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The Shifting World of Grocery Retail:

Preparing the Grocery Store for the Digitally Empowered Consumer Philip LeBlanc

The Shifting World of Grocery Retail: Preparing the Grocery Store for the Digitally Empowered Consumer

Philip LeBlanc

This thesis document is presented to The School of Graduate Studies Nova Scotia College of Art and Design by Philip LeBlanc In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Design NSCAD University Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada 2013

Special thanks to: Thesis advisor Rudi Meyer. Marlene Ivey, and Christopher Kaltenbach for their guidance and encouragement. My colleagues from the Class of 2013, especially Rachel C and Lola L. Everyone who has shown incredible interest and support for this research topic. CopyrightŠ2013 Philip LeBlanc All rights reserved Book design: Philip LeBlanc All images are property of the author unless referred to in the list of figures/ acknowledgements section. Typeface: Kozuka Gothic Pro Designer: Masahiko Kozuka

For Nicole!

Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Keywords. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Background. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Contextual review



Methodology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Design Iterations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Design Outcome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 List of Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68

Table of Contents


Abstract The last decade has witnessed a surge of technological advancement, including social media, electronic commerce, and smart phones. With the assistance of these technologies, contemporary consumers have become empowered with immediate access to information and a platform to voice their questions and concerns. This has caused a major shift in the world of retail, of which the grocery store is no exception. The current model of grocery shopping is one that is fashioned on the practice of retail transactions that are centuries old. However, new technologies have given rise to an empowered consumer, and are beginning to change the way people shop. As these technological changes make their way into the grocery experience, an integrated approach must be undertaken to derive optimal beneďŹ t for both the consumer and retailer. Using Action Research Methodology to provide the framework for exploration, a conceptual application for an alternative approach, aimed at improving the future of grocery shopping, was developed for this thesis. This new food shopping network will integrate the various components involved in the system, providing a seamless interaction. Through user input and behavioural data collected from buyers and sellers, this proposed system has the potential to grow and change over time and transform the grocery shopping industry into a sustainable practice with regional economic benefits.




Key Words Important Terms and Concepts Grocery Store Sometimes referred to as a supermarket, the grocery store is an established business that retails food. The owner/manager of the is known as a grocer.

Technology The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their relation to life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial design, engineering, applied science, and pure science. (

Multi-Channel Shopping “Shopping channels� refer to the various methods that are available to the consumer for the process of acquiring goods. An example of a multi-channel shopping experience is one that would include a brick and mortar location, online shop capabilities, as well as a mobile application for smart phone users.

Empowered Consumer The empowered consumer is an informed and connected consumer. With the assistance of the Internet and smartphone technology, the empowered consumer has enormous amounts of data at their immediate disposal.

Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) The transaction of buying and selling products through the use of electronic, computer, or internet equipped payment systems. One form of E-commerce is mobile commerce (M-commerce) which is the same type of transaction but with a cellular phone.

Key Words



Monthly revenue from Canadian grocery stores - December 2012 (Statistics Canada, n.d)

Introduction The influence of the Canadian grocery store Supermarkets play an important role in contemporary society as Canadians purchase the majority of their food from grocery stores (Statistics Canada, n.d.) and, being the primary supplier of food products to consumers, supermarkets have an important influence on the purchasing and eating habits of the nation. Grocery shopping often ranks low on a list of preferred tasks for many people (Klein et al, 2004) and buying groceries has become such a common experience that it is easy to forget that it is a necessary component of survival. However, because of its indispensable nature, the grocery store has always been a strong shopping channel. Although the fundamental act of grocery shopping has not changed significantly for many years, the last half century has seen the supermarket adopt many technologies aimed at improving the shopping experience while streamlining the logistics that are important to the management of a retail location (Lee et al, 2010) (Fernie, 2000). This gradual adoption of technology was fairly predictable until the digital era. Now technology is developing at an exponential rate and consumers are becoming more dependent on the Internet and smart phone technologies to provide immediate access to information. Advances in technology are challenging established routines and, by creating more informed and sophisticated shoppers, are beginning to change the way consumers choose and acquire their food products (Future store, 2011). The empowered consumer places higher demands on the retailer and brings about expectations of a dialogue with retailers and the brands they peddle (Mediacom,

