Promotions management

REDMART | 2016
The growing range of the items on the e-commerse platform means more active promotions. The goal of the project was to study the existing process, simplify it and come up with the re-designed approach to it. I have re-evaluated the physical process and designed new digital tools to support it. The amount of promos tripled since then, and the process time decreased – in average promo management became easier with the post-promo analysis is now available a hand.

WHAT I DID: Business requirements | Data analytics | Qualitative/ quantitative research | User research | User journey mapping | Information architecture | Feature definition + prioritisation | Wireframes | Prototype | UI design | User testing | Stakeholder presentation

growth problem
There are 25000 active promos on at the moment. Commercial department was requesting for better internal tools to manage the growing number of promotions. My goal was to do an initial research of the process, access what is needed by multiple internal users and come up with a list of suggested improvements. I had to take into the account limited resources and improve on the already implemented solutions, rather than creating something from the scratch.
To start with, I wanted to understand what makes Category Managers (CMs) always look that exhausted. My intention was to understand the scope of their work, how much time and effort they spend on promos and whether it is a pain point at all.
First of all, I wanted to understand what makes these guys look the way they look every day. Each of the CMs received a Google Spreadsheet and a link to Google Form survey.
The results of the exercises showed each CM has a different approach and priorities in their daily jobs. I was not sure how so, and decided to go ahead with interviews. I was hoping to get a more detailed picture of a day in the life of a CM.
It appeared to be that some categories are already well established, whereas some are still growing. That resulted in the vastly different priorities and challenges each CM is facing. However, even though there are major underlying differences, I still can trace few patterns of behaviour and concerns. The result is pin pointing the areas of improvement.
The challenge I faced at the point of time was communicating the findings to stakeholders and emphasising the importance of working around the problems. It is always more convincing to show images, rather than deliver a talk. I mapped out the entire process of setting up a promotion. Not only it was hard even for me to map out all of the possible deviations, later on when I was presenting, I found out the stakeholders were lacking the unified understanding on the promotion process. The visual helped everyone understand the scale of the problem with all the dependancies and lost time along the way.
what to do?
The process mapping exercise revealed opportunities to harvest the low hanging fruits without tech involvement already today. Looking at the Spreadsheet template I found out some of the values that the system requires to fill in are not needed for the promo creation, it is a great time wasting activity that can be eliminated already. Instead of manually converting the Google Spreadsheet into the format the internal system accepts, why not make a script that will pull the information automatically and directly from the input source? Some very minor solutions, like adding "Done" column in the Google Doc document, will already cut short an email thread a CM has to perform with Master Data to get a confirmation of the promotion upload.
Yet for the bright future of ever growing range and promotions, I had to brainstorm on a more holistic solution. I approached it with a question "In the ideal world, what is the role of Master Data team in the promo management process?". I played around with an assumption of CMs being the ones initiating promos, running initial round of negotiations with suppliers and defining the strategy of a promo, as well as post-promo analysis, whereas the MD does operations support: setting up a promo, making sure all of the information is valid, further rounds of clarifications with suppliers if needed, monitoring the launch of a promo.
This way, there are the following benefits:
- All of the info is located on a single platform, instead of multiple spreadhsheets
- Communication between parties is consolidated, which allows for better reporting
- Allows for the start-to-end tracking of a promo, allowing for a better post-promo analysis

The solution was taken with great gratitude from the future users of the system, and their managers. Only if we could implement everything at once!

steps to take
Validations need to happen on one platform - Console - and build on top of each other. Current four validations are enough for now, just need to move certain validations across the promo timeline and add more contextual error messages.

To do:
- Move validation rules earlier in the process (data already available in system)
- Upload to check, instead of immediate creation or error
- Better handling of error messages
More than 50% of fields filled out by a supplier are lost along the way. Yet these are still needed, for a CM to verify the remaining data is correct. These fields need to be brought all the way to Console. That would make Console the platform for everything promotions related, also other parties, for example Purchasing, would be able to access all of the info they need directly on Console, rather than looking for it across multiple Google Docs.
Once the promo is uploaded to console, run validation right away and display the results. That would allow MD to address the issue without spending time to look for the problem.

Should there be a problem MD is not able to resolve, he should comment under the issue, so the CM can look into it.

Having Console as a single platform for promotions, allows for smart promo creation based on the data gathered throughout time. Things like historical trends, price changes over time, stock movement, etc will make it easier to plan for future promotions.
Lacking the human resources we are able to only do that much, unfortunately. It was discussed among the team, to move forward with #Centralizing Data. This is the way, a single promotion is displayed now.
The challenge was making sure, we display all of the fields from the supplier template in Console as well. That means adding a few more fields into the current layout, but what is more challenging adding information on the RPC level: regular cost/ promotional cost, forecast, marketing support, to name a few.

My solution was to kill the lightbox to start with. There is no reason why we should try and fit the information in a limited real estate, instead of taking advantage of a browser size. Another challenge was figuring out how to display more information on RPC level, yet maintain the relatively big image of the item for an ease of overview of the promo.

I was working with a backend engineer on implementing the project, so the solution might not look pretty, but it serves the functionality for now. Showing the prototypes to the users also proved the point, that in this case functionality is the key, moreover users got the simple interactions quickly.

lessons learned
I was given autonomy to work on the project and also drive it. It was a great responsibility given the number of stakeholders going to be affected by changes and all of the inter-dependencies. Also I almost chickened out when I got to know the numbers of loss when something goes wrong in the promotions process. But who does not risk, does not drink champagne. I got to discover some important insights that helped me get an approval from Commercial to move forward with the solutions I proposed. Even though we are not full speed ahead, and are lacking front end developer, we are moving in the right direction.
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