CASE STUDY: Shiseido
Bringing smarter innovation to a leading global brand
Shiseido is a top beauty & skin care company, headquartered in Japan and operating worldwide. We worked with their Innovation Lab to integrate startup culture and rapid development cycles into their practices. After the success of our initial project, our discovery and design tools were adopted throughout Shiseido America.
In the Beginning
Made2Fit is an advanced technology for creating custom foundation makeup with just a smartphone camera, invented by two serial entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
After a promising start, their fledgling startup was purchased by the makeup giant Shiseido to power their well-known global brands.
Once they got settled in, the team started integrating their cutting-edge tech and customer experience into a global brand strategy — and discovered some challenges.
They brought us on to help tackle those challenges and help their app become successful inside of the larger company. Together, we ended up changing the way that Shiseido does advanced product research.
Bringing startup smarts to a large company isn’t straightforward – but it can be deeply rewarding.
How We Helped
When Dave Gross (GM of MatchCO) hired us, the team had an app that was up and running – but performing below expectations. They knew their conversation and retention metrics were lagging – and they’d fixed the obvious culprits. Beyond that, the team didn’t know which specific UX changes would impact their metrics.
So we created a 3-phase plan to tackle this challenge:
- Clarify strategy & identify high-need customers
- Test the end-to-end experience with Superfans
- Synthesize qualitative insights & improve the design
Working closely with the team, we executed that plan – and were able to clearly identify the source of our problems. We fixed those problems by redesigning our onboarding and sales flow – and in the next release, we saw our numbers improve.
After this initial success, Shiseido’s head of research got involved – and we helped her team modernize their approach to gathering customer insights and testing new ideas.
Our Game Thinking methods are now widely used throughout Shiseido America to develop and test new products.
Corporate innovation works best when you start with a small, focused project
Finding the right Superfans
Through metrics, the MatchCO team could see the dropoff points in their UX flow. But they didn’t know WHY that dropoff was happening.
They’d surveyed their users but results were inconclusive. To fix their retention problems, they needed qualitative insights from the right people.
To deliver this, we created several distinct testing cohorts:
- MatchCO app users who’d purchased foundation
- MatchCO app users who didn’t purchase
- Nars, Buxom, & Laura Mercier fans who were excited about custom foundation
We used Shiseido’s (large & active) email lists to recruit — and got thousands of replies. We filtered that down a few dozen promising testers using our 6-question Superfan Screener. Then we interviewed the best respondents, to learn about their beauty habits and needs.
These interviews helped us identify high-value testers – people with a genuine interest in our topic, and a strong ability to articulate their feelings & aspirations. And we learned more about why our retention & conversion numbers were low — which helped us as we transitioned into testing.
To accelerate product discovery, build vetted cohorts of high-need, high-value customers
Testing the End-to-End Experience
In those initial interviews, we discovered that customers were struggling with TRUST issues around our app’s face-scanning feature. In order to purchase an expensive bottle of custom foundation from an app, they needed to know that
- their personal data would be secure
- their color match would be accurate
- they could return it for a refund if needed
For testing, we created an end-to-end set of mockups for a NEW app experience that would address these trust issues.
Next, we ran playtests with our vetted Superfans, tweaking the design between sessions as we heard their feedback.
This iterative, low-fidelity approach allowed us to present different design solutions to our customers quickly and cheaply. Using this approach, we were able to update our app design in stages, and create a product roadmap we felt confident about.
Solve tough dropoff issues by combining qualitative insight with quantitative metrics
Ongoing Feedback with a Superfan Community
Once we identified our Superfan cohorts and ran initial playtests, we invited them into a private Facebook group for ongoing contact & feedback. This group functioned like a “Customer Enthusiast Panel” that a more traditional marketer might put together.
Replace your outdated Customer Panels with an ongoing Superfan Community
Results: improved retention & conversion
By gathering targeted insights from exactly the right people, the MatchCO team was able to identify and fix their retention and conversion problems – and see their numbers improve with each new release.
They now have a methodology for tackling problems effectively when they come up.
Beyond that, the Game Thinking techniques that led to this breakthrough have spread throughout Shiseido – and most brands are replacing their outdated Customer Panels with a curated Superfan Community.