Case Study: Connected’s In-House App(etite) For Improving Grocery Shopping

user interface mobile screens of food delivery app

This article takes you through a project by Connected Labs—our dedicated R&D function—aimed at building out concepts to explore the future of grocery delivery experiences. 

To learn more about this project and to discuss a walkthrough of the product, please reach out to marketing@connected.io.

Problem

During peak lockdown anything that wasn’t deemed essential was required to stay closed, with grocery stores finding themselves among a handful of businesses on the list of essential services. As many stayed home and stared at empty fridges and dwindling pantries, there were countless numbers of people courageously working behind the scenes, and on the front lines, to ensure that we, the consumers, were staying fed. Stockpiling, shortages, and non-existant delivery slots were the norm, and the problem space seemed messy and complex (similar to my tupperware cupboard). Hungry for a challenge, we equipped our team with that context, and tasked them to understand where and how we could make the most impact. 

Part of our problem was trying to define the problem(s), and then selecting which one(s) we wanted to address. So we had to account for and incorporate that level of ambiguity as we built out our project plan, yay agility! 

(And yay food puns, I really hope you enjoy food puns…)

Approach

Our team consisted of one Product Manager (hi!), one Product Designer, and one Software Engineer. Coining ourselves Project Delissio, we had our work cut out for us and embarked on a five course feast—over five weeks. We donned our most forgiving elastic waistband attire and got cracking!

Course 1: Reseach + Problem Definition (Amuse Bouche)

This foundational research set the stage for the rest of the project. If we rushed through it we’d risk being unable to fully understand the problem space, leading to concepts that don’t add value. So with that in mind we spent 1.5 weeks deep diving and came up for air for alignment. 

Our research approach was a combination of primary and secondary research and we looked to answer questions through a business, user, and technical lens. One of the many perks of working with Connectors includes having access to a pool of awesome users to interview. We were able to conduct a scrappy round of user interviews and ran a survey throughout the company. Overall, our research looked to answer some of the following questions:

  • Who are the big players and the smaller independent grocer services?
  • What are the stages of the end-to-end experience? 
  • Why do people rely on or turn to delivery services? 
  • What are the current challenges and frustrations?
  • What are the impacts of COVID-19? What will stick and become the new normal?
  • Who is underserved and being left behind?

We tracked and tagged our research in Airtable, one of my favourite tools, which made synthesis a breeze! Before jumping into our second course we paused to align on our problem statement and narrow our focus. We decided to zoom into the experience of the end consumer (the person buying the groceries), but also wanted to ensure that our concepts would address business viability as well. 

Course one ended with copious data points and a problem statement of:

How might we improve and add joy to the experience of grocery purchasing and acquisition for the Shopper?


Course 2: Synthesis (Appetizers)

With clarity around what part of the problem we wanted to focus on and our Airtable raw data in hand, we set out to translate our research into clear themes and challenges. One thing became apparent as we worked, the grocery landscape is complex. There are a number of different players in the industry, and the supply chain is far from straightforward. Even though we were focusing on the Shopper, we needed to account for the interdependencies and surprising nuances between the different players in the space. (Fun fact: Our nationwide flour shortage was a result of packaging supply, and not the product itself!). As such, we took a systems-thinking approach and intentionally included themes and challenges that encompassed more than just the Shopper. 

In addition to a list of themes and challenges, the outputs from our second course also included a Customer Profile Canvas of the jobs, pains, and gains of the Shopper. This further grounded our understanding of the user, and helped build empathy for making their experience frictionless. 

With an eye on not spoiling our appetite we moved into our third course, concept generation.


Course 3: Concept Generation (Primi)

This course had two goals. The first was to run an ideation session to gather as many ideas as possible, and the second was to refine and group those ideas into themes which could be translated into distinct concepts.

We ran a remote ideation session with eight Connectors. I’ve been loving Miro for it’s extremely simple and intuitive functionality, and the fact that new users learn how to use it within 60 seconds. We went with the creative matrix framework, and in order to ensure that we were getting ideas that were in-line with our problem and user space, we ideated against the following four How Might We statements:

  1. How might we redesign the shopper’s online experience in searching for and browsing grocery items to reduce cognitive overload? 
  2. How might we empower shoppers to make informed decisions on products so that they feel confident that they are purchasing the correct items?
  3. How might we increase shoppers’ ability to control the online grocery shopping process so that there is greater visibility and flexibility to the experience?
  4. How might we add an element of surprise or joy to the grocery shopping and delivery experience so that it’s something to look forward to?

Post ideation session we had 204 ideas that needed distilling and refinement. Concept refinement has typically been a painstaking process for me, but with the help of Hala, our Product Designer who could see the forest amongst the trees, or rather the corn field amongst the stalks, we successfully clustered the ideas into distinct themes and uncovered eight general opportunity areas.


Course 4: Design + Build (Second)

Here we split into two tracks. Hala worked on building out low-fi wireframes for our five concepts, and Eren, our Engineer, looked to demonstrate the technical feasibility of Smart Lists, one of the concepts we were most excited about via a coded prototype. Eren also created a high-level component diagram to accompany each concept, as we wanted to showcase our technical approach to implementation.

Typical to most prototypes, we had to strike the balance of designing and coding just enough to demonstrate how the concept will function and provide value to the Shopper without going too far down the rabbit hole of details. 

One key decision we made early on as a team was to not worry about having the UI of the Smart Lists coded prototype match the UI of our wireframes. As a team we prioritized speed and agility over extreme attention to detail. We were confident that we could make a strong and compelling case of the value and impact of the concept with our defined level of fidelity. 

Throughout this course, we put our work in front of other Designers and Engineers for critique. Sure we thought our concepts were awesome, but we wanted to make sure others thought the same and could help address our blind spots. After a few rounds of feedback and iteration, our appetites had been satiated and we had just enough room for our final course.


Insight and Opportunity Presentation (Dessert)

No meal is complete without dessert and there is something to be said about finishing on a sweet note. Dessert marks the end of a multi-course meal and gives you an opportunity to reflect on everything that came before it. The same can be said about any project. It’s important to properly wrap-up to capture and demonstrate all that was learned. Our five-week project culminated in a project readout, accompanied by a deck summarizing our approach, researching findings, and final concepts. To sweeten the deal we even recorded a few video walkthroughs of our favourite concepts. 

So I take it you’re still a little hungry? We can whip up a small sample since you’ve made it this far.

Smart Lists allows Shoppers to meal plan with any recipe online, and automatically converts multiple ingredient lists into a single shopping list. So the next time you find a new pad thai recipe you want to try cooking, all you need to do is copy the URL into the feature along with the desired serving size, and bam! Just like that you’ve got all the ingredients and accompanying quantities added to your grocery list. 

Through our research we uncovered that many Shoppers use a mix of grocery delivery services, including meal kits. By incorporating a recipe converter into the grocery shopping experience, we can help save time and energy of having to find and select items. And as an added bonus, Smart Lists does all the annoying recipe conversion math for you! 

Did that sample work up your appetite again? To learn and discuss a walkthrough of the project, please reach out to marketing@connected.io

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