Amazon Explore was a trailblazing virtual tour platform that offered customers personalized and expert-led experiences. I was lucky enough to serve as a UX Designer on the special projects team and contribute to the development of this innovative platform.
Although Amazon Explore employed cutting-edge technology, early users weren't fully engaged and gave low customer satisfaction scores. Babak Parviz, the head of the organization, recognized that customer satisfaction was the most critical measure of success. Customers wanted an enjoyable and worthwhile tour experience, but the awkwardness of directing the guide and the emphasis on finding digital content prompts detracted from the overall experience. The challenge was to design a solution that would address these issues and enhance customer satisfaction with Amazon Explore.
A more guide-led tour experience that enabled guides to effectively integrate digital content into their presentations would result in a more enjoyable and seamless customer experience.
To validate my hypothesis, I analyzed customer reviews of real-world tour experiences on Tripadvisor. The majority of 5-star reviews highlighted the entertaining and engaging nature of the tour guide, while many of 1-2-star reviews criticized the poor performance of the guides. This data clearly showed the significance of the guide experience in determining customer satisfaction and confirmed that the quality of the guide was a critical factor.
To emphasize the importance of the guide experience and steer the team towards developing more guide-centric features, I organized a user journey mapping workshop for the team. During the workshop, the team was split into small groups and tasked with considering the end-to-end user experience. The exercise quickly illuminated the significance of the guide experience, which led to increased support from leadership and additional resources being allocated towards its development.
We joined forces with the masterminds behind Seattle Duck Tours, a highly regarded tour company, and I ran interviews that gathered valuable insights into the secret of their successful business model: The owners rescued the company from bankruptcy and skyrocketed to become Seattle's top tour company by putting their guides first, instead of solely focusing on crafting entertaining tour scripts for their customers. I facilitated workshops with the specialists to delve deeper into comprehending the requirements of the guides, which yielded insights that proved to be a crucial factor in defining our requirements for the guide experience.
With the goal of refining and perfecting the Amazon Explore platform, the team set out to develop a scripted prototype tour experience of Seattle's Pike Place Market. Testing was a top priority, with the team conducting 6-12 tours per week to assess and improve the user experience. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the platform's strengths and weaknesses, I personally took the tour as a customer and regularly walked alongside the guides, observing their experience off-camera.
Drawing upon these observations and direct feedback from the guides, I was able to quickly iterate on user-flows, wireframes, and interactive prototypes, further advancing the experience through rapid usability testing.
One key insight we gained from early testing was how important the camera’s viewport was to our guides. As a result, the interface was reoriented from portrait to landscape to dedicate more screen real estate to the viewport.
It also became evident that, during tour sessions, guides were getting overwhelmed with all the tasks and responsibilities they had to manage. By replacing all the copy in the UI with intuitive icons, guides reported finding the experience much easier to navigate. This change relieved them a bit from the excessive cognitive load they were taking on during tours and helped them focus more on engaging with their customer(s).
The guides praised the interface for its ease of use and efficiency. With every iteration, user satisfaction scores rose higher and higher, passing every executive-level evaluation with flying colors.
When Amazon finally launched the platform to the public in September 2020 with 86 experiences across 16 countries, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Customers and critics alike raved about the Amazon Explore experience, recognizing it as a ground-breaking virtual tour platform that was going to set the bar for personalized, immersive, and expert-led experiences. It was a testament to the team's tireless efforts and my unwavering commitment to delivering the best possible experience to both the guide and the end-user.