At a glance
Through multiple rounds of stakeholder interviews and workshops, we integrated a new billing feature (paying through an existing Affiliate Network) into our software’s pre-existing payment options.
Services I provided
Seeing as 40% of SMEs (small to medium enterprises) are managed through an affiliate channel (80% of SMEs in the UK), integrating an affiliate payment scheme became crucial for Ve’s self service platform (SaaS).
We first familiarise ourselves generally with affiliate networks. We interviewed multiple members of our own affiliate department and began understanding how affiliate networks function, and (more importantly) what role they played for Ve in this specific use-case.
We crafted unique discussion guides per interview and captured individual feedback with each session. We synthesised our findings in the form of user job stories and a defined set of ‘affiliate’ vocabulary for the wider team. This agreed upon terminology helped prevent misunderstandings, and helped us develop a deeper affiliate vocabulary to be used in our process which was crucial to the success of our flow.
Examples of user stories included:
When sending out solution specific SaaS affiliate links, I want to track the success of each individual solution, so I can report which solutions added the most value
When accessing SaaS via my affiliate network, I want the system to understand I’m not a direct paying client, and prompt the affiliate payment system.
Pairing these user stories with Ve’s overarching business objectives gave us a clear understanding of what success looked like for the user, and for the company.
Top level understanding of Affiliate Networks
In the world of affiliate marketing, an advertiser can be a company selling a product like electronics, clothings or car parts. What’s important to remember, is that you are an advertiser if you are ready to pay other people to help promote your business.
A publisher is an individual or company that promotes an advertiser’s product or service in exchange for earning a commision. Once a publisher has agreed to work with an advertiser, the advertiser provides the publisher with any needed creative (i.e. links, banners, or text ads) that the publisher incorporates into their website.
The customers (you and me) are the final component-- they’re the one who actually sees the ads and act. As they’re browsing a publisher’s website, they might stumble across the advertiser’s content (regarding their business or products). If the customer acts upon that ad (clicks or engages) they’ll be taken back to advertiser’s website to continue their journey.
There were three different factors working together in this system: 1) end users providing their affiliate network details, 2) the affiliate network prompting our Customer Service team and creating a connection between the two affiliate accounts, and 3) our Customer Service team manually completing this loop.
To oversimplify this process, it works closely to adding someone as a ‘friend’ on Facebook: 1) User A initiates this process by inviting User B to connect, 2) Facebook receives that invite, and notifies User B, and 3) User B accepts the invite completing the loop.
The challenge was attributing which responsibilities each party had within this flow. To get a better understanding of each party’s role, we created a task flow mapping out each step needed to successfully complete this journey. Assigning responsibilities to each party helped the team better visualise how each party would interact; sharing this task flow with our wider team also encouraged early team alignment between our Product Managers and Affiliate Department.
(Visual examples are prohibited by an NDA agreement.)
This system needed to integrate with our existing billing process. Keeping the project lean, we sketched out early renditions of how a user would 1) be prompted to pay through their affiliate network, and 2) move through the necessary screens.
It became clear through our user flows that there was one factor that wasn’t accounted for: a free trial.
Currently Ve’s SaaS software offers a standard 30 day free trial to all new (non-affiliate) users, meaning we had two distinct journeys: 1) if a user had access to a free trial of our software, or 2) if the user needed to connect their affiliate account prior to launching their first campaign.
We addressed this through a series of notifications and prompts on our final layout.
Design and iteration
One of the biggest variables was the vocabulary. Working hand-in-hand with our affiliate team, we crafted the copy alongside our sketches to ensure our way-finding was accurate.
What proved to be the most challenging was simplifying the wording (while retaining a high level of clarity). With each round of usability testing we stripped back wording and tested vocabulary and analysed the user’s understanding. Some noteworthy user feedback:
“Do I send an affiliate invitation internally (using this wizard), or do I send it through my network?”
“Next is the CTA, but it sounds like send invites should be.”
“How long will this take, and how will Ve get in touch with me?”
After multiple rounds of high and low fidelity user interviews, designs were exported into Zeplin and handed to Ve’s development team. Seeing as this is an early MVP, our team’s listed a few thing to continue monitoring:
Drop off rate per page-- at what stage have our affiliate users abandoned Ve’s site
Customer support messages (through Intercom)-- we’re mainly validating our copy (in terms of clarity)
Ve’s Customer Support response time-- Ve’s hoping to automate this process as much as possible, but for our MVP our Customer Support team could be a potential bottleneck
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