Product Management & Design
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Case Study: URBN Marketplace

URBN Marketplace

Role: Manager of Digital Products Overseeing 5 Product Verticals


For retailers trying to compete in the "age of Amazon," a marketplace strategy can be key to survival. What is a marketplace, exactly, besides a one stop shop for many different types of goods?  Well for the URBN brands, a "marketplace" is really the ability to sell products direct from suppliers. This minimizes upfront investments in inventory and warehousing while increasing a brand's ability to quickly offer new and expanded product lines with minimal risk. The URBN product team was brought in to lead the discovery, requirements, and design phases for the eCommerce related portions of the marketplace program. 

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I. The Why?

Prior to starting any requirements gathering or design work, we arranged for the program manager for URBN marketplace to kick off the marketplace project by presenting some important background material to the product and engineering teams. The goal of this presentation was to focus on the "why" behind marketplace as a way to get buy in from the teams that would be doing all of the hard work to get this new infrastructure up and running. While a fair amount of that presentation was a look at in depth financial models that can't be shown here, the basic tenants of the program revolved around 3 main opportunities: 1) Ability to quickly and easily grow product assortments without requiring upfront investments in inventory 2) The ability to scale the marketplace without additional investment (once the architecture was established, n number of new vendors could be on-boarded without incurring additional cost 3) The ability to quickly bring on new vendors to respond to changes in market demands. 

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II. The Design Sprint

The marketplace project would touch virtually every aspect of the existing URBN infrastructure. As such, one of the critical aspects for our team in getting started with such a complex project was to do what Google calls, "create a shared brain." We needed all of the designers, product folks, engineers, and creative partners to explore the problem space together and establish a shared understanding of both our customer needs and business objectives before launching into solution design. 

ACTIVITY 1: Understand the Problem Space

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As a group, our first task was to understand the problem:

  • Who are the users of our marketplace?
  • What are their needs?
  • What will the shopping journey entail?
  • What are competitors doing?

It was critical that our large group have a SHARED understanding of the context for our marketplace project. To accomplish this, we broke our large team into small working groups. Each group examined a portion of the  eCommerce customer journey (Homepage > Navigation > Category > Product > Checkout) and used post it notes to document: a) what the customer was seeing/thinking/doing (pink notes) and b) what the business was seeing thinking doing (blue notes).

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The post-its were organized and consolidated by a moderator and then the small teams re-grouped to review. Through this exercise, the larger team was able to develop a shared understanding about what was and wasn't important to focus on at each point in the purchase path. 

ACTIVITY 2: Formulate Preliminary User Stories:

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ACTIVITY 3: Sketching & Boundary Setting

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ACTIVITY 4: System Impact Analysis & SWAG Estimation

ACTIVITY 5: Formalized Wireframes & Requirements