80% of the jobs created in US come from small businesses, but only 4 in 10 small businesses offer retirement benefits.

The story

Eric Hicks, innovation manager at AARP, believes his team can help increase the rate at which small business owners offer retirement benefits to their employees.

Eric Hicks

Innovation Director, AARP Innovation Lab

The challenge

AARP has partnered with Small Business Expo to help co-promote the launch of VestedInU by April 2019. With form usability improvements to be made, would AARP achieve their acquisition goals by the time Small Business Expo sent out their email newsletter?

The solution

Eric turned to Theory’s Innovation Team Extension to power his product to market.

The process

Dawn of A.I. Everything

With the popularity of Artificial Intelligent Robo-Advisors in the marketplace, costing upwards of $300K in development costs, how would AARP ensure A.I. is the right investment for increasing the rate at which small business owners offer retirement benefits?


In order to better understand Eric and his team’s idea, we conducted a lean UX and design sprint workshop. We learned that Eric’s team had done focus groups before. Yet, the results, were showing false positives.


After testing an A.I. prototype on 5 small business owners, we could tell what to do from their reactions. They would rather talk to a real person than a bot. Business and employee retirement benefits are a personal affair. This provided us with the confidence we needed to pivot the team’s strategy to core user experience design that could increase acquisition.

The actions

Would we be able to overcome ‘group-think’ to get authentic feedback from small business owners?

By reaching out to Theory’s ecosystem of small business owners we were able to secure 5 participants for Friday’s prototype test session.

The results
2 weeks

– design sprint

– product priorities

3 months

– MVP launch


– $300K saved

” Theory exhibits the veracity, foresight and flexibility needed to launch impactful digital products. Always efficient with measurable outcomes in mind! “

Eric Hicks

Innovation Director, AARP Innovation Lab