Pandemic solutions: Helping a small business find new opportunities

a UX case study


Anna’s Nail & Beauty center

Client & Project type:
Brainster Bootcamp, owner of Nail & Beauty center Anna Gesche, remote team research project.

Project date:
June 2021

My responsibilities were Desk research, User interviews, and User testing. Furthermore, I contributed with content and team strategy, copywriting, and acted as the team’s communicator and facilitator.

Project summary:

The Berlin-based Nail & Beauty center, run by its founder and currently only worker, Anna, is struggling as a consequence of the lock-downs imposed by the German government in light of the pandemic.

Having to let go of all her employees, and experiencing a drastic reduction of customers, Anna’s beauty center is struggling with overwork, physical fatigue, and an unsure financial prospect.

Brainster Academy presented us Anna’s case, our first live UX case, and asked us to find opportunities to help Anna. The scope of our involvement started with research and ended with prototyping, user testing, and a final pitch to stakeholders.

The roadmap:

  • Stakeholder interviews

The challenge:

We began by identifying and mapping Anna’s needs to understand her situation and her limitations. For this purpose we invited Anna to a stakeholder interview and prepared questions that would shed light on the following points:

  • How is Anna’s business affected by the pandemic?

The interview yielded a sea of information which we then categorized and synthesized into the following challenge:

Finding opportunities (part 1)

With the challenge clearly defined, my team and I began researching to further understand Anna’s industry and her predicaments. With a massive research task like this, my team of 5 split into 3 research task teams:

  • 6 User interviews: tasked with mapping user needs pains and journeys in the context of the pandemic.
Data consolidation

The research provided us with valuable insights which were then presented to our sister groups and instructor. The data consolidation followed and we arranged the findings in an Experience map, Persona and User Journey.

Stakeholder presentation

Our team used our Persona “Eva” to help Anna understand and visualize Eva’s needs as a customer during the pandemic. “Eva” represents a segment of customers who are 40+ years old, professionals, mothers, pandemic hygiene aware, motivated by “a moment for myself and my beauty care”, and loyal customers.

User Persona

Anna’s feedback on our presentation was vital in understanding her willingness to change as well as her limitations towards change.

Ideation and prototyping

The next phase of our research was the process of finding creative solutions, identifying the most tangible ones among them, and then finally incorporating them into a prototype, which would be tested with users through a new round of user interviews.

Prioritazation metric

Using the data we had gathered, we formed all possible solutions that would help solve Anna’s problem. By using a prioritization metric, we narrowed these ideas down to three main concepts:

  • An educational service

For our prototype, we designed a presentation to be tested by users. The presentation visualized the different attributes of a beauty salon educational service, such as formats, content, communication, and benefits. We did the same for the membership services.

The concept our team devised through the use of this presentation was to learn what users thought about various points by asking them broad questions, which would then be gradually narrowed down by the interviewer to be more specific.

Finding opportunities (part 2)

After nearly a month of work, we presented our findings and test results in a final meeting with Anna. We had uncovered two opportunities to solve Anna’s problem and our project challenge: “How might we help Anna reduce her physical work and stabilize her income?”

Opportunity 1: Helping Anna reduce her physical work.

Anna is the sole worker at her business since she had to let her staff go because of the lockdowns, which in turn reduced the number of clients she could service. Now that clients are coming back she has her hands full, literally, and struggles with pains and general fatigue from overworking.

Based on our research and testing, our team identified a need for more information about various aspects of the beauty industry. Be it about do-it-yourself techniques, beauty products, or trends, our data supports the opportunity for Anna to rebrand herself as an expert in the field and supplement, or replace, some of her services with educational models. This way she can provide less physical services and take advantage of her many decades of experience. A particularly interesting find from our user testing is that many have an interest in knowing more about beauty products, their ingredients, their effect on individuals, and comparisons to other products. Anna, who is developing her own line of beauty care products would benefit greatly from this exposure to feedback and testers.

Opportunity 2: Helping Anna stabilize her income.

A complimentary opportunity we presented to Anna, is the proper introduction of membership plans that would suit the need and interests of her most loyal customers. This solution would not only stabilize her income by introducing monthly subscription plans to her most loyal customers, but also invite new returning customers through attractive loyalty programs.

Final pitch and conclusion:

Anna was presented with our final pitch, outlying the two opportunities for her business to offer less physically demanding services, through the use of educational concepts, and attracting returning customers through different membership programs. The response was positive and Anna was inspired to think in this new direction.

This project was an insightful exercise in research, stakeholder interviews, ideation, prototyping, and testing. We learned not to turn to solutions too soon, rather take the time to thoroughly understand the stakeholder's needs and limitations, the market they operate in, and user’s needs.

UX/ UI designer, storyteller and strategist based in Vienna Austria.