2012). This has created a disruptive shift in the balance of power between retailers and shoppers (DMA, 2012). Traditionally, corporations with brick-and-mortar retail locations have long held the advantage over the customer by employing manipulative marketing techniques along with calculated store layouts (Underhill,1999). Contemporary grocery stores are no exception; they draw from years of consumer behaviour research to dictate the design of the entire shopping experience. From the parking lot to the milk cooler, every element has been designed to stimulate the senses and mesmerize the consumer with the intention of enhancing temptation in order to spur impulse purchases and generate increased revenue. Now, realizing the authority of the empowered shopper, many retail companies have embraced electronic commerce (e-commerce) and mobile commerce (m-commerce) in conjunction with their brick-andmortar stores to give consumers multiple shopping channels (multi-channel shopping) and accommodate their buying preferences (Deloitte, 2012). Using action research methodology to investigate these and future trends, this thesis will demonstrate how research through design can generate appropriate outcomes that address complex issues in a contemporary context. Technology is changing how consumers are shopping and interacting with the grocery store; this thesis will examine these changes from a design perspective and develop a proposal that can accommodate this transformation.



Background Why is the milk at the back of the store? There may be many different objectives for any retail establishment but the one characteristic they have in common is the need to generate sustainable revenue in order to remain financially viable. The supermarket is no exception, almost every consumer that has set foot in a grocery store becomes aware of the deliberate presentation of foods, products, and layout characteristics. Retailers want consumers to be exposed to as much sensory stimulation as possible and calculated product location is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to manipulating consumers as they navigate through aisle after aisle of sustenance and temptation. The designers of supermarket environments use many methods and tactics to disorient customers and increase their exposure to the sensory stimulating grocery store environment. This disorientation forces shoppers to make multiple decisions while in the confines of the brick-and-mortar store and the required resistance to temptation results in the depletion of self-regulating resources which ultimately leads to unnecessary purchases (Baumeister, 2002). In this way, the manipulated retail space attacks customer willpower and self-control, thereby transforming a goal-oriented person into a buying shopper - a transformation known as “The Gruen Effect� (Baldauf & Weingartner, 2009) (Baumeister, 2002). The situational factors we encounter as consumers are designed to prompt impulse spending.

Meanwhile, the Internet, smart phones and, more broadly, digital technology are reshaping the retail landscape. By allowing consumers access to more information and choices, as well as the ability to configure the information directed at them, these technologies have facilitated the emergence of the empowered customer (Deloitte, 2012)(PWC, 2012 ). As we find ourselves in the midst of a technology-driven retail revolution, companies must understand that the traditional models of business will not be effective in the future (Deloitte Digital 2012). Corporations have been advised to broaden their retail channels and provide a platform that facilitates collaboration and communication with the informed shopper. Acting on these suggestions, many organizations have expanded their current focus in order to place more emphasis on their designed, virtual presence. The grocery industry,, among all retail sectors has been the least affected by the digital revolution: over the last halfcentury the grocery industry has managed to survive with relatively little change to its operations. In 1998 it was thought that the digital revolution would make online grocery shopping a large success and it was predicted that online sales would reach $1033 billion in the US by 2013 (Klein, 2006).




However, actual sales fell far short of this estimate, reaching only $3.7 billion (2006). Until recently, the uptake of online grocery shopping has been limited largely because of the nature of grocery products: people still prefer to see and touch the products they will consume. However, this does not mean that the grocery store and its tactics will remain unchanged in the future. Certain predictable trends in technology have been adopted by the grocery industry over the years, but the recent exponential growth in innovation and applicable technology now have supermarket conglomerates testing and evaluating new technologies that may benefit their organization (Klein, 2006) (Future Store, 2011). As consumers require more from the shopping experience, supermarket retail environments are being forced to evaluate the role of their brick-and-mortar locations and are being challenged to modify and innovate their practices to meet the demands of the increasingly influential empowered consumer (Deloitte, 2012) (Michaud,2012). Gone are the days when consumers would concede to the products and services offered at their local brick-and-mortar retail store. Immediate access to seemingly infinite information via Internet and mobile technologies has put an incredible amount of purchasing power in the palm of the shopper’s hand. In order to stay relevant in this on-demand world, grocery retailers must understand and communicate with their clients in real time, and in their language (PWC, 2012). Companies like Metro Group have understood this need and have been investigating technologies to “optimally adjust the range of products and services to the customers’ individual demands and drive the innovation process of the retailing sector” in the “real” Future Store (Future store) in Rheinburg, Germany. (Future Store, 2011). The Future Store acts as a live test ground for new concepts and technologies that cater to the empowered customer. Among the technologies that are being tested are: • A personal shopping assistant in the form of a digital tablet that attaches to a shopping cart and utilizes mobile technology to inform and educate the consumer throughout the shopping experience • scanning devices (including smartphones) to speed up the checkout process • intelligent weighing scales that automatically recognize and label products, • digital technologies such as electronic price tags, digital shelf talkers and digital endcap signage • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking technology. This technology is being touted as having the potential to provide a bigger impact on the industry than the Universal Product Code (UPC) because it has the ability to lower costs, improve efficiency and enhance customer satisfaction (Kalyanan, 2006). It is worthwhile to note that Metro Groups is testing these technologies in a live working environment with real customers and employees. Similar to the

