Reducing the user drop off rate at an ecotherapy service | Service design, user research, prototyping

Project: Service Design

Client: Myplace at the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester, and North Merseyside

Sector: Business to Consumer/Not for profit

Responsibilities: User Research, Hypothesis Driven Design, Design Coaching, Service Blueprinting, User Journey Mapping, Content Creation, Prototyping and Testing

You can read more about our work with Myplace via our weeknotes or via our open source Miro board. This project is ongoing so you may even catch us in action on the board!

The challenge: The Myplace team at the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester, and North Merseyside runs an ecotherapy service for people experiencing poor mental wellbeing and for those looking to learn something new. The service supports people in the local area to connect with nature in a group setting through activities such as nature walks and identification, crafts and mindfulness. The team also runs remote sessions via zoom where participants share and discuss activities they do from home to connect with nature.

Due to a long and complex onboarding process, the service had a drop off rate of 45% before the registration phase, one of the last but significant hurdles to overcome to join the service. Our challenge was to decrease this drop off rate and increase the number of prospects who register and go onto join a Myplace ecotherapy session.

This work was possible thanks to funding from CAST.

Our Approach

After reviewing existing research carried out by the Myplace team, we decided to extend our discovery phase to go beyond existing members. We wanted to talk to those who had previously ‘dropped off’ from the service in order to gain a better understanding of their needs.

Whilst disengaged participants can often be difficult to access, we embraced the challenge and managed to recruit and interview four users who had dropped off from the Myplace service, as well as social prescribers (a key group of referrers to the service) and community leaders running similar services. Once we’d written out key quotes, emotions, body language and insights from the depth interviews onto post its, we ran workshops with the Myplace team introducing the group to service design methods such as affinity mapping to tease out the key themes of our research.

The research revealed that prospective users were experiencing a number of barriers and enablers to attending Myplace. Some of these barriers were practical such as infrequent access to the internet (impacting their ability to read emails from Myplace) or feeling physically or mentally poorly. However, other barriers focused on the nervousness of trying something new. Key enablers were the empathy shown by the Myplace team as well as the flexibility of the team to users’ needs.

Our research findings helped us build a picture of our users through empathy and persona mapping which formed the basis of a customer journey map that sparked ideas for ‘opportunities’ for our users. With this information in mind, our key problem to be solved became: ‘How might we help Myplace prospects overcome the barriers and showcase the enablers of registering for Myplace during the onboarding process?’

The Furthermore and marketing, support and delivery teams from Myplace working together during a remote workshop
The Furthermore and marketing, support and delivery teams from Myplace working together during a remote workshop

We used a hypothesis driven design framework based on our insights to map our assumptions. These centred around reducing anxiety for prospective participants, providing non-digital ways to access information, sign posting completed and upcoming actions in the onboarding process and keeping in touch. The personas and ‘opportunities’ of the customer journey map, formed the basis of our creative ideation session to brainstorm prototype ideas to test our hypotheses.

We then prototyped three onboarding communication pathways which we tested live over eight weeks: a ‘Basic email’ pathway, a ‘Multimedia email’ pathway with videos of the Myplace team and 360 degree video of the session locations, and a basic email with SMS pathway which utilized the same copy as the basic email but also a parallel SMS message).

Part of the process map for the communication process prototype which we tested over eight weeks
Part of the process map for the communication process prototype which we tested over eight weeks

Given the parameters of the project, we knew that it would be impossible to isolate the elements of each design hypothesis in turn so we devised the content of these communications to encompass elements of each hypothesis. For example, the tone of the content was reassuring and friendly and provided a summary of completed and upcoming actions so that the user knew where they were along the onboarding journey.

An important part of the prototype was video content as we wanted to test whether this would reduce the drop off rate through helping prospects become more familiar with the Myplace eco therapy sites and reduce anxiety. We storyboarded content and held training sessions with the team as to how to use 360 degree camera equipment.

We ran training sessions with the wider Myplace team to familiarise them with the prototypes, the test process and the CRM system we recommended using to track open and engagement rates of the emails. We also created copy templates and guides to creating video content so that the Myplace team could themselves craft emails and videos informed by their own expertise. These templates were published as open source resources for other charities to access on the Catalyst website.

During the test, prospective Myplace users were randomly assigned a pathway which remained consistent across multiple touchpoints. Email open rates and click through rate was tracked as well as individuals’ progress along the pipeline. Any anecdotal information from prospects and the Myplace team about the process was also collated and analysed in a subsequent session.

The results

The results of our prototype test using the communications pathways, email, video and SMS content
The results of our prototype test using the communications pathways, email, video and SMS content

After 8 weeks of testing, drop off rate between referral and registration had reduced by 16%, to 29%. This demonstrates that a structured communication approach that emphasises the enablers for attending Myplace, has a positive impact on prospective users onboarding and joining the service.

Our hypothesis that some users needed non-digital ways to keep in touch was supported as a number of prospects in the test didn’t leave their email address in the sign up form. These prospects were automatically placed on a fourth ‘SMS only’ pathway.

The Myplace team also reported that service users seemed more confident and had increased knowledge of the service thanks to the communication pathways.

Reengagement Strategy

As a result of this piece of work we were asked by Myplace to look at a subsequent brief. This time, Myplace were keen to re-engage prospective users who had dropped off from the pipeline. Given the scope of this project, we designed a new communications process, this time email and SMS content was tested independently by the Myplace team using the systems and structure we had already put in place.

We built on our previous user research by carrying out a focus group with a number of dropped off participants. We added these insights to our themes from the prior phase to develop additional personas and formulate design hypotheses.

A creative ideation session helped us define a process and content prototype which would use the framework called: the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’. We created wellbeing tips based on the ‘5 ways’ which we put into our communications prototype.

Our visual design team created illustrations for these emails,taking inspiration from wellbeing & mindfulness imagery. We sketched out concepts relating to the email content and then used the MyPlace brand colours to bring the illustrations to life. The final assets encapsulate a connection to nature and have a warm, friendly, calm and positive aesthetic. We also designed a set of email templates that were in keeping with the core MyPlace brand, and built these out with the copy and the new illustrations, ready to send out to a database of recipients.

An illustrated banner design with four different illustrations boxed together - All four contain people both male and female with foliage around them - Each image has the people doing different activities - image one is writing in a journal (top, left) - image two (top, right) is walking in the park - image 3 (bottom, left) is gardening and image four (bottom, right) is meditation
An illustrated banner design with four different illustrations boxed together - All four contain people both male and female with foliage around them - Each image has the people doing different activities - image one is writing in a journal (top, le…
An illustrated banner design with four different illustrations boxed together - All four contain people both male and female with foliage around them - Each image has the people doing different activities - image one is writing in a journal (top, le…
An illustrated banner design with four different illustrations boxed together - All four contain people both male and female with foliage around them - Each image has the people doing different activities - image one is writing in a journal (top, le…

A selection of the illustrations used in the email communications

The Myplace team will test this approach internally to determine the effectiveness of the strategy in reengaging dropped off participants.

A mock up of the emails in situ
A mock up of the emails in situ

Furthermore is an evidence-led, product & service design agency based in London. We believe that the research and strategy behind great design is just as important as the design itself. By gathering data and insights to inform our decisions, we help organisations create compelling services and products based on evidence, not opinion. A hypothesis driven design framework helps us achieve this. Using our methods we envision unique experiences built on a solid functional foundation that are a pleasure to use and have the potential for meaning, delight and significance in people’s lives. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

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