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Interactive sales and audience engagement games

Carousell had two primary goals
1. Increase growth
2. Monetize

Challenges faced

Carousell has faced stagnant growth since a few years. A large number of users only visit the platform when they are looking for something specific, not out of impulse.

Through user research, we learnt that we were losing several sellers to Instagram, where they could maintain an image gallery of their work/goods, and engage and connect directly with the buyers.

To meet our goals and increase user engagement a proposal to launch Carousell stories was floated, very similar to what we see on other apps. Another reason the monetization squad wanted stories was, it means full screen ads!

My proposal

Introducing stories to engage sellers and buyers sounded promising, but I was not sure if social posts alone would suffice. While on social media channels, people follow their friends and celebrities and find their social posts interesting, it may not be so on Carousell. There are other examples where the stories feature didn't do so well on platforms that had even more daily active users than Carousell.

My aim was to think of a concept that no other platform has, be it social media, or e-commerce. 

Interactive sales concepts, to stand out from other platforms

What if we could engage audience in community gamification that drives sales?
What if every fortnight we come up with a new fun concept that challenges an audience and piques curiosity?
What if we allowed sellers to do A/B tests via polls? So they can gauge audience interest.
What if we allow pre-orders via stories?

I was inspired by imagination, and it has been a long time since I've been brooding on these concepts.​​​​​​ See gamification concepts in this document.

How it can help user engagement

Gamification of the deals experience with new formats introduced frequently will give users something new and exciting to discover. More consumers will visit the app daily to see what’s the buzz of the day. The hunt for a deal will become addictive and habit forming.

How it can help monetization

1. Sponsored stories
2. Widgets and templates for stories available only to Pro subscribers
3. Increase in DAU, hence more eyeballs for native and external ads, besides stories.
Carousell stories section and explore page
Concepts and design

Carousell stories section to be introduced on main landing page as well as individual category landing pages. Explore stories displays the trending stories. All the landing pages as well as explore pages give opportunities for monetization, as we get more slots to display sponsored stories.

As the users scroll towards the stories section, interesting micro-interactions that give a peek of the promotion can be used to attract a user's attention, as shown in the examples below.
Animated sale widget
Slide to unlock peek
Gamification concepts

Likes for discount

An audience can collectively drive a discount through likes. Even if people don't intend to buy, they would like the post, out of curiosity and simply to help others. 

When a user likes the story, they can immediately see the difference in price that was achieved collectively. The latest discount will auto-refresh in a few seconds.

They also see the inventory remaining at that discount price - so not all users will wait till the goal discount is reached, and secure the item at a lower discount. So we introduce a fun element of a gamble - wait till the end or buy now? It could make the exercise addictive in a way, for those who have a gambling instinct.

It helps the seller by generating quick sales. When one user likes the post, the user's contacts see it as well, which will help in promoting the item.

Likes for discount
Slide to reveal discount

When the user drags the slider the discounted price of the item is revealed. The buyer has a finite amount to time in which to make the purchase to get the item at the discounted price.

This concept will help seller by closing deal quicker, as the buyer will have to decide quickly. The buyer of the bargain seeker and shopaholic persona will be an ideal target for this ad format.

How is it different from flash sales on other e-commerce sites?

On other e-commerce sites, items are displayed in Flash sales sections for several hours, ranging from 6 hours to an entire day. The user could or could not add it to cart immediately. thinking they can get to it later.

In slide to unlock, we play with curiosity. There is a higher chance of action. The timer starts as soon as the user slides to reveal the deal.
Slide to reveal discount
Guess the price

In this concept, the user is engaged with the ad in a challenge to guess price that the seller has listed. If the user guessed the correct price, the call to action button shows the new discounted price for the purchase.

If the user guesses a wrong price, the seller could choose still to give a slightly smaller discount. This would surprise the user and make the user happy.
Non-gamification concepts

Highlight reviews

Reputation and ratings matter to sellers a great deal, and can help them convert sales. Sellers can highlight their chosen reviews in stories, and boost these reviews through ads to reach a wide audience.

