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Optimizing content by embracing empathy and creativity.

In 2019, Michaels was a leader in arts and crafts with a loyal customer following within a moderately sized industry. Users were tried-and-true fans who memorized website quirks and workarounds, and knew how to hunt for the "hidden gems" within the Michaels website.

Enter 2020. With the Covid quarantine enacted, demand for arts and crafts materials EXPLODED, giving Michaels an unprecedented year in terms of profit and web traffic. Suddenly, people who had never picked up a brush in their life were clamoring for paint sets. Children bored at home needed art activities, and their parents needed them immediately.

This new generation of crafters came with an entirely new set of expectations in terms of site functionality, product organization and content. 

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Text


Michaels Crafts Case Study: Text

Establishing an MVP

I met with stakeholders, data analysts and category buyers, working together to form a hypothesis of which top categories and content were underperforming based on analytics, in-site search data, industry trends, and brick and mortar behaviors.

From this data, we narrowed the business focus to three major product categories for our first round of optimization: Beads, Yarn, and Floral.

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Alignment with the user

I then coordinated with our research team on the Michaels Maker Space - a forum of roughly two thousand of our most dedicated users and fanbase - to get a gut-check on if the business' priority matched the customer priority. Together, we launched a branching forum post designed to gauge interest as well as any bonus learnings on category personas.

Our categories lined up fairly well, with customer interest in Beads and Yarn. 

  • Floral had less interest overall; floral customers are pretty happy reusing their collection of silk flowers. I kept this as a deprioritized category for optimization, simply because of revenue opportunities.

  • Fine Art interest came in at #1 on the users' radar, but due to quarantine supply chain bottlenecks, there was little we could do to meet customer demand. I tested interest in repurposing existing inventory, but retail shortages meant empty shelves across the USA. We simply didn't have paint to sell.

  • Paper, while #3 in interest, did not generate enough profit or search interest on the business side to merit a deep dive for MVP.

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With a direction in sight, I now had a goal for investigation.

- What sparks joy in Bead crafters' hearts?

- What are their habits and rituals when shopping? When seeking inspiration?

- What new things are they excited about? Where does their curiosity lead?

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Text

"Even if I don't buy the beads, I always love to just have them run through my fingers as I check them out in the aisle. There is just something about the feel of beads to me, regardless of the materials from which they are made. I just love beads!"

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Quote

Qualitative Analysis

  • I wrote and launched unmoderated interviews for each target category

  • Worked with the Michaels consumer research team to craft branching Maker Space forum conversation topics and activities around target category pain points and passions.

  • I wrote targeted user surveys via Surveymonkey

  • I worked with business stakeholders and the product research team to revise and improve the site CSAT and NPS survey to include more experiential questions.

  • Analyzed keyword occurrence, sentiment data, and content from written NPS open response fields and site support tickets.

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Download a pdf example of my Yarn category user research.

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Files

Quantitative Analysis

Simultaneously, I did a quantitative data and analytics deep dive. 

  • Site search keyword occurrence rates - What content are users asking for on

  • Page-level and component-level KPI analysis - Looking at both site level, page level, and component level KPI data, user flows and abandonment to component attributed revenue vs CTR.

  • Google SEO long-tail keyword data.

  • Heatmaps (Crazyegg) and clickmaps (Adobe analytics) on target category hub pages.

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Welcome

"Texture and color. I love squeezing and touching all the yarns. It’s like looking at candy. And the colors online are so much harder to combine than in person. I could look at yarn every week."

Michaels Crafts Case Study: Quote

Whiteboard AB testing

Armed with a strong mix of qualitative and quantitative data, I drafted up a lightning-quick series of AB test ideas in Invision whiteboards. I then collaborated with the product team, merchandisers, and buyers to see if we had the inventory to cover the category suggestions, if the profit margins made the categories worthwhile, and if our current faceting could handle the level of granularity needed.

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Michaels Crafts Case Study: Work

When clarification is needed, I turned my rough whiteboard ideas into wireframes in Sketch, or interactive prototypes for testing.

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With a solid foundation of UX research, rapid collaborative iteration and a focus on the voice of the customer, I was able to generate real change in our ecommerce experience that resonated with shoppers.

Simple changes based on user feedback, in-site search data, and analytics outperformed the original components by up to 13% conversion

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Michaels Crafts Case Study: Work
AB test results
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