Search Experience

Understanding B2B shopper behavior to inform search experience design

Designing an exceptional search experience requires knowing what your customer wants before they start typing in the search box. When search functionality is well-designed and personalized to a shopper’s needs, it’s almost as if the site is reading a customer’s mind. Helping our client—a seller of clinical supplies—understand shopper mental models was key to success in the redesign of the search functionality on their e-commerce website.

The Challenge

Our client was well aware that onsite search was one of the most critical functions of their website—and also one of the most painful experiences, falling short of user needs.

Knowing search improvements were essential, they decided to purchase a modern, flexible, and personalized search technology platform. But launch was cut short when tricky questions—far beyond the user interface of the search box or results page—remained unanswered:

  • How should items be indexed?
  • What’s the best way to weigh and rank results?
  • What metadata is useful to display?
  • How much will customers tolerate the promotion of “house” brands over the ones they usually order?

Our Approach

While the scope of our initial engagement focused primarily on the design of the search user interface, we recognized early on that—in order to make these kinds of complex design decisions—our client needed a much stronger understanding of their customers’ mental models while searching for products.

Shifting gears, we designed a “hybrid” qualitative interview approach that allowed us to interview shoppers about what happened before they sat down at the keyboard to search for products, to observe their interaction with the current site, and to test interactive prototypes that would inform the implementation of the new search tool. Iterative rounds of A/B testing with realistic product searches and real-life search results allowed shoppers to better imagine what it would be like to use the new experience.

The Outcome

At the end of just one month of intense research with more than 40 customers, we had documented the end-to-end shopping process of both clinical and non-clinical staff searching and purchasing these products. As a result, our client took away:

  • A solid understanding of not just of the search experience itself but the broader task of compiling and completing an order; a clear picture of what was happening before, during, and after their customers hit “search”.
  • Informed decisions about how to place alternative products in front of shoppers to potentially increase profits from higher-margin house brands—balancing both business and user goals in the final search experience designs.
  • Insights around future digital experience projects to support online shoppers, including streamlining the re-order process, simplifying check-out, and working to restructure very large product families.


[Fathom provided us with] insightful recommendations for our project which helped the team see the bigger picture … design decisions were informed and well laid out. Stakeholders liked the structure and content of each presentation and read-out.

—Digital Experience Lead

Aligning Voices and Vision Around Clinical Workflow

Alignment isn’t just a business buzzword for Fathom Consulting. It’s critical to the success of our clients and the acceptance of their products and services. Our research-driven approach to consensus-building recently helped a Fortune250 company in the healthcare field align on the re-launch of a connected medical device.

The Challenge

Prior to our work together, the client had introduced an innovative implantable medical device. The device demanded a paradigm shift in the medical management of a disease state.

If that alone weren’t challenging enough to practitioners, messages from the company around best-practice clinical workflow were inconsistent—if not entirely lacking. Physicians and nurses were frustrated, and adoption rates were suffering.

As a result, the client asked us to define an ideal clinical workflow around which the company could rally and that could be broadly shared with customers.

The Solution

More than 30 interviews with key stakeholders, the field team, sales and marketing, and customer support confirmed messaging inconsistencies—and even philosophical disagreement—around the ideal clinical workflow. Despite everyone’s passion for the product, internal stakeholders simply weren’t singing from the same hymnal.

Armed with various stakeholder viewpoints, we sought truth from end-users—both those who had successfully implemented new device programs and those struggling with adoption. What does the ideal clinical workflow look like to you? If you had to do it all over, what would you change? What lessons can be shared? How can the company help?

After gathering data from more than 200 physicians and nurses through both qualitative and quantitative research studies, we regrouped internal stakeholders to provide exposure to all areas of clinical workflow and achieve stakeholder alignment. During a two-day, 50-attendee workshop with a cross-functional group of internal team members andtheir customers, we facilitated tough discussions and arrived at consensus. “It was so valuable to pull all the right people into one place to hear the common pain points and then consider the solutions—brilliant!” said one stakeholder. “This should have been done years ago!”


