It pays to be ruthlessly simple about your value proposition. While humans are emotional beings, the reality is they’re more likely to come to your product or service to achieve a clear transactional benefit. Acquire and convert more users by perfecting the most direct path to realizing that benefit. Here we look at a case study of a flash sale platform in the UK called Wriggle that shows us that simplifying value propositions is an ongoing process that’s key to growth.
Wriggle helps to introduce city dwellers to the best local places for food and drink, while simultaneously helping independent businesses to improve their operational efficiency. Restaurant goers purchase discount offers directly from Wriggle and then present a code to the business to claim their item, whether it’s a craft coffee, a jug of beer or a speciality cheese. The Wriggle team picks its partner businesses and curates its “best of” local guides in tandem with their offers. Currently, Wriggle operates in three UK cities – Bristol, Brighton and Cardiff – and is available as a website and Android/iOS mobile app.
Launched in 2014, Wriggle provides a masterclass in building on what works, and ruthlessly cutting excess product that doesn’t deliver growth. We’ll look at two important lessons from opposite ends of its growth story. We’ll look at the company’s early expansion beyond its hometown of Bristol and discuss latest developments as the company pivots the product to heavily invest in content marketing as part of its core value proposition.
Find Wriggle’s flash sales in a news feed or on a map.
Two years from its initial launch and Wriggle had evolved from an idea about using tech to tackle food waste into a known name for a certain set of app-savvy urbanites in Bristol. It was time to expand. London was calling. London is 19 times bigger than Bristol in terms of population. It’s infamous for its geographic sprawl, while Bristol is a relatively compact city. Product-market mismatches occurred when Wriggle’s platform tried to hit the ground running in London.
“Primarily, it was too hard to get a critical mass of restaurants and the cost to acquire users was too expensive in London on our budget at the time,” says Wriggle founder and CEO Rob Hall. The likelihood of having an offer nearby for any given Londoner was low. And that’s after the team had pushed exceedingly hard via social media to cut through the marketing noise and lure visitors to its digital properties. It simply didn’t make sense to keep paying to acquire more users only to push them into a leaky conversion funnel. And it wasn’t financially viable to just keep trying to acquire more restaurants on the ground. Without major investment, no amount of shoe leather was going to achieve the restaurant coverage needed to conjure a conveniently located offer for most Londoners. Had the Wriggle product hit a London-shaped brick wall? Well, yes and no.
It’s hard to believe the solution to this immediately daunting problem was a Squarespace landing page and some emails. Petter Hanberger was a Wriggle product manager at the time and explains this new scrappy initiative. “We came up with the idea of trying to solve a very specific London problem of really boring, repetitive work lunches rather than taking on the whole dining out market.”
This problem immediately clicked with me as something I had experienced myself. In London, the office lunch market is cornered by chain stores with names like Pod and EAT serving packaged sandwiches and salads. When I first moved to London, I was struck by the fact that when a colleague asked you out to lunch they really meant, “Do you want to walk to Pret a Manger and back?” (Pret a Manger is a ubiquitous outlet for prepared and packaged food.) Inevitably, the actual lunch would be freed from its cellophane and eaten at our desks in a few tidy bites.
As a response to this problem, the Wriggle team launched what they called The Better Lunch Project. It was a simple campaign where users would sign up with their email addresses and office location. When an offer near them came on to the platform, Wriggle would email the user directly with the discount, just before lunch. In this way, Wriggle was able to hit the newly acquired user with an immediately relevant offer on its first contact post sign-up to the campaign. And, since the bulk of office workers are located in central London, they could focus on restaurants in the urban core rather than having to recruit across the far reaches of its neighborhoods. For the prospective customer, it was also a much simpler ask and lower friction for them to sign up for an adventurous lunchtime offer, rather than having to download an app and find the right context to look for a flash sale.
Wriggle’s campaign The Better Lunch Project circa 2016.
The campaign was not only cheap and fast to execute, but it harked back to Wriggle’s roots. The company actually began as a simple email newsletter when founder Rob was first testing out the concept.
The strategic learning from The Better Lunch Project is that we designers need to clamp down on our creative impulses and exercise the self-discipline to really build the least in order to deliver the most business value. It serves as a reminder not to build too much too soon. And if you can’t tackle the problem with a small product test, redefine the user problem to something more manageable, or dare I say it, something more bite-sized. Most critically, we should note how the new “boring lunch” problem could be solved cheaply through email.
The Better Lunch Project helped Wriggle gain traction in London, although it didn’t crack the city on its first go around. Within the year, the Wriggle team and its investors decided to pull up stakes and refocus on smaller cities where it was more cost-effective to grow. Again, the leadership showed great self-restraint to take the market cues and not bankrupt themselves on London.
Instead, the team received a hard-earned but invaluable lesson about product/market fit that has allowed them to thrive in Bristol, Brighton, and Cardiff. Rob says that when they return to London they will treat it like a series of connected smaller cities rather than as one entity. Wriggle will appoint dedicated teams to cover specific regions like East and Central London. In that way, the learnings from The Better Lunch Project have become deeply embedded in the company’s city expansion strategy.
The second major lesson that Wriggle’s growth can offer us comes from where it is today and how its content strategy has morphed into the product itself. This new direction started as an SEO tactic. When the team began posting city guides about the independent dining and drinking scene, it helped Wriggle rank higher in search results than just posting the offers alone. They learned that videos performed best, followed by articles. The team started investing in social media-ready pieces such as “10 vegan dishes in Bristol for the inner junk food lover” and “Instagrammable plates of Cardiff.”
The growth strategy became clear: double down on local social media. Full-time content producers were hired and became an integral part of each city’s core team. Wriggle’s content not only drove visitor traffic to its offers, but it added additional value for restaurants on the platform too.
Giving more space to social media content on the platform blurs the line between traditional marketing activities and user experience. “I would now think of the product beyond the website or app to include the social media interactions with customers and restaurants,” says Rob. This gives us Wriggle‘s ultimate lesson: really good marketing is user experience and vice versa.
Do you like this? No, you love it!? Aw, thanks. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book UX Design for Growth available for pre-order on Amazon now.