Launched in 2015, smec reaps the first-mover benefits of using data to optimise bidding strategies for a while.
In the meantime, Google keeps releasing more and more data-driven automation. The biggest hit of it all was when Google announced their new solution, Performance Max in October 2020.
I joined smec in 2021 in its journey of searching for its new USP.
Performance Max comes with a simple promise.
"We use AI to optimise everything for you. You just give us the money.
Previously, smec's USPs were about being smarter than your competitors by using data to fine-grain your ads and being efficient by automation.
With Performance Max's promise, is there room for another software?
As a user-focused stakeholder, I supported the VP of Product by identifying opportunities and shaping the direction of our future offerings.
I start off with assessing the situation, to understand what I was dealing with, by conducting various research.
From interviews and acquisition funnel analysis, I noticed that there are three user roles; Owner, Manager, and Operator. The roles are clustered by their needs.
From a shadowing session, I mapped out the workflow of how the client and CSM interact.
The main tasks revolve around daily monitoring–making sure everything is as expected, and optimising the campaigns to meet the goals.
There is a correlation between clients' resources–man-power, expertise, technology maturity–and how we make our offers more attractive to them.
Looking at the competitive landscape.
(*This is not a comprehensive canvas. I created this mini-version only for demonstration. Without giving away too much.)
Additionally, to get a good understanding of the business, I also conducted industry expert interviews and analysed Google, Microsoft and Meta Ads. As well as reading up on industry news.
I arrived at a conclusion what is the core of e-commerce.
On an abstract level, we can see most workflows as assessing the situation, deciding what we want to achieve, make a plan for how to get there. Act on those plans, take measures, reevaluate and update the plans. And repeat.
Looking at the same workflow but from a data perspective, how do we go from data to action? I identified three main challenges:
The rest of this case study is only focusing on point 3.
Once a problem area is identified, the next crucial question to address is: "Who are we solving this problem for?"
From user research, with our current offering, I identified three user roles: Owner, Manager, and Operator. These three roles, on detailed level, they have different needs and tasks. But on a high level they one thing in common.
It's not about managing ad campaigns. It's about having a business impact. It's about optimising things that are under their control to get the most out of it, optimising for highest return on investment. And looking competence doing it.
How does that look like in practice?
All kinds of favours and textures.
Unfortunately, we had to stop the project.
Due to macroeconomic headwinds, smec decided to stop long-term-oriented product development.
A question that we have to ask ourselves, looking at the market, is why this solution has not existed yet.
The biggest risk that we would have had to investigate was its feasibility. Is it feasible and sustainable? As we would still be dependent on ad channels, and that means if they change something in their APIs or their data structure, we would have to adapt based on their timeline, which is not a good position to be.
And a big challenge with this design is usability. Interaction design in itself would be such an amazing design challenge to tackle. As well as the mindset shift required and how we can design a holistic experience to accommodate that shift.