Creative Market: Sparking seller success

a Selected Problem

07/20/22 · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Creative Market is the premier marketplace for selling design assets (fonts, illustrations, mockup templates, etc.), but in mid-2021, years of focusing on other priorities had left key aspects of the seller experience neglected. This had considerably slowed the rate of new sellers being added to the platform each month.


As Director of Product leading seller success, I recognized that dysfunction throughout the onboarding process – from awareness, to application, to initial earnings – had become a major barrier to the success of would-be sellers, and our business. By approaching the problem holistically, analyzing funnel data, and talking to users across the system, I was able to plan and execute a strategy that increased the rate of new sellers by 600%, adding the most sellers per month seen in the 10-year history of the company.

Context

Creative Market was known as the best place to sell design assets, because it had high quality standards and took lower commissions than competitors. But, for months, the number of new sellers added to the platform had been declining, leading to less products being added to the platform. This was a bad sign for the ongoing health of the marketplace as historically, overall sales followed the rate of new products added.


Research into the full system, from onboarding flows, to internal processes and policies showed:

  • Applications were surging. It seemed there was growing demand to become a seller on our platform, but fewer and fewer applicants were making it through the process. Also, applications were increasingly coming from countries with lower English proficiency.
  • On-site acquisition had dropped off. Recent changes to the main navigation had removed the “Open a Shop” link, which was a key driver of traffic to the seller application page. Also, the text of the remaining link had been changed to “Shop benefits”, which felt too passive and possibly confusing.
  • The application form had issues. The existing seller application form was somehow both too simple and too difficult. The questions asked did not give reviewers enough data about the applicant’s intent, and the inputs were mostly open-ended text, which made it tough for applicants to know what, exactly, they should share.
  • The application process was slow. Sellers were waiting 5-7 days for a response to their application. Also, we had tight security measures in place to prevent an array of different fraud attacks.
  • We had no data on the usage of seller features. Tools that we provided to equip sellers for selling had no event tracking, creating a black box around our onboarding process.
Previous application form on Creative Market.
The application form for new sellers did not provide enough information, for the user or for our application review team. It also leaned heavily on open-ended textareas, making the input hard to validate and requiring strong English proficiency.

Diagnosis

Our goal was to lift the rate of new sellers and new products by improving seller onboarding from initial awareness to their first month earnings. While the demand to open a shop was strong, we were losing motivated sellers due to a combination of bad UX, slow process, and overly-strict policies. We needed to both speed up and widen the application approval process while maintaining our quality standards, and keeping the business and our users safe from fraud.

After a strategy was developed, high-impact opportunities were apparent across the system:

  • Finding how to open a shop on Creative Market should be clear, obvious, and available on all pages of the site.
  • Applying to open a shop should capture more information about intent and motivation for better approval decision-making, while making it easier for non-English speakers to provide the required content.
  • Our team needed more time to review each application, and better tools and processes to reduce the risk of letting in low-quality sellers or bad actors.
  • We needed “eyes” on the onboarding process, including engagement data and funnel tracking.
  • There were millions of highly-active designers on our sister platform, Dribbble, some selling assets on competitors’ sites. Connecting to this audience had enormous potential.
New application form with more controlled inputs.
The new application form was more detailed and controlled in the type of data it collected, reducing applicant errors. It also introduced an email confirmation step, deflecting fraud. Amazingly, though the new form had many more steps than the previous form, completion rates improved by almost double.
New application form with more controlled inputs.

New application form with more controlled inputs.

Actions

Accelerating the application process

To give our application review process a much-needed jolt of fresh thinking, we put together a team of six design-minded volunteers from across the company and had them dedicate 1-3 hours per week to working the application queue. We met weekly to share performance data, trends we were seeing from applicants, and tips on how to improve processes. We ran this skunkworks team for about six weeks, allowing us to discover many promising upgrades across the product, processes, and policies. With a new, battle-hardened process in hand, we then trained up a fully-dedicated team to work the queue going forward.

In addition to these major programs, we implemented a series of data-driven UX improvements as well:

  • Added a “Open a Shop” link to the main navigation
  • Launched a new application form with more controlled inputs, better data collection through more specific fields
  • Introduced an email verification step on application
  • Updated onboarding flows for approved shops to help them get started faster
  • Implemented tracking of key data: funnel behaviors for onboarding, and application info on seller intent

Connecting the Dribbble audience

Dribbble had purchased Creative Market in April of 2020, but by the Summer of 2021, their millions of monthly active designers (read: potential customers and sellers) had yet to be integrated across both platforms. Given that Dribbble Pro users were already vetted at sign up and were paying for the Pro service, we decided this group had built-in trust and gave them a path to skip the application process to open a shop. While closely observing this program in the wild, we built safeguards to make sure the Dribbble Pro path was not abused by bad actors.

Screenshot of dribbble.com
Dribbble is a social site where designers showcase their latest work.

Results

Results of onboarding changes
New, onboarded sellers per quarter, Q4 2020 through Q1 2022. Note: The chart represents actual performance but the scale and values have been purposely obfuscated.

Every bit of effort accumulated to give us substantial improvements in key aspects of the new seller experience:

  • +600% increase in rate of new sellers (YoY)
  • +80% increase in seller applications (YoY)
  • +40% increase in average first month sales
  • Under 24 hour application response times (avg)

This massive, sustained stair-step in performance was exciting, but more importantly: we were uncovering crucial insights about our sellers. We learned that speeding up the onboarding steps kept sellers motivated to start selling, pushing fresh new products into the marketplace faster. We also learned that surfacing timely information on identity and intent during the review process helped us make quicker decisions about applicants. And with deeper analytics and better feedback throughout the system, the team was empowered to keep learning how to improve, going forward.

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