seller doesn’t even ship the item?
Since Grailed utilizes Paypal, users have buyer and seller protection. If something goes wrong, users would have to go through a strenuous process of opening a case through Paypal. The worst part is that there is no guarantee the case will be resolved in their favor. Although there is no way to completely stop these events from happening, it would be more pleasant for users to not have to deal with this in the first place. Users should be empowered to use Grailed to buy and sell clothes, not deterred.
Buying an item despite the mentioned risks is a symbol of trust. Before online shopping, you would walk up to a seller, give them a solid handshake and call them a “jolly good chap” or something along those lines(???). It’s easier to establish that sense of trust because you are interacting with them face to face, but that changes when all you see is a screen. Instead, the internet has relied on word of mouth, or as it is commonly known, feedback.
Currently, feedback feels like background noise on Grailed.
To leave feedback, you have to go directly to the page of the item. No where else does Grailed suggest leaving feedback. Not even in the successful transaction email they send the buyer. There is no meaningful incentive to ever leave feedback, leading to potentially huge losses in feedback. The power of suggestion can be a powerful tool. When Medium started suggesting tags before publishing, the amount of posts that were tagged skyrocketed from 36% to 82%. Having more feedback being left could result in scammers getting caught faster, more accurate buyer/seller ratings, and most importantly, a larger sense of trust in the community.
The way I approached this problem is by making unresolved feedback more visible. The only way to see items you’ve purchased or sold are through either your messages, or on your history page. You then have to click on the item to check if you left feedback on it. To oppose this, I created visible markers to signify purchases not yet reviewed. I chose to focus this onto the History page, rather than the Messages section.
The reason I excluded messages is because there could be a lot of messages with different buyers and sellers that didn’t result in actual purchases. Thus successful purchases could get lost in messages and cause confusion. Instead, history could function as the main hub to leave feedback. It could further attract this attention by having a dynamic counter next to it with the number of unresolved feedback.
Something as important as having more people leave feedback, is having more people actually looking at the feedback.
Something that quickly came to mind was the item pages. I looked at the slider design I did and noticed how you could only see the user’s total feedback.
Scrolling through the Grailed subreddit, I read through many scam posts and saw one interesting situation in particular. A seller had a 4.9+/5 seller rating and over 100 feedback, but was scamming multiple buyers. I looked through the seller’s feedback and saw many perfect feedback scores, but also many low score calling out scamming in the more recent pages.
It came to my realization the seller could have inflated their score by using fake reviews. Regardless, they got to trick many people since their score looked great from the single score line on their listings. Thus, it came to mind to create a way to view more detailed recent feedback on the listing. However, the page could get potentially too long so I split up the content under tabs.
This helped buyers, but I wanted to think from the sellers perspective too — how could feedback help sellers? Scamming is a concern as much for the seller as the buyer. Although not as common, I saw numerous forum posts about buyers trying to pull different stunts in order to get false refunds on their payments. I was looking at users feedback pages when I realized it focused only on feedback for selling.
It starts with a Seller score, a summary of their seller feedback. It then lists only their seller feedback out. I realized that being able to see someones feedback as a buyer might be able mitigate the aforementioned problem. Allowing sellers to see a potential buyers information could let them be more picky with who’s offers they accept. On the flip-side, knowledge of this would promote buyers being more conscious shoppers as they use Grailed, possibly deterring scams from happening in the first place.
In addition to the work I did, I noted some small nitpicks and possible improvements as I worked on this case study.
- As I looked through the code of Grailed, I noticed 4 different fonts were being used. 1 Serif font, and 3 similar Sans-serif fonts (with one even being based in design of another of the three)! For my case study, I cut the 3 sans-serif fonts to 1 for consistencies sake. I also designed using an 8pt grid, to continue the theme of consistency.
2. I created a more consistent look for buttons based on the Grailed’s current design.
3. Grailed 101: Played with the idea of removing this from the top nav bar. Felt like the contents would make more sense in the About page. Also confused this with Grailed 100(it’s seasonal curated feature of premium pieces).
4. Market: Also considered the idea of removing this feature. I feel like as much as it helps some people, it could cause confusion for others. It’s the only filter on the filter bar that is a category based on human intuition, which creates the opportunity for human error. For example, I saw a Supreme piece in basics once. People who might be looking for that item might focus on the Hype section, and never end up seeing it. I would love to hear thoughts from the Grailed team in particular on this feature.
5. Changing the “refresh” to “update”: When new items are put up for sale on Grailed, users are informed of these new items by a little message at the very top of the search(right underneath the search bar). However, when someone is scrolling down, they wouldn’t know of this feature unless they by chance scroll all the way back up. This way, users could know that there is an update as they scroll down by looking at the slide-down header bar that comes back upon scrolling up for a bit.
6. The slide-down header bar: make a little less responsive in closing. Maybe look for a few pixels of scrolling back down to close it, as opposed to closing it instantly. When using a touch-pad, it accidentally detects scrolling down as fingers lift off, closing the bar by accident far too often.
7. The order of information on the item pages. I propose switching the user profile information with the description(and in my redesign, the feedback and shipping tabs). In the feedback portion, I talked about creating a greater sense of trust in the community. By putting the user profile higher on the information hierarchy, it could help promote that feeling of trust.
Looking towards the future
A common issue I found during my research was users complaining about buyers flaking on offers. I found that Grailed attempted to solve the issue but reverted their solution. They set up a system where the seller would receive the payment once they accepted the buyers offer, but took it back because this resulted in a loss of Paypal buyer/seller protection. They learned well in school to never forgo protection. I would love to tackle this problem next, thinking of how to set up a binding offer without the loss of Paypal protection, or maybe another solution that completely circumvents this issue.
Another idea I had was implementing a way to follow (get text or email notifications, etc.) custom searches. It would be helpful for people looking for particular pieces that aren’t currently up for sale, or are listed at a more affordable price point etc.
In addition, it would be interesting to further play with the idea of community. Currently the only form of communication on Grailed is through the comments section in items. Most of the time, it seems like comments are directed into the void and rarely receive any response. Through their responses to posts and AMA, Grailed seems to want to evolve not just as a ecommerce experience but as a fashion community. Some possible ideas are creating a dedicated forum within Grailed, allowing user submitted stories to Grailed 101, and even more community engagement. Meetups? Grailed fashion week? The possibilities are endless.