New Member Journey
Implemented 2018-2020
Improving the experience of how we welcome new Vancouver Art Gallery members who purchased a membership online.
90% decrease in email support inquiries

The Problem

Taking on a new role at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the first thing I noticed was a gaps in the workflow of our Database Administrator who handles processing all memberships and responding to membership inquiries.

In one month alone, she was responding to up to 20 emails solely about the next steps after purchasing a membership online, on top of the dozen inquiries she has to respond to.

I decided to investigate this further to figure out a way to make this process more seamless for new members.

To begin my research, I referred to resources within my reach—the membership email. We would receive inquiries like: 

Hi there,

I'm a new member; I just joined online, and I was wondering how the passes work. Do I need to come in to pick up a membership pass or do I just show my ID? Do I need to pick up guest passes or can I just show up with a guest and it'll be in your system?

I have just joined as a student member online. My intention is to attend the gallery tomorrow. Do I receive a membership card in the mail?  Or do I bring my membership application?
Hi there,

I just purchased my membership today. How can I use it for an event before I receive my card?

I just purchased a family membership (for the 12+2month deal) and wanted to confirm that they will not be mailed to my home address. It's a surprise. They must be picked up in person, correct?

Mapping the Journey

To come up with a solution, we began by puting ourselves in the perspective of potential new members. We mapped out the ideal customer journey from being a gallery visitor, to becoming a new member and finally engaging as a new member. We summarized the ideal process in 5 stages from a keen visitor to an engaged member, which include:

01 Awareness: “There’s a new exhibition, I must visit the Gallery!”

02 Interest:  “I’d like to be more involved and engaged, I want to become a member.”

03 Consideration: “What value do I get out of a membership?”

04 Decision: “I want to be a member. I’ll purchase after my visit or later online.”

05 Delivery and engagement:  “I’m a new member! I’m excited use all my benefits.”

With the Journey Map below, we were able to define specific phases in the customer journey for design intervention. This journey map was developed based on observations and in consultation with the Membership Manager and Database Administrator who have a wealth of knowledge on acquisition trends and campaigns.

Defining Assumptions

With limited resources in conducting research, I defined assumptions to be able to move forward in crafting a solution:

01 New members need clear instructions on how to claim their membership

02 The Vancouver Art Gallery is not providing enough information about claiming new members' purchase

03 Members read emails to understand the next steps in the purchasing journey

Project Hypothesis

I believe that by better structuring the content and information hierarchy of the confirmation page and acknowledgment email, we can significantly reduce email inquiries about redeeming new memberships.

Notes from Naturalistic Observation

I spent time and took notes about interactions between staff and members at the membership desk to understand how customers behave once they arrive to redeem their new member package. Due to time constraints, this was the quickest research method to conduct and on the up side, this gave me good perspective on how to understand our customers "in the wild" outside of a structured environment.

A few observations surfaced:

01 New members expect to pick-up their member package upon arrival
New members had this expectation that their member package is immediately ready for pick up at the desk, but there was no process in place for this service on the administration side. Staff can only prepare the package as members arrive.

02 New members often were uncertain with what to do when claiming their member package

It was a common practice for most people to just simply say "I bought a membership", leaving staff confused, not being certain whether it was a new membership or renewal. This process was confusing both for the customer and staff.


What Can We, as a Team Do? 

To delve even deeper beyond defining gaps in the customer journey, I created a Fishbone Map or Cause & Effect diagram to understand the internal root cause of the main problem. With a number of factors to consider, crafting a Fishbone Map was important to understand what we can control and change versus spending too much time on things we cannot prevent.

Mapping out the root cause of issues we encounter, we realized many factors were ‘noise’ and not preventable due to the limited resources we had with dealing with the back-end of the purchasing software. We also realized that there were a few things we can experiment with through trial and error to improve internal processes.

Analyzing the Customer Journey

I then decided to go through the customer journey myself to understand the current task flow and identified points of confusion when buying a membership online. I noticed that the payment confirmation page and acknowledgment email were lacking important information and a clear hierarchy.


The solution I came up with was to update the final steps of the purchasing journey and amend the confirmation page and acknowledgment email to include clearly defined next steps.


One major limitation was the customization of the web pages. We did not have enough bandwidth to update the complex front-end interface to keep it cohesive and on-brand, so we focused on simply updating the content.

Here are the changes I made:


90% decrease in online inquiries

From receiving 20 email inquiries about what to do next after purchasing online in the previous month alone, email inquiries went down to 2 in the next month.

Members have now been accustomed to bring the acknowledgment email and their ID and presenting it to staff, thus being serviced accordingly.

Throughout the process, there were points of confusion that would come up so the iterative process was not linear. I had to continually edit the information to eventually polish the information hierarchy and details.

Encouraging Member Loyalty

Taking this project a step further beyond the welcome email, I decided to take a look at our existing flow of how the organization communicates to members. I was able to identify gaps in their email journey and introduced a new sequence.

This new email sequence ensures we maintain a good overall customer experience for members. This also ensures we are able to capture insights from them at specific touchpoints so that we can constantly iterate existing processes and ultimately keep our brand top of mind to our members.

What I Learned

Be Resourceful

This was my first exposure to practicing some research skills. I learned to be scrappy with gaining as many insights as I could and used resources within my reach. Given constraints with time, staffing and technological access, I had to be resourceful with the information I did have access to.

Constantly Iterate

Arriving at a final copy was not a "set it and forget it" process. When I was drafting initial copy, I consulted with our Content Strategist, our Membership Manager and eventually sought feedback from new members. People would still have comments and some points of confusion despite implementing some changes and I would then continually iterate based on all this feedback. I learned the value of not being precious with my work and learn to continually update and change things as they come, making sure I know what to prioritize.