Building emotional connections between consumers and delivery workers.
Coupang, often referred to as the "Amazon of South Korea", is the largest e-commerce platform in South Korea. The giant e-commerce platform is famous for it's next-day delivery and selling variety of products cheaper than other platforms.
However, the media has been uncovering many unpleasant news about the Coupang mistreating delivery workers. After extensive research and user interviews, I explored ways on how to educate users on the current issues by implementing a new feature that would hopefully create a positive impact in consumer's shopping experience.
Delivery workers face a toxic working environment in Coupang. Managing the needs of consumers and the growth of the company has resulted in many health issues and several deaths.
Educate users about delivery workers working situations and provide a chance for users to show appreciation to delivery workers.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and social distancing measures undertaken by the Korean government have further accelerated e-commerce sales in the country. Coupang now promise to deliver even faster than their competitors, offering “within-the-day,” “before-dawn” and “bullet-speed” options. But the salaries collected by delivery workers remained the same.
For the past year, Coupang has appeared in the headlines repeatedly. Since the start of the pandemic in South Korea, 17 deaths have been reported and all linked to excessive working in Coupang. The company has received much criticism for deaths of overworked delivery and warehouse workers.
Main findings shows that :
All e-commerce platforms offer next day delivery. Therefore, the number of working hours for delivery workers has also increased dramatically, raising many overworking issues for them such as stagnant payrolls, fewer holidays, health issues, and deaths.
There seem to be a common problem about the working environment based on my market research and competitor analysis. I continued my research with user interviews to investigate user's thoughts about Coupang.
I set out to speak with eight people about their experiences with Coupang. Generally, interviewees find the platform very convenient. They like the fact that the service provides next day shipping and they could buy almost anything on the platform. But the frustration I've uncovered was my interviewees are not happy with how Coupang is treating the delivery workers, also know as Coupangman. Here are some statements from my interviewees :
"That system is not logical. I don't know what's their strategy but i could feel that delivery guys are paying the price for it.. "
"It's really awful. They even work during the weekends. They dont have fixed operating time at all. "
"I used to buy stuff regularly online but nowadays I try to reduce it because I don’t want delivery drivers to overwork."
My interviewees feel sympathetic of issues evolving Coupang's delivery workers. In result, they start to look for other e-commerce alternatives. The findings are then categorised in my affinity mapping to have a high overview of the problem.
Using affinity mapping, I begin to shaping my findings into my persona, Eun Ji. She’s aware of the recent news about overworking culture of delivery workers and hope she can acknowledge Coupangman for delivering her items. Here are her main characteristics :
I also created a timeline to visualise how my users needs and feelings fluctuate over the course of their journey. I hope by creating the journey map, I can better identify opportunities for improvement for ideation stage.
Most logistic workers are classified as self-employed, which means they're often denied the basic benefits that regular, fully-contracted employees would be entitled to, such as caps on weekly working hours. This loophole, unions say, has resulted in these couriers being made to work long, unsustainable, and punishing shifts without earning minimum wage nor being paid for working overtime.
With such negative working environment, Eunji hopes to find a way to show appreciation and support their work. However, there's currently no way to do it. Firstly, they rarely come in contact and secondly, there's no option for users to contact or give feedback to Coupangman.
Using How Might We method, I selected features that would educate Eunji about Coupangman's work and a chance for her to show appreciation to Coupangman after receiving her parcels. Here are the features selected and the reasoning behind them:
Providing a biodata for Coupangman- Providing a short bio can humanize Coupangman and enlighten users that there are more to Coupangman other than just someone who deliver items.
Showing working situations of Coupangman typically goes through daily - User interviews showed that majority often are aware of the issue, wants to do something about it but quickly forgot about the issue. When using Coupang, their focus is only buying and receiving the product. Therefore, I needed to think of a way to educate the users right after payment. I believe that this will be more effective if users learn something immediately after a purchase is being made. I started to think about the working conditions a delivery man might go through and here are examples that were mentioned during user interviews :
Korea is known for it's steep and uneven landscape. Many houses are built on hills because land space is limited and expensive. Normally, Coupangman needs to walk up the hill to deliver items because it is dangerous for trucks to park on hills.
No Elevator Apartments
There are still many old apartments that does not have elevator in them. It's uneconomically not good to install them because it can cost a high amount of electricity. These apartments normally have 4-5 levels of different household.
