Needle: E-commerce Chat

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Ben Peck
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Human to Human communication through a Non-Human

Project Role:

Principle Product Designer


  • Consolidation & Re-design of consumer facing chat interface
  • Interaction prototype explorations
  • Full product UX flows & design direction
  • Guide quant/qual research
  • Theming element definition for all clients across multiple product industries.

Team Composition:

Leadership: 1 PM, VP of Engineering
Design: 1 principle product designer (me)
Eng: 1 front-end engineer, 3 software engineers, 1 dev-ops

Research / Success Metrics:

Client Adoption: Client adoption from 55% to 100%
Consumer Satisfaction (CSAT):
Increase from a 7 to a 9
Reduce Friction:
100% usage and awareness of all features  
Tech Consolidation:
Have one consumer console

01 / Product Background

Needle is the leading e-commerce sales chat platform which strives to make online shopping more personal and trusted. With more than 50,000 certified product experts in all major verticals Needle has powered over 8 million live conversations. Needle powers the voices of advocates for brands such as Nike, The North Face, Oakley, Under Armour, Sonos and many more.

Real-time, peer-to-peer shopping assistance from a product expert provides a trusted, personalized and efficient shopping experience.

We identify shoppers who need help, and match them with advocates who love the brand and use the products in a rich real-time messaging platform.

02 / Product Explorations

What is the problem that we're trying to solve? How are we going to measure it?

Currently we have two versions of our product being using by various products. There is debate internally and externally among clients that certain features are more useful/helpful for shoppers as well as Advocates. Determine which features are most beneficial from each version and consolidate them into a version that combines them all in a better product. Achieve 100% customer adoption, Increase customer satisfaction rate by 50%.

Research Findings

To get to some qualitative data around what was most useful for users I ran usability tests on both versions of our current chat tools. These were the findings.

03 / Product Improvements

Can we solve the problems the first two versions have? How are we measuring success?

The new conversations console was a full sidebar integration that slid in from the side covering no content on the customers website. This ensured that the experience was not hindered in any way by having visible and actionable access to any and all content at all times. That allowed the shopper to be able to interact with the advocate while still being able to browse the site withouts conflict.

Customer and business problems we solved with this solution.

  1. We didn’t cover content
  2. Moving to expandable widgets inline. Product scaleability
  3. Richer Product Recommendations
  4. Inline Notifications
  5. Maximizing visibility & use of space
  6. Needle Branding (third party trust)

This major core decision created the framework that allowed us to improve the system as a whole. The following improvements are core functionality that supported a better customer experience for our clients shoppers but also solved the needs of the clients themselves and the friction points that existed with acquiring and on-boarding a new brand.

Product Widgets

The new conversations console would be a widgets focused solution. This allowed for a scalable framework that would allow us to iterate improvements rather than overhaul to release new versions.

Inline Product Recommendations
One of the largest benefits of our console over the competition was the ability to have inline product information in context within the conversation that tied directly to an online store catalog. Customers valued this interaction so we wanted to create a versatile solution that would be useful across a variety of brands and products industries.

Scalable Solution
Widgets inline also allowed us to add additional tools in a scalable way without introducing added complex user navigation and organization. Which were both un-useful solutions in past versions.

Ultimate Shopping Assistant Solution
Widgets coupled with a full sidebar created for the best shopping assistant experience in existence.


The conversations console will keep advocates at the center. Another large differentiator with Needle was the people behind the chat. They were semi-pro athletes or musicians supporting Adidas or Sonos. So it was essential that customers understood who they were talking to and why they were qualified.

Quick to Judge
Shoppers quickly judge who they're talking with and decide whether its advice they should really listen to, first impressions matter. We put this front and center.

Third Party Verified Experts
Quickly understanding that these are third party verified product experts adds value and credibility to the advocate.


The new conversations console provided rich product recommendations. Not only could customers chat with advocates but they could also receive recommendation right within the product that could be added to their cart by the advocate. Providing not only quality expert advice, through the chat they could provide a seamless concierge like shopping experience.

Inline Product Recommendations
Recommendations are an essential asset for an advocate in helping a shopper find the best product that suits them.

Shoppers love their imagery. They like to see something as close as they can but while not complicating their experience. So we wanted to provide an opportunity to do so without leaving the chat experience.

Widgets are pinned to the top of the screen as they scroll so they can quickly return to it within the conversation.


With the new widget based model we'd be able to create more robust solutions where often bundling products is very common to the shopping experience. The new conversations console will provide a way to recommend a group of products for stores that need bundles. Some examples would be makeup, computer equipment, ski gear or golf equipment just to name a few.

Recommending A Set of Products
When adding a set of product they will be grouped together and the layout of the collection adapted to the quantity. Often advocates would recommend many options and in some cases these options would go well together in a collection.

Save to the Wishlist
Easy Access to adding product to their wishlist so that the shopper can proceed to checkout with all the products as quickly as possible.

04 / Product Learning

Finally, what we learned.

  • Shoppers want to know who they’re speaking with and that they have the most relevant experience capable of helping them.
  • Advocates found extreme value in the bundles solutions because it really reduces the conversation and drastically increase sales.
  • The most progressive clients loved this solution because they have a responsive website.
  • All clients were looking for the most innovative way to provide value without getting in the way of the shopping experience.

This was a very rewarding project for me because it included doing qualitative research with shoppers, advocates and brands to create the most effective solution to each unique users problem from their perspective.

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