  • A deeper understanding of their customers and a shared view on what was working (and not working)
  • Internal consensus and new messaging around the ideal clinical workflow for the product
  • Resources for clinicians for effectively managing patients, based on best practices from their peers


As a result, customers have gained the confidence needed to continue using this device with their patients. And, the client has seen significant results—including growing adoption rates and hard evidence that customers are following the recommended workflow.

Generating consensus among divergent audiences is difficult but necessary for creating products and services of value. An independent voice at the table can make the process easier, more productive, and more valuable.


Visualizing Customer-Focused IoT Solutions

How does a company design a product without knowing what the product is, does, or looks like?

This was the challenge a client in the health and safety industry posed to us. This Fortune 500 company wanted to expand their Internet of Things (IoT) offerings to customers, but didn’t know where to begin. We started how we always do: by listening and learning from users.

The Challenge

The company sought to provide its customers with data from connected devices that would improve efficiency and measurement, particularly for consumable product usage. While leaders were eager to embrace connectivity, they didn’t want a technology solution for its own sake: It had to be something customers would pay for and use, and it had to provide useful, actionable data (to both customers and our client).

The Solution

While the client had an abstract idea of what they wanted to accomplish, we asked customers: “What data do you need the most? How frequently do you need to access it? And would you pay a premium?” (Many said they would!)

To make the customer research as effective as possible, we created mock-ups of dashboards to help end-users visualize how they might use the data. These lightweight prototypes included several screens showing possible data points and reporting metrics.

After an iterative research and design process, we prioritized users’ “wish lists” for the client and provided recommendations around a solution that the market would embrace.


  • An authentic and detailed picture of how their customers could benefit from an IoT solution
  • A roadmap of desirable features prioritized by user need and implementation complexity
  • A customer-driven solution that also captures the information the client needs for both product and business planning


Today, the client is in the process of developing their connected solution, and Fathom is eager to see it rolled out to customers in the future.

Designing User Experience for Evolving Form Factors

Clarifying the Problem to Be Solved:

To facilitate a migration to a mobile interface, Medtronic needed to rethink the functionality and user experience of the clinician instrument. However, the mobile approach needed to be one that would not require a significant departure from the current user workflows.

Fathom Consulting (formerly Evantage) began by defining key questions to establish clear objectives:

  • With a smaller screen size and the elimination of a stylus and keyboard, how are appropriate levels of usability maintained during the implant procedure and during follow up?
  • How is optimal usability ensured across a variety of tablet platforms?
  • How is the user experience evolved on the front end, while maintaining the current workflows on the back end?

Designing an Actionable Solution

Fathom Consulting structured and facilitated a series of collaborative workshops that included Medtronic human factors designers, systems engineers, and operations SMEs. The initial sessions focused on aligning objectives and developing a project plan, while subsequent sessions focused on creating initial design concepts. Once the concepts were presented and reviewed by Medtronic’s development team, Fathom Consulting designed wireframes and a concept prototype.

Business Objectives

  • Improved system usability
  • Maintained workflow consistency
  • Increased adoption

Maximizing Revenue from the “Digital Shelf”

Clarifying the Problem to Be Solved:

General Mills recognized a void in the online food retailing space and saw an opportunity to drive greater revenue from the “digital shelf.” Specifically, they were seeking to define the best online shopper experiences and to help position their brands and retail partners to capitalize on those experiences.

Fathom Consulting (formerly Evantage) was enlisted to help frame and answer a number of important questions:

  • Which shopper (user) experiences will influence purchase behavior?
  • Which features and types of content, delivered during the shopping experience will drive consumer engagement and purchase?
  • What best practices from other online shopping experiences can be applied to online grocery retailing?

Designing an Actionable Solution

Through a collaborative workshop Fathom Consulting and General Mills collaborated to determine the key areas of analysis and the best criteria to evaluate. Fathom Consulting designed a methodology and a priority ranking system that would provide baseline and comparative information back to General Mills and would help build knowledge internally and externally. In total, more than 50 features were examined on desktop and mobile platforms for more than a dozen online retailers.

Impacting Business Outcomes

  • Strengthened General Mills position as a thought leader in the grocery e-commerce space
  • Driving category growth in key online segments
  • Elevated organizational knowledge and understanding of challenges and opportunities in digital grocery marketplace
  • Showcased opportunities for specific improvements in individual and collective shopper/user experiences