This case study explores the user research, strategy, UI/UX for introducing videos in the existing app.

Disclaimer: All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Samosa Labs. For confidentiality reasons, specific information is either obfuscated or omitted.

Design approach

Design stages followed for this study

Background: What is the app about?

Figure. Samosa app with audio and GIFs. Credits

Samosa App is an entertainment/social mobile app with a curated collection of Indian audio clips/GIFs. The app makes messaging fun and engaging. share, listen, download and set the audios as ringtones. App ranks among the top 100 social applications in 10 countries having 1M+ installs.

Strengths of the existing app

  1. Huge collection of curated Indian language audio clips, GIFs
  2. Has good brand value and usage in the south of India
  3. Positive customer experience and a good 4.5/5 rating in the app store
Rating for Samosa app on Google Play

What lies ahead

New opportunity

With the increase in data speeds and smart phone penetration, India became the fastest country to reach the highest mobile data usage in no time.

Indian internet, mobile usage statistics

In this perspective, we wanted to innovate on new product features using videos as our natural extension.

Competitor analysis: Where do we fit?

Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat were serving the Indian internet demographic with videos as well. While WhatsApp has around 200M Daily Active Users(DAU) in India Instagram stands at 60M. This shows us the gulf of demographic who were not yet on new age apps. We also noticed the rise of regional channels with vernacular content on Youtube.

Active users of various apps in India.

A look at the shortcomings of popular video services revealed us to better position our app offerings and desired experience.

  • Youtube -Increase in commercial channels, individual voice is getting lost, more effort needed to discover the good short videos, our users do not perceive it as a source of quality guaranteed short video entertainment.
  • Facebook— Targeting the tier-1,2 customers, not focused on the vernacular content as for now, not considered as primary video and audio entertainment app.
  • Instagram/Snapchat — Not for video blogging, no active tier-2/3 consumption in India

We have concluded that short videos based on the curated audios will be our first move in this segment. We further analyzed the competition from Chinese, South Asian and Indian markets which are serving the similar needs. These include live video apps, curated short video apps, user-generated video apps. From the performance of the apps over time, we have figured out that creation of content is our main focus along with the reduction in effort to find the quality content.

Analysis of various apps in the same segment

X-axis measures the perceived ability to communicate with the creators/performers and get engaged.

Y-axis measures the perceived content quality, categorization, recommendations and personalization features.

(The analysis is based on personal usage and features listed on product pages of the apps as of Nov 2017)

Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

Challenges

A major revamp of the product might annoy the existing user base. Retaining the existing audio/GIF consumers was our top priority.

We need to build on the core strengths of the existing app in adding videos.

Enabling the first time users to express themselves without inhibitions.

User research: What do we know about our users?

Our data suggest that non-metro users were more loyal to our app. We wanted to know the user’s feelings, aspirations and behaviors to cater to their entertainment needs. We have telephoned 50+ users from various locations based on their daily usage of the app.

We have come up with the following questions to know about our user preferences.

Interview questions:

  1. Who is the user and information about his whereabouts, location?
  2. What does he do? Can guess age from this.
  3. What are the aspirations of the user?
  4. Whether the user has any plans to move to metro cities/tier-2 cities?
  5. What are the information sources the user uses in his daily life?
  6. Does he use a smartphone for other entertainment reasons?
  7. What does he use samosa for?
  8. What kind of videos does he want if samosa introduces videos?

Characteristics of our most retained cohort

Differences in tier-2–4 vs tier-1 users.

Persona: Creators vs Consumers

We have come up with persona from the behaviors and needs gathered from the user research. These personas include needs & goals for the content creators as well as consumers.

Persona of existing Samosa app users

Empathy Map – feel good, think better, act awesome.

Challenges to solve

Left — Consumer engagement options, Right — Creators efforts vs time to recognition

Challenge: Users do not know what content to create.

Solution: We have identified the following triggers to put in usage

  • I have seen something interesting
  • I want to share something from my daily life
  • I want to show my skill/talent
  • I have a nice video to upload
  • I want to connect with others

Challenge: Users have inhibitions to create content and need help from the app.

Solution

  • Powerful camera options with regional/cultural filters and stickers should encourage the user to express.
  • Building a comfortable and relatable ecosystem in the app by recognizing the first timer users efforts.

Challenge: Users forget the app after a couple of days if it is not perceived as useful.

Solution

  • Surfacing quality content from the challenges posted regularly
  • User follow options, comments for discussion
  • Push notifications for the activity relating and around the users
  • Presenting related videos as stories

Pain points to consider

  1. Need for vernacular entertainment and recognition for tier 2–4 users.
  2. Inability to relate to the mainstream entertainment choices such as Instagram/Snapchat.
  3. No dedicated distribution platform for tier 2–4 talent.

Flow Diagram

Chart representing the screen flows

Defining a style-guide:

Based on the user feedback we identified the attributes that define the app as fun, love, festival, creative, enjoyment.

