Engage younger customers with local businesses through hyperlocal social network
Support local businesses with a hyperlocal social network
3 months (2022)
Contract • Solo product designer
Strategy / UX & UI / Prototype / Testing
Project Overview
Revitalize local businesses with modern consumer shopping experience
Key words
  • Marketplace for local businesses
  • Hyperlocal social network
  • Review system
Problem Statement
The Internet has made the world more connected, but it has also diminished our "sense of attachment to the local neighborhood". Furthermore, supporting local businesses often requires navigating outdated technology, which can be inconvenient. All these have resulted in a disconnect between local communities and the businesses that serve them, leading to a decline in local commerce.
Streamline the process of supporting local shopping and enhance community engagement.
Investigate the potential for an online marketplace for local businesses, focusing on consumer experience optimization.
A platform that combines the features of a marketplace and social network to address every aspect of the local business experience.
150% Increase
in target audience's willingness to shop locally with the mobile prototype, based on a survey of 30 millennials.
Pain Point
Discovering local businesses is difficult
Pain Point
Businesses fail to engage customers
Pain Point
Local shopping is not as convenient
Pain Point
The current review system has low credibility
Best-in-class solution, Yelp, focuses on restaurant reviews
Customers are on social media yet businesses still use traditional ads
Local shopping is ill-suited for millennials' shopping journey
The system is plagued with fake, biased, and incentivized entries
A centralized marketplace for every local business
SMBs must remain active on social media
A digital platform that encompasses all stages of the shopping journey
Authentic and organic peer-generated endorsement
Coalesced Solution
A marketplace + social network platform that manages all aspects of local businesses experience
Research & Strategy
Understand and resolve the disconnect between local businesses and millennials
The comfort and convenience offered by e-commerce is apparent and complex, especially in regards to the shopping habits of young consumers. Understanding their impact on purchasing decisions is crucial to developing practical solutions that can make local businesses more competitive in today's market.

The baseline
To start things off, I surveyed industry for common features in local business marketplaces to engage modern customers.
How do millennials shop locally?
As the largest living generation and major consumer demographic, the shopping habits and views on community of millennials were studied through secondary research for this forward-thinking project.
of millennial shopping still occurs at physical store locations
consult product reviews before shopping in-store, with 60% seeking out 1-star reviews
feel disconnected from their local community and seek to be more involved
consider local businesses vital for the community, yet only 37% have shopped locally
It's important to understand why millennials don't shop locally as much as they wish, even though they value their importance to the community. They also heavily rely on product reviews, giving extra weight to negative ones, when making purchasing decisions.
Millennial's shopping journey
Interviews with four millennials revealed following pain points:
Unaware of local stores
Limited solutions exist to discover information about stores in their neighborhood.
Arduous research
Users must use multiple tools to research local businesses
Low motivation in reviews
Users are reluctant to write reviews due to the perceived lack of reward for their effort.
Low trust in reviews
Existing review systems are susceptible to manipulation through fake or biased reviews.
The key finding of the interviews synthesis is millennial's cyclic shopping journey (depicted below), with social media involved in 3 out of 4 stages: discovery, research, purchase and feedback.
Improving local shopping journey
After identifying several areas for improvement during the shopping journey, I used an Impact-Effort matrix to help me prioritized two unique opportunities with high potential outcomes.
Social media heavily influences millennials' shopping habits.
Often serving as the starting and ending point of their journey, social media is also where they gather information and interact with brands.
❶ a native hyperlocal social network
A hyperlocal social network (think Nextdoor) for local businesses has potential for success due to its focus on the local economy. Integrating a social network with a marketplace opens up new possibilities and benefits for customers, merchants, and the platform.
Reviews are a crucial part of the shopping research for millennials.
Despite reading more reviews than they write, millennials are cautious of positive reviews and place a greater emphasis on negative ones.
Design & Prototype
Design a seamless and integrated shopping experience
Having a clear vision of the marketplace plus social network, I centered my focus on three user flows that encompass the majority of scenarios.
Browsing on a social network with no initial buying intentions
Searching for products with strong purchase intent
Consulting with friends and neighbors for buying decisions
The casual browser
This scenario represents the classic shopping journey of millennials. Users are able to complete the entire process within the LocaLoco app without having to leave, creating a seamless and integrated experience. This reduces bounce rates and increases conversion.
The Urgent Shopper
This scenario targets users who have a clear idea of what they want to purchase. These users benefit from keyword or map search with specific filtering options and accurate location information. To make it easily accessible, I have dedicated a bottom tab solely for Search.
The Cautious Buyer
The native social network allows user to find genuine and personal feedback from friends and neighbors with prior experience with specific merchants or products. This feature is enabled by sharing shopping history, which allows others to access it through either user profiles or merchant/product screens. As a bonus for local community, it promotes social interactions through messaging.
In pursuit of smooth and clear user flows
Version 1 sketches
Version 1 wireframes
The prototype underwent a significant revision (from v1 to v2). The first version incorporated desirable features from competitors, but had a fragmented design and lacked cohesiveness, particularly in the Home Screen. This resulted in user confusion due to multiple features (map view, business categories, news, and social feed) being crowded on one screen.

In the updated version 2, user flows were improved, priorities reevaluated, and the information architecture redesigned. The Home Screen now only displays the social feed, putting the social network at the forefront, and features were moved to the Search and Bulletin tabs for better clarity.
The updated version also includes minor changes with refined and more consistent design, including but not limited to:
  • Pills are enlarged (min. 30px height + 10px space above & below) for easier tapping on mobile devices
  • Increased background blur for more contrast with the text
  • Increases text size
  • Bottom tabs are no longer omnipresent to avoid navigational confusion with back arrrow
  • Simplified information and enhanced readability on search results
  • Easy clearance of applied filters directly on search results screen
  • Prioritized Community Mentions to improve review visibility
  • Implemented floating shopping cart for quick access
  • Revamped information architecture with improved legibility
  • Enhanced color contrast and text legibility
  • Revised instructional language for clarity
  • Forgo sliding card style for clearer hierarchy
  • Sparing use of brand color to highlight key information
  • Implementing consistent design system throughout prototype
When 1 + 1 > 2
Project Summary
I designed a platform combining a hyperlocal social network and marketplace for local businesses to encourage millennials to shop locally. The social network brings visibility, traffic, and feedback, while the marketplace provides the convenience millennials are accustomed to. The combination offers synergistic opportunities resulting in a product that is more than the sum of its parts, and is intuitive and easy to use.

Success Matrix
150% Increase
in target audience's willingness to shop locally with the mobile prototype, based on a survey of 30 millennials.
Lesson Learned
Early on, I decided to build a native social network due to its outsized impact on purchasing decisions. However, my concern about the challenge of attracting users to a new social network consumed an excessive amount of time, and it wasn't until I focused on fixing the review system that I discovered the synergistic potential of combining a social network with a marketplace. I learned the importance of taking an act-first attitude from this experience.
Future Direction
My main focus in this project is the hyperlocal social network from a consumer perspective. For the next step, I aim to improve the design for both the social network and marketplace from a merchant's point of view.
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