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digital weekly ad competitive research

The digital weekly ad is one of the most trafficked corners of the site, getting a consistent 5% of clicks on the homepage, yet the shopping experience has been lacking for some time. We’ve known for a while that the hover experience is confusing to some users, but the weekly ad is done through a third party called Flipp. 

I knew there was some room for enhancements, so as a pet project, I performed some competitive research to see what opportunities I could uncover. I tested our experience against Target and Home Depot’s experience. 

It was pretty clear that Target had a very smooth experience. 100% of users preferred the target desktop experience. However, Target’s mobile experience is very different and on mobile, preferences were mixed. 

Beyond enhancement opportunities, I also discovered some hidden usability issues that were detrimental to the existing shopping experience.


Competitive User Testing
I performed unmoderated user testing across Academy, Target, and Home Depot, asking users to complete tasks on each site. I pulled 12 discount shoppers with weekly ad shopping experience, 6 desktop, 6 mobile.

For most items, Academy provided a QuickView modal which offered product details, but if the user wanted the item, they were directed to the Product Details Page (PDP).

Mobile was pretty similar to Desktop.

Clicking on any items in the Home Depot Ad directed users to the PDP.

Mobile basically got rid of the ad completely and just showed users a product grid, which they found confusing.

Clicking items either triggered a QuickView modal or a product grid modal, depending on the ad.

The mobile interaction, however, triggered a grid modal every time, displaying all items on the page. Users really hated this interaction.


The Right Way
The findings pretty clearly indicated that there was a right way to design weekly ad shopping experiences and a wrong way.

Target’s desktop experience earned 100% of participant preferences. The mobile experience, however, which changes dramatically from desktop, gets only 20% of participant preference. Mobile preferences were fairly even across all 3 sites.

Why Target
Target’s desktop experience utilized a more comprehensive quick view modal to inform users and allow them to add items to the cart directly form the weekly ad, without navigating away.

Complex SKUs triggered another modal that allow users to make selections. For ads offering deals on groups of items, users received a product grid modal. 

Depending on the user’s choices, there could be up to 4 or 5 modals layered on top of each other. Surprisingly, participants were completely unfazed by this. 

Hidden Usability Issues
Testing also uncovered some heinous usability issues with the existing Academy experience.

One example: clicking on an ad that reads “20% Off of Boys and Girls Hoodies and Sweatpants”, only directs the user to the product details page for boy’s sweatpants. If the customer wanted the girl’s hoodie in the picture, they have no recourse for finding the hoodie they were just shown.


Having some concrete evidence, gave us a foundation for starting an informed discussion on how to improve the weekly ad shopping experience.

I originally tried to conference with Flipp and the person in marketing that owns the Flipp relationship, but nothing much came of it.

So I shared it with upper management. Last I heard, they were working on updates. 🙂