Re-imagining Online Grocery Shopping. A human centred UX aproach.

For my course's final major project, I am using a human centred design approach to create a concept that reinvents the process of online grocery shopping. We now use the internet for so many different things, from ordering cars with Ubers to getting takeaways with Deliveroo. The world of travel has completely changed, we now use the internet to book flights, train tickets and hotels. It has transformed the worlds of finance, medicine, real-estate and entertainment. Cinema, theatre and concert tickets are now purchased online enabling artists such as Shawn Mendes to sell out 38 shows across North America and Europe in just a couple of minutes. The accessibility and widespread adoption of the internet has also enabled online grocery shopping to take off. Every major supermarket in the UK has an online version of their store and according to data from Statista; by 2020, the UK is expected to be the worlds second highest market for online grocery shopping after China. 

 Ocado is the UK's largest online-only supermarket

Ocado is the UK's largest online-only supermarket

Online grocery shopping is a skyrocketing market, in 2016 it was estimated that £141.9 million was spent every week on edible food sales in the UK, double the figure from 2010. As supermarkets try to make their services more customer friendly and add features that make it easier to shop online, there is still a large section of the population who aren't actively using these services. Despite the continuous growth, online grocery sales only make up 6% of the total UK grocery sales of £163 billion/year. High labour and logistical costs mean companies have a minimum spend amount, ranging from £40-60, which is one reason many people aren't using online services. Through a series of interviews and secondary research, I am exploring why people use or don't use online grocery shopping services. I am also asking them about their experience with food in general, how they discover, plan, prepare, cook and eat meals. I think it's essential to get a holistic understanding of customers experience with food, as this can dictate how the might buy items online and it could influence the process itself as well as the design. 

One of the main reasons why I have chosen to create a concept that reinvents the process of online grocery shopping for this project is because I can see so much potential in the user interface (UI) design. Despite the growing market and innovations made by online supermarkets, the UI's all work exactly the same. While some retailers have more beautiful colour palettes, better layouts or clearer imagery, the experience of online shopping involves clicking on boxes, adding them to a cart and checking out. There is no sense of discovery or room for human emotion. There is no appreciation for the experience that food has in our lives. With most people eating three meals a day, plus snacks, food takes up a big part of our lives. We have an emotional and sensory connection to food that online stores don't manipulate or tap into. They all look like databases of items; there is no sense of wonder or joy in the process. 

Whether you like Uber or not, their high success and widespread adoption are because they looked at ordering taxis and travelling as a complete experience. They found all of the pain points such as knowing a taxi's exact pickup location, finding a trusted driver, sharing ETAs and transparent pricing, and solved it all through intelligent technology and smart user interface design. For the user, the process is incredible, almost stupidly simple. It doesn't feel like a chore and it just 'feels right', as if ordering taxis should always have been this way. Right now, online shopping (to me) doesn't 'feel right'. It's a repetitive, lengthy chore, you have to go through many sections and items, and doesn't feel like an exciting journey of food discovery. 

I have begun this project with a lot of online research and interviews. I am adopting the double diamond approach popularised by The British Design Council. It's a human-centred approach that says to spread out and talk to the users; to find their problems and understand their pain points. After acquiring this knowledge, it says to come back in to redefine the brief. This is important as it involves the user in the complete process, ensuring everything isn't created in a bubble.

 The Design Council's Double Diamond.

The Design Council's Double Diamond.

I carried out interviews with a variety of users and non-users of online grocery shopping. Through prior research, I learnt that it is imperative to make sure they feel comfortable so they can speak openly and freely. I also discovered that it is essential to let them speak. It sounds obvious, but it is very easy for the interviewer to step in a cut off the person, right before they were about to say a really useful point. I found that these interviews work best when the interviewer barely even speaks. After the interviewee has made their point or answered the question, I remained silent for a few seconds. What was initially surprising was that almost every time, in that few seconds of silence they would start talking about an additional point that was extremely valuable to the research.

I was noting down the key points on an iPad and collated all the responses through a Google Forms form. I set up a form with my key questions in, and as people were talking, I typed their answers in the relevant boxes. This enabled them to speak freely and honestly with no restrictions, however after each interview Google Forms automatically collated the responses into the appropriate sections meaning the quantitative data was easy to review afterwards.