Today, much of the innovation in the food and grocery space takes consumers away from physical brick-and-mortar stores to their mobile devices and their front doors. According to Gallup, fewer millennials shopped at physical grocery stores in 2017. Instead, many people shop and spend money online. With Amazon’s increasing domain on the grocery store business (from acquiring Whole Foods to Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go), as well as the proliferation of food delivery systems like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, the current grocery store model is ripe for disruption.
The opportunity we see is to provide customers with a useful experience that (a) engages interest in grocery shopping, and
(b) uplifts customer satisfaction, (c) increasing store turnover (d) whilst using data driven strategies to reduce food waste from the grocery store.
Concept Development and Sketching
Our proposition is to turn the all-too-familiar grocery store experience upside down with a compelling, elegant, and empowering grocery cart and shelving design meant to engage grocery customers. This new grocery cart and shelving system integrates into the existing store design, providing consumers with new delicious food dishes they can prepare, as well as wayfinding within the grocery store to locate specific ingredients.
Our goal is to begin with the customer in mind, to save them time, and to augment the value of their grocery visit. The grocery cart, being the vehicle though this near-outdated grocery store model, is up for some reinvention and reintegration into our lives. The grocery cart allows us to navigate, to collect, and to assess the world of the grocery store. By making the grocery cart interactive—with meaningful interactions that augment the customer experience—we can make the physical grocery store experience both compelling and useful.
The panels above represent some preliminary sketches on the experience.
User Journey Map and Emotional Architecture
Based on our research and our findings (distilled from user interviews), I developed this journey map to reflect the different actions, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opportunities of a Story Cart user. We also thoughtfully put together our emotional architecture, based in part on principles presented by Second Story.
We designed for the physical environment to line up with certain feelings and emotions, which include the following:
• An introductory cue affects curiosity in the consumer, setting the tone of the cart as a guide to the waste-prone items.
• The shelves light up to draw the user’s attention and the takeaways reinforce an emotional desire to pick-up the item.
• Finally, when the user puts an item in the cart, messages validate the action to affect a sense of empowerment in the user.
• The shelves carry eye-catching cards that personify the food items with copy that ties into the narrative. The card has a recipe on the back that encourages the shopper to use the waste-prone item.
Key UX Questions
We had several questions that we had to grapple with as we went about the physical prototyping and building stage, including:
• How does the placement of the screen affect the experience?
• Does the user understand the messages being displayed on the interactive cart?
• Is the user able to immediately understand how to find/identify ingredients?
• Does the user enjoy the experience and/or does the experience satisfy the constraints of time, money and new recipes when grocery shopping?
I created a paper prototype of our screens and conducted usability testing to address some of our biggest UX challenges, including the sizing and placement of letters, as well as the overall experience of having a screen on the front panel of a shopping cart.
Users were concerned about grocery items piling up and not being able to read the screen, rendering it useless. Although a big issue, they found the interaction interesting, novel, and useful if their grocery lists were short.
I designed the backs of our recipe cards (the colorful side with the recipes). These are our “takeaways,” as they are meant to be picked up once users arrive at a product station. The cards are meant to be whimsical and informative, as well as something worth taking home in order to augment the interactive, digital, in-store experience.
Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is an interactive cart and shelving system, including:
• 3 directional signals that light up based on the location and orientation of the cart
• 1 button that selects and cycles through recipes
• 1 4x6-ish panel that gives recipe choices and directions
• 2 product stations (sensor+micro-controller+light)
The narrative was mapped out over physical zones in the store to provide a flowing story between the cart display and touch points on various shelves. The cart’s location, relative to the shelves, was tracked and contextual cues were presented to the consumer. IR communication between the cart and shelf was used to trigger the messages, on the display and lighting cues, on the shelf, to the user.
A. The text changes as you move through the grocery store.
B. The cart allows you to find new recipes by guiding you to ingredients.
C. Our Minimum Viable Product features the “Hero’s Journey” in which the cart guides you to food waste-prone items with inspirational copy.
D. The slide in/out functionality allows grocery stores to swap out stories.
E. The product station lights up once you and your cart are closeby.
Learning Outcomes and Future Directions
Beyond our class, we also presented our MVP at Launchpad, the end-of-semester show in the Georgia Tech School of Industrial Design.
The physical prototyping aspect of interactive environments is fairly new to me, so I was challenged to think more about the relationship between the physical and experiential as a designer. In particular, past research on grocery store psychology and information on emotional architecture were very useful. Although I do not have a physical protoyping and building skillset, I was able to keep up with the process and apply my user experience explorations and findings into the process.
We plan to revisit the fabrication and technology for more full scale applicability, including ceiling sensors. The featured story is “Saving Waste Prone Items,” but is also possible for “Racecars for Healthy Eating” and “Rudolph’s Holiday Menu.”