Sellers can connect with serious buyers and gauge interest in a product though a Pre-order format.
Social stories

Social posts give casual sellers to sell creatively - where they can show work in progress, or tell the story behind the sale. Buyers can post about their appreciation of sellers or the items they purchased. They can post stories about how they are putting their purchase to use.
What could go wrong?

User generated content could mean bad photography, layouts, and sometimes content that needs moderation.

While posts that need moderation can be sorted with community reports, we could reduce the bad graphic layout stories by providing stories templates which suit different purposes.
Creating stories from templates

We could have templates for various themes, such as polls, before and after, sales and discounts. Some templates could be available only to Pro users.
Concept for templates. Very rough draft.
Design your story

When a user chooses to design their stories, besides the usual camera and gallery, the users get an option to select listings, reviews or their likes.

Alt 1 (Preferred)
Alt 2 

Got some feedback about how one could start the camera immediately, as soon as users click Add my story. 

I worked on the prototype, but here are the reasons I prefer Alt 1.

1. Alt 2 would favor social posts vs other formats.
2. Alt 1 has it more clear that a user can select listings, reviews, for their story. In Alt 2 user has to explore and discover. 
3. Showing display of templates as in Alt 1 is a good way to show case newly released templates, and get more uses aware of the pro features.

Early concept testing and user feedback

Carousell organizes an annual bazaar called Carouselland, which hosts sales booths from more than 300 curated vendors, and attended by thousands of people. 

We decided to use this opportunity to gather user feedback on our Stories prototypes. We classified our users in two categories - sellers and buyers. We did two tests with 25 random people.

We showed users two types of previews for the story type (people I follow) vs seeing the story preview directly, and asked what would catch their attention more?

We also showed them 4 kinds of story formats - Sales, Interactive Sales, Social and reviews, and asked them which format they would like to see most and engage with, and why?

Scoring of the designs

We asked users to rank the 4 story formats according to their interest and preference in them from 1 to 4, 1 being the most interesting. For rank 1 we assigned 4 points, rank 2 is 3 points and so on.We then calculated the weighted score of each format, to assign value to our user's preferences.

High level findings

Sales and Interactive sales

Both sellers and buyers enthusiastic about sales. 

Only a couple of sellers were not interested in these formats as they sold rare/niche products so discounts didn’t really matter to their audience. These sellers had a strong preference for social posts.

Social posts

Majority of buyers said they didn't care about social posts from sellers, as they don't really know the people they follow, only follow for what they sell. 

One seller was concerned that when buyer creates a social post about his product, bad photography on the buyer's end could reflect badly on the product.

A small portion of sellers were deeply interested in social posts. 

One seller commented,  buying and selling isn't a one time transaction, it's about building a relationship with your customers, and social posts can help achieve that.

Sellers who were artists were also keenly interested in social posts, as they can show work in progress, which sparks interest in buyers.

A very interesting reason a seller preferred social posts because not mandatory to put a price tag. "Don’t like putting price tag as consumers otherwise always go for the cheapest."

Review posts

Surprisingly, majority of buyers as well as sellers weren't interested in review posts. 

There is a mistrust that reviews can be fake.

Some commented people can always go to a seller's profile and find reviews - all reviews, vs just the one that is highlighted.

One seller mentioned, always he gets 1 line reviews, like “Nice seller”, so not really worth sharing or highlighting.

Other findings

Sellers really want video listings/stories to quickly communicate features of product as no one reads descriptions

Sellers quite liked the polls and pre-orders so they can know what to order.

One concern by a seller was, if it’s complicated to use, would like to have workshops for new formats.

Sellers want the option to share stories to social media or embed on their websites, and a CTA that leads to their websites.
Interactive sales and audience engagement games

Interactive sales and audience engagement games