Samosa style guide (emoji by Neha Kulkarni)

Iterations

Paper sketching help in quickly validate ideas and eliminate in early iterations
High fidelity wireframes for testing the flows

for Habit forming

Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata says creating entertainment is an act of self actualization.

An app should have either a good perceived utility or a frequency of usage to land in habit zone. We wanted more creators to create the content and show case their talent. We wanted more users to discover the stars and promote them, so that it becomes a positive loop. This in all without constant external triggers.

The following hook model and a push notification strategy try to achieve the same.

Challenges based on the competitions, cultural events, festivals etc. to keep the users in engagement loop always

Re-defining our push notification strategy

According to Leanplum personalized push notifications resulted in 7% jump in D30 . The studies show no correlation between number of push notifications and uninstalls.

We weaved our push notification strategy around retention and personalization. We have three categories — Retention drivers, Re-engagement drivers, Creation drivers. We segmented the users based on app usage, and sent the notifications at high open hit ratio times.

The users who opened the push notifications contributed to highest percentage of increase in retention. The following figure illustrate the basic strategy omitting the exact details as per NDA.

Gist of push notification strategy

Smooth integration of videos with the existing flow

We weren’t to annoy the existing users and their usage patterns while we introduce videos. At the same time, we want them to shift towards video consumption and creation.

We wanted videos to appear as layer above the existing app. Thus we retained the previous stricture. We have used a tab approach with audio/Gif remaining the same with some improvements. We launched the user to videos while he always has option to visit audio/GIF at will.

Tab bar representing the videos, audios, GIFs and profile.

Previous design of the app had limited number of audio clips showing per page. We have observed that our users were scrolling on average only 5 screen folds. Because of this audio engagement levels in the app went down.

The new designs now show more audio clips per page. The share controls appear only when the user selects the audio. This resulted in more listens and more shares.

Create video screen

Creation of content

The design philosophy is reaching the user on what he is comfortable in creating. Inhibition is the challenge we had to solve for our users.

We made sure that our camera has enough stickers, filters to augment the users creativity. We have provided movie, festival, sports taping the existing fan base.

We created challenges around the themes that are more relatable. We designed challenges such as “dance with the star”, “dub a video for a famous clip”, games such as “Hit it like a MS Dhoni”, “share your celebrations of festival X” . Our data shows the users who created content are second best retained users.

Solving the riddle of no-KPI-action uninstalls

We have phone interviewed the users who have uninstalled the app without a single KPI action. The reasons we found were:

  1. Users couldn’t guess of what is inside the app from the current login screens.
  2. Users misunderstood the content language settings to the app language settings. This setup the wrong content based for the many thus annoying.
  3. Many users came to app with a specific search keyword in mind, once they couldn’t find it, they uninstalled.
  4. While doing all the above, the on-boarding didn’t guide them to any of the retention driver actions.

Solution

Login, Invite, Followup with change in content settings.

We have solved these by setting the right expectation on the login screen. We sneak-peaked the contents of the app right on the login. This also our new signups.

Majority of our new installs were organic. This gave us the confidence to introduce invite or follow friends option for the new users. The users who invest in the app are most likely to be retained. We have seen a steady increase in new installs ever since.

We fixed ambiguity around the settings with a clear mention of “Video/Audio clips language”.

Increase in community interactions and user follows

  1. We identified and promoted the star performers every . This ensured we have more creators and followers in turn.
  2. We promoted first timer creators/performers as part of the leaderboard. This resulted in an increase in the percentage of creators for us.
  3. We prioritized and positioned the “follow” button on the video screen, and profile. This enabled the easy follow option if they liked creators videos.
  4. Comments helped the users to interact and engage with the creators and community.
  5. Users who followed on the first day of the app had shown high retention.
user profile, followers and following screens
Video view screen

Increase in likes

Our users had a tendency to download the video and store them on phone. We even have seen a strange behavior of many uploads of the same content. We had a heart icon which is about saving the video to his profile which people were not using. Further, our analysis showed that downloads and likes correlated to the same increase in retention numbers. To increase the frequency of app usage, we wanted them to save to profile more often than download.

With the new design, we made sure that we have explained the “like” and prioritized it next to follow. While the number of downloads remained the same, we observed more users are saving the videos on the app. This also resulted in an solving storage issue for our users.

Increase in DAU and time spent per session

For confidentiality reasons, numbers were omitted.

The app attracted more daily installs after the successful introduction of videos during Jan-March 2018. Our users were spending more time in the app post after the new launch.

Impact of the new version

For confidentiality reasons, numbers were omitted.

Application retention is not driven by lone strategy or a set of features. We observed an increase in retention-driver actions further contributing to the overall increase.Our data reports many fold increase in day30 retention.

The daily new installs, overall daily active users, KPI actions and along with time spent per day increased by manyfold.

Users liked the app too

User feedback that resonated with our strategy (from Google Play feedback)
App ratings from April, 2018



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