Let's Go Shopping
Treat Swarstad and I designed a cultural probe to research and collect information about people's grocery shopping habits that aided in mocking up an application meant to create an optimal mobile shopping experience.
We were asked to design an application for grocery shopping based on information collected through designed cultural probe and activities, which give insight on how people grocery shop. We had to devise research methods that ground our decisions in order to design the app and discover how and where people like to grocery shop.
Before creating any prototypes, we had to make cultural probes to prompt responses from people about their grocery shopping experiences. Cultural probes are packaged sets of activities that are distributed to participants of research in order to further understand their habits. Before we could design these cultural probes, however, we needed to articulate what our overarching goal was and what kind of information we were seeking.
In our research, we wanted to find out what factors make people choose to go grocery shopping, and through doing so, we were able to think about the decisions that are being made when going grocery shopping, regarding things like transportation, freshness of produce, variety of products, and efficiency.
We went to a local grocery store and, based on our observations and experiences, wrote out the steps it takes to grocery shop as well as considerations that are being addressed while grocery shopping.
During our research, we found that there are a lot of telling distinctions between different types of grocery stores and these became main determinants for differing habits in grocery shopping. Giant Eagle carries a wide variety of products, from cleaning supplies to produce, while Trader Joe's mostly carries their own brands and has less variety.
Because we were fascinated by the differences between grocery stores and how that can change grocery shopping habits, we decided that we wanted to curate our probes around answering questions regarding the environment, specialty products, proximity, staff, and expenses of grocery stores.
To prompt participants to talk about spending, we asked them to put their receipts in a folder with instructions for them to mark out which of their purchases were wants, needs, and regrets on their last shopping trip. We also told them to upload photos of products that they love from the grocery store of their choosing on to a public Instagram feed. On top of that, we gave them a breath mint and made them talk to staff so to get a better understanding of service at these grocery stores and how that influences what customers prefer. In a booklet, we asked them to map out where they live, where they go grocery shopping, and how they get to the grocery stores of their choosing. To get a better understanding of the products each grocery store sells, we asked them to pick up chips, and the different kinds of chips that people picked up could be indicative of the kind of place the different grocery stores were.
On top of sending out these cultural probes, we also created flash cards, maps, and a worksheet to collect information from our peers about their grocery shopping habits. These flash cards paired together key words in people's likes/dislikes, and the worksheet gave insight about people's perception of costs of certain products according to their spending habits and the grocery stores they frequent.
The research that we did was very telling of what people were looking for when they grocery shop. People were willing to travel far for groceries, and they generally had a good idea about specialties each grocery store have. They were also conscious about making lists and knew where customer service was friendliest.
As aware as people were about what types of products are offered at different grocery stores, availability of products was often at question in these grocery stores. People were also not very aware of all the different types of grocery stores available in their area, and these became areas of focus in our app development. We studied the responses we got and created wireframes for an app that would consider location and product as determining factors of which grocery store to pick instead of settling with one grocery store and hoping that it will carry what people need.
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