How user research impacts the way products are built at Snapdeal

As e-Commerce continues to expand at an exponential rate; staying one step ahead of the competition becomes even more challenging and exciting. Consumer expectations are also evolving at a fast pace; today’s user expects the machine to not just understand, but also to predict their needs with a responsive and personalized interface.
A poor user experience can and will have a negative impact on the brand, especially when competitors are just one click away.

Snapdeal continues to build a world-class customer experience by adopting cutting-edge usability testing techniques. When building new delight attributes, a deep understanding of the true needs of your customers, their context and their behavior, is a game changing factor and herein comes the role of usability testing team.

What really is Usability Testing (UT)?
While analytics tells you what happened; usability testing tells you why. Usability testing is a technique used to evaluate a product by testing it on representative users. Selected segment users are asked to complete typical tasks while observers watch, listen and takes notes.

Primarily, Snapdeal’s usability team tries to understand consumer’s offline behavior and develop equivalent online usage models. A simple example would be creating product filters (relevance, occasion, price, sale items) to replace the human assistance you get from a salesperson, to zero in on the final product you would like to buy.


Usability testing begins at initial stages of product planning, and can take the form of primary and secondary research, via focus group discussions, ethnography research & telephonic interviews. Ultimately the aim is to ensure that the product works well for not just a typical but also a user of a below average ability.

Case Study: Snapdeal Vernacular
Snapdeal’s vernacular service was targeted primarily at users from Tier II and III cities; therefore usability testing was conducted with representative migrant populations from these areas.

The study was conducted at the Connaught Place market in New Delhi. The team was split in pairs of two and they targeted audience aged between 20 to 45 years, were a mix of online shoppers, smartphone users and future potential buyers. Professionally, the group included auto and cab drivers, watchmen, owners of small roadside kiosks etc.

The group was asked to use the Snapdeal Hindi app on their phones, and our researchers observed their interactions with the app to answer the following questions:

  1. Were people able to navigate the app from end to end? What were the bottle necks if any?
  2. Were complex Hindi translations understood by the majority? Was their more familiarity with the corresponding English word or a colloquial term?
  3. Were the Hindi fonts decipherable?
  4. Were people able to easily use the English to Hindi translation feature on the app?
  5. How easy or hard were the navigation features to follow in Hindi?
  6. Which keyboard, Hindi or English, do they use for searching items?

The week long study gave insightful data points to the product team. Perhaps the most important one was that in many cases, there are no easy translations of English words like ‘relevance’, ‘refrigerator’, ‘casserole’, ‘filter’, ‘cart’, ‘accessories’. Therefore it was suggested that the product team re-design the whole user experience, keeping these unique constraints in mind. Additionally, it was felt that linguistic translation needed to be more colloquial than pure form words.

Glimpses from the Field Usability Testing
Glimpse from Field Usability Testing

Based on the above, we decided to hire consultants with experience in vernacular media, be it newspapers or radio. The product team worked with these consultants to re-do the concern areas. The resulting product was excellent and Snaplite was launched to a great response in 8 languages in December 2015; with 4 more vernacular versions in the pipeline.

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My role at snapdeal is to make sure that products shipped are user centric & user friendly to use. We do this by conducting field, ethnography & usability studies; convey research to different product development divisions to make necessary changes for an improved & usable product.

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