Redesigning the Grocery Store Experience
Grocery shopping is a pain. Amazingly, it hasn’t changed (for the shopper) that much in the past few decades. Ever since the dawn of the self-serve grocery store, we’ve been confronted by aisles of food, separated by categories, with registers up front. Not much has changed.
Sadly, the grocery store industry is really missing out. Grocery shopping is a great example of just one industry where an investment into experience design could really pay off.
Think about it: first, shopper behavior in a grocery store is very predictable. It’s almost always based on a search/seek set of behaviors – with shoppers coming into the store with a predefined set of items to retrieve. In a way, grocery stores are just libraries – an information architect’s dream.
Also, shopper characteristics are quite easy to pin down. Because grocery stores are so plentiful and are almost always built around neighborhoods, the general characteristics of the crowd are easy to identify and design around.
Third (and maybe most attractive), grocery stores are an absolute hotbed of data about shoppers. With the prevalence of loyalty cards, each purchase can be tracked and studied, a goldmine of data waiting to be mined.
Knowing this, how could we enhance the experience? A few ideas, off the top of my head:
- Smart labels – when I was in high school, I designed a shelf labeling system that was all digital (I was a dork as a kid…). The front of the shelf had an LCD panel across it, with prices, quantities, descriptions, etc. showing up digitally instead of the mylar label used now. The advantages: price changes, store-wide, could be done in a matter of seconds, real-time quantity updates on the shelf, shelf reorganization would be vastly improved, and scrolling ads could run between the items.
- Better search assistance - the fidelity of the search experience is pretty limited in a grocery store. The signs get me to the aisle level, and then it’s up to me to figure out how to navigate inside of that group. What about an augmented reality app that points out where in an aisle an item is (with quantities remaining, special deals, etc.)
- Better list construction – can my grocery store’s website help my build my list, drawing from a real-time knowledge of current inventory? Wouldn’t it be great to build my list off certain criteria, with the store’s help (vegetarian, budget, name-brand, etc.)?
- Smarter loyalty – the store should recognize my shopping patterns and suggest new/related items, ping me occasionally about my need to restock (“Looks like you bought toilet paper 4 weeks ago – are you getting low?”), etc. You’ve got the data, just be smart about using it better to help me.
- Shopping carts designed to help – almost everyone goes to the store with a list and a pen. How about a built in clipboard with a pen for me to put that list on?
These are just a few ideas – I’m certain there are tons of other things that grocery stores could do better to make the shopping experience more pleasurable and more effective. The thing is, it takes sitting down and designing a better experience, not just accepting the old status quo model.
How would you redesign grocery shopping?