Users mentioned that they prefer shopping online because they don’t have to carry heavy items. Means most items purchased are heavy or requires more strength to carry it.
Korea have very extreme climate especially during Summer and Winter. Temperatures can go up to 40°C in Summer and -20°C in Winter and delivery man still require to work. Typhoon and snowstorm are also very common.
Connect users to Coupangman through feedback- When it comes to reviewing a services, user interviews have showed that users are likely to do it if the process doesn't take a long time. There's where pre-set messages are useful and effective to acknowledge someone or service. Koreans use Kakaotalk as their main mobile messaging app. There are thousands of emojis or kakao “stickers” that are being purchased. The combination of colorful characters and messages are used to more effectively convey an emotion than word.
Korean tech apps such as Carrot Market(당근마켓), Zigzag(지그재그) and Today’s Home(오늘의집) has also incorporated illustrative /emoji type of response for users to use when chatting with the seller.
Coming up with the pre-set messages was a little challenging for me as I am not a native Korean speaker. I decided to work with a close friend of mine to understand the language usage better. She provided me in-depth insights on the type of clauses that are commonly used in a working environment and situations in cheering someone up. Thank you Jina if you are reading this ❤️
With the solutions in hand, I put into test by forming user flows. This is to identify roadblocks as early as possible and making sure the overall user experience is fluid.
After discerning what was vital for inclusion for the new features, I sketched out low-fidelity wireframes to maximize functionality while maintaining a minimal design.
In between building the low and mid-fidelity frames, I started to ideate on the location of new features on to existing screens. The main user flow is split into two flows because users have to wait for parcels to arrive to continue to the second flow. A comparison between the current and new versions are shown below for better clarity.
I started with the first task which illustrates what users will see after purchasing something on Coupang. The new feature needed to be included here to prevent users from missing it.
The second task illustrates a user giving a review to Coupangman after receiving parcel. A notification will pop up alerting parcels have arrived. From there, users have option to give a review.
Coupang’s existing icons are simple and straightforward. They need to be easily understand by different age group of people because of the vast range of consumers. With simple structure and light shadows, I adapted a similar illustration style for the new features. I wanted to keep it minimal with less details and limited colors for consumers to understand easily with the text provided.
I started researching on different types of emojis commonly used in Korea. I needed to design it a little different from Coupang’s existing icons because these emojis must express emotions such as gratitude and excitement. Emoji illustration is not my expertise so I searched for emojis that are similar to Coupang’s vector-style illustration.
I was delighted to have found Kawaii Flat designs on www.flaticon.com and I feel that the vector style illustration matches Coupang’s style with slight shadows. Thank you Kawaii Flat! Of course, I couldn’t find all illustration that matches with the messages so I designed a few my own too.
Usability testing was conducted on 5 participants using mid-fidelity prototype. Participants were surprised to see the new features because they were used to exiting the last screen immediately after payment is completed.
Participants were able to relate with working situations Coupangman had to go through and feel thankful for the service.
Participants enjoyed the short biography of Coupangman. Participants also felt a connection knowing Coupangman's name.
Participants have the opportunity to give feedback by recognizing Coupangman.
All participants empathized Coupangman's harsh working environment but only half of the participants was glad to leave feedback for Coupangman. This is due to the fact that participants might not always have time to leave a feedback.
Based on user's feedback, some pre-set messages were not comfortable to be used because it might be a sensitive phrase to Coupangman. Therefore, I made a few revisions according to user's feedbacks.
Getting to know your Coupangman
Users now can view Coupangman's name,
profile picture and biodata. Showing different types of working conditions also helps spread awareness that Coupangman's job is not easy as it is.
Showing gratitude to Coupangman
Users now have the option to show their gratitude to Coupangman by sending them pre-set feedback or write personalized messages.
This project was exciting for me to work on because I felt that I was able to connect with participants emotionally on how they feel about current situation Coupangman faces. In the beginning, I was not confident to build something that is not targeted to increase revenue. But as I dig deeper into research, I realised this idea might be able to improve Coupang's company image by giving more credit to their delivery workers. After all, I believe that delivery workers are the true backbone of the company. 쿠팡맨 최고예요!
It would be interesting to interview delivery workers from Coupang and get insights from their perspective. In the long run, I think this might benefit delivery workers the most because it's about spreading awareness and hopefully making an impact in Korea's working culture.