Traditionally golf has always been about joining a club. To become a member, you would have to pay expensive fees that allow you access to private courses and a shiny clubhouse. However, as the game continues to change, this membership type isn’t suitable for everyone’s lifestyle or pockets.
Club VPAR is a premium membership for the modern golfer. It enables members to gain exclusive access to 100+ golf courses, priority events, free golf perks, store discounts and premium features. My role as a Product Designer was to carry out research, design and test the implementation of this subscription. I collaborated with a team of two product managers, one designer and four engineers from concept all the way through to launch.
When we started this project, VPAR was at a crucial stage where our user base had grown significantly. Our mission has always been to help golfers play more golf, improve their game and compete with others. However, as a business, we needed to start thinking about how the app could generate revenue to sustain our goals and continue to serve golfers long term. Cue in the magic word — monetisation, baby.
Exploring ideas, features, and potential revenue streams as a team.
We explored many ideas ranging from shot tracking, golf club suggestions, and strategic product partnerships. However, we truly wanted to introduce something golfers would need and that would not be intrusive to their experience. We needed to learn more about their habits and interests to do this. So we conducted some discovery research through surveys and interviews at various local courses. Our primary research goal was to identify what could bring the most impact and value to a golfer’s game.
Assembling a survey to gather insights from golfers.
Here are some of the key insights we gathered from our research:
Golfers overall were unhappy with the amount of golf they were able to play. This was mainly due to a busy lifestyle, unavailable friends, and lack of courses. To play regularly, most golfers need a membership which is quite expensive. We discovered that 30% of our participants didn’t belong to a club, and we wanted to know why.
Access to Courses
We spoke to club members and found that playing the same courses can be repetitive. However, their membership offered them a sense of belonging and felt part of the club. As the membership was expensive, they made the most of the offering through facilities, competitions, and courses.
Golfers felt frustrated at the progress they were making. They didn’t know how they were doing or how to improve over time. Seeing statistics and round scores helped, but lacked depth to understand how to improve their technique and game.
Whilst talking to club members, golfers felt they lacked more exclusive discounts. In particular, they wanted cheaper deals on golf gear and access to play. The ability to invite friends, share discounts and play with others.
As patterns emerged, we wanted to frame our problem space with some ‘How might we’ statements. This allowed us to generate and reframe our ideas to ensure we solved the right problem.
Generating HMW statements helped us bring focus to the problem space.
We assembled some design principles to support our consistency and decision-making to guide our ideation phase.
Golfers should play as much golf as possible. We should design and create ways for them to play more courses, rounds, and games in an affordable and accessible way.
Our solution should enable golfers to build a strong community by connecting and playing with others. Golfers should not feel isolated, have a sense of belonging and have opportunities to build a strong community.
Content should be relevant and engaging. Our design should help golfers play more golf, improve their game, and compete with others.
Simple to Subscribe
Membership subscriptions should be as smooth as butter. Golfers should be able to purchase and subscribe to our products easily with transparency throughout the process.
With our design principles in place as a team, we explored what a digital golf membership could look like. We wanted to mirror a real-life experience of joining a golf club. To give the same sense of belonging without the physical element.
Sketching initial membership concepts.
With our initial concepts in place, we began to assemble wireframes to explore core user journeys for membership discovery.
Initial Club VPAR wireframes
We needed to validate our concepts quickly, so we spoke with golfers at local golf clubs and conducted remote tests using lookback. Our goal was to learn what golfers thought of our membership, and if it were something they would purchase and use.
Talking to golfers about Club VPAR memberships.
Club VPAR Profile & Membership Iterations.
As we iterated further on our designs, our second round of testing focused on purchasing a membership. We carried out tests to learn what golfers thought of their membership, perks, booking a course and managing their subscription.
User Flows — Memberships & Checkout.
Managing Subscription and Members Area.
We had a lot of questions about how the membership worked. Golfers struggled to understand how it worked. So we introduced a tab called ‘Clubhouse’ to host guides and introductions on how to redeem perks or book courses.
We had a lot of questions about how the membership worked. Golfers struggled to know what to do post-purchase. To solve this, we introduced a tab called ‘Clubhouse’ to help with guides and introductions on managing their subscription, redeeming perks or booking courses.
Club VPAR Membership Iterations
Our biggest challenge was that our membership didn’t appeal to all golfers. Test reflected that while some felt the perks were appealing, others were not convinced they would upgrade. Overall the membership offering was not substantial enough.
Design Critique — Reviewing Club VPAR Offering
As we dug deeper and talked to more golfers, we revisited insights from our early research. We found that golfers loved being able to save their scorecards but felt they weren’t able to learn from their game. So the idea of a VPAR Handicap was born.
The app already collected a lot of data on each round, so we focused our efforts on helping golfers to analyse and digest their progress every time they played. Adding a handicap to the membership created some challenges as the team was under a lot of pressure to deliver.
However, we felt this feature would give the membership a better chance of success.
VPAR Handicap integration flows.
Club VPAR Handicap
VPAR Handicap + Certificate.
Overall the launch of Club VPAR went really well. However, we did have to compromise on delivery dates with a soft launch whilst our team refined the VPAR handicap.
Here are some of our business and product outcomes:
Converted 5% of our user base to Premium Members within the first 6 months.
Over 300 courses signed up to become Club VPAR partners.
An increase of 50,000 member rounds played during Q2 of 2019.
Club VPAR Tour Master Membership
Looking back at the design process, there are a few things I would have liked to have done differently. Validation of early concepts (even if rough) would have helped us learn fast and identify the right membership perks.
Booking courses proved to be a lot more complex than we initially scoped. This was due to Club partnerships but also tee-time booking. Although we could not deliver our optimal experience, more research and testing could have enabled us to arrive at our solution sooner.
Finally, we also ran into a few snags with our payment integrations. This meant using Stripe rather than app store payments, which affected our subscription numbers as we saw many abandoned carts. Testing these changes is essential, but unfortunately, we did not have the time to do so.
Overall, Club VPAR had a great foundation to gather more data, refine our product offering, and further optimise the journey. I’d love to see how Club VPAR does in the future, measure retention and talk to more golfers on how to improve their membership.
Club VPAR Members welcome email.
Special thanks ✨
Thank you to the whole team at VPAR for making this project possible. A special mention to Wrighty, Nick, Steve, Ian, Marc, Andriy & Oscar. Thank you for all your hard work; we laughed, we cried but got there in the end! Proud Club VPAR is out there to help golfers play more golf and improve their game.
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