A journey from B2B to B2C
The promo video I created for app store use.
In July 2019, I started to work with the TED Education team to iterate on the TED Masterclass app. Back then, it was a B2B app for educators or corporates to improve their students' or employees' public speaking skills. To make the course more accessible, the team decided to make the content available in a B2C app. We successfully launched the new app in the iOS and Android app stores in November 2019. I'm am still working with the TED-Ed team to improve the product.
The project was a great experience for me to consider monetization and consumer behavior in the design.
Product designer, full time
July 2019 - Present
The B2B app when I joined.
What's the right price point for the B2C app? Can we leverage user research to help identify the sweet spot?
Which one is the right model for us – a purchase-to-download app or an app with freemium experience? What is the freemium experience for us?
Given that the price point question would be biased in a user research setting, the team decided to test the market reaction by setting an initial price. We surveyed and interviewed people who had registered but didn't purchase the course.
The goals of the research were to
a) identify a reasonable price point from the users' perspective
b) understand people's top consideration for purchase
c) identify other areas of opportunity
We learned from the survey that over 70% of the respondents rated "Price" as the top consideration that prevents them from purchasing. In the follow-up question "How much do you think the course is worth" (rather than asking "How much would you be willing to pay?" to mitigate biases as much as possible), respondents gave us a range of $30-50.
We also realized that local purchasing power is an extremely important purchase factor after talking to a student in India.
Informed by the research findings, the team decided to run a $49.99 price point experiment for a period of time to see its impact on the total revenue stream and the conversion rate. The result led us to settle on the new price point.
Luckily with Google Play Store, we could easily adjust the price for 10 global markets. It resulted in an 18x increase in conversion rate in these regions.
Product iterations and testings
At one point, there was an internal debate about whether a pay-to-download or an in-app purchase model would be more successful. To align the team, I conducted research and prepared a list of pros and cons for discussion. After thoughtful evaluation, we moved forward with the in-app purchase direction. This decision required us to put more weight on pre-purchase in-app experience than upfront app store marketing. Therefore, it led us to this design question – how do we best showcase the app's value to encourage the purchase?
Other than product iterations focusing on customer conversion, there were also iterations focusing on improving product functionality. The web app was one of them.
Iteration 1 – paywalls
To maximize the conversion rate, it's important to provide "just enough" value before people make the decision to buy. With too little value, people simply won't buy. With too much value, people won't feel the urge to purchase. I ran a round of usability testing to see if people understand that they have to make in-app purchase to proceed.
Coming back from the testing results, we added an explanatory paragraph to make sure people understand the value of the TED's curation insights.
Iteration 2 – freemium experience
Same as the paywall design consideration – what should we make free? TED Masterclass consists of 11 lessons and each has its short preview video to explain what to expect in the lesson. Initially, when the app was launched, we only had these previews available for free. In the user interview, we learned that the previews are not telling a full story of how going through the lesson will be like. I suggested the team A/B test the performance against having lesson 1 free for all users.
In this alternative freemium flow, users will be prompted to access the full course upon completing the first lesson. Once the design was ready, I ran another round of usability testing to make sure everything worked as expected.
The result of the AB testing led us to move forward with the new freemium experience.
Iteration 3 – web app
In the user research, one repetitive feedback we noticed was – people find it cumbersome to type long paragraphs of learning reflection on their phone. The product has been a mobile-only experience since day one, and I strongly believed making TED Masterclass accessible on the web will not only open up more business opportunities but also significantly improve the user experience.
When transitioning a mobile app onto the web, there is this natural tendency to fill up space with more content. While different layouts can make the design look more interesting and fitting, it would cost significant cross-platform maintenance effort once there is a new feature update, especially when we only have one engineer. The form of design should give way to function in this case.
Web app design.
After launching the web app, we surveyed our customers to see how well it's working for them. 82% of the respondents said they would do the rest of the course almost / all on the computer. This indicates that the web app is an indispensable add-on experience.
Make user research a regular team effort.
Good design is to advocate and optimize for the user experience given all the business and engineering constraints. It won't happen without a shared understanding of our customers. To achieve this, I invited product, marketing, and business team members to the research process and it has been a very valuable practice for all.
Localization should not be an afterthought.
Due to the nature of the TED brand, we reach international users even in times when we didn't expect to. It taught me that inclusive design can come in different shapes and forms (in this case, the localized pricing), and localization should never be an afterthought in the design process.