action research approach, (see page 18), Metro is conducting their research by focusing on participant involvement. This will ensure that only technologies and innovations that have been proven to cater to the momentarily empowered customer are used in the future. In South Korea, Homeplus has introduced busy consumers to a new trend in m-commerce virtual grocery shopping: “at Seolleung underground station in Seoul, there’s a row of brightly lit billboards along the platform, with hundreds of pictures of food and drink - everything from fruit and milk to instant noodles and pet food� (Strother, 2011). These billboards represent the selection of groceries that would be encountered in a brick-and-mortar grocery store but offer the convenience of purchasing products while you wait for your train. This innovative way of grocery shopping has made its way to North America (Ciarula-Taylor, 2012) and will grow as the technologically driven consumer continues to do everything in their power to save time (Tesco PLC, 2012). In light of technological advances such as those described above, companies and retailers are being challenged to offer their products and services on multiple platforms, bridging different mediums. The empowered consumer expects that a brand will be able to seamlessly fulfill their shopping needs whether shopping is conducted online, through m-commerce, or by visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar store. Retailers who do not offer multiple engagement points or who are missing any one of these components may lose out on valuable revenue (Tesco PLC, 2012). Multi-channel retailing involves using a number of different engagement points to connect with customers and create a seamless shopping experience. In the grocery industry, these engagement points can include traditional brick-and-mortar stores, mobile technologies such as tablets and smartphones, websites, social media, digital signage, interactive kiosks, self-serve or automatic scanning and checkouts, and more. It is important for retailers adopting a multi-channel approach to create a seamless experience between engagement points as connected consumers expect an ondemand, customizable shopping experience (Deloitte, 2012) (PWC, 2012). As the empowered customer continues to gain power over retailers, it is important for the grocery industry to evolve in order to meet the virtual demands of its customers. Supermarkets and grocery retailers need to investigate and understand how the empowered consumer uses technology to navigate through brick-and-mortar stores, and how that same technology is (or can be) used to assist in decision making and purchasing throughout the shopping process, including before the shopper sets foot in the store. As the relationship between the empowered consumer and the retailer is better understood, the grocery industry will need to use the Internet, smartphones, and, more broadly, digital technology to cater to the way in which empowered consumers interact with the supermarket.




Contextual Review Why is consumer behaviour so intriguing? Research into consumer behaviour has been around as long as people have been spending money on merchandise; the monetary benefits are obvious: increased knowledge of consumers’ purchasing habits can be translated into sales and profits. Exploration into connected consumers and multi-channel shopping is needed because brick-and-mortar grocery stores are no longer the only point of sale for contemporary shoppers. If grocery corporations and retailers want to survive in this competitive market they need to be aware of the disruptive changes that are now taking place throughout the retail landscape and to identify those that have the potential to alter the practice of buying food in the future. Grocery stores may be the least affected by new trends in consumer activities because of the nature of their wares, but it would be naive of them to disregard what is happening in other sections of retail and risk the possibility of losing customers to a competitor that is more conscious of the transformative qualities of technology and how that shapes the demands and expectations of empowered consumers.

Fig. 1 Stats: Our mobile planet: Canada




Contextual Review


97% Where do you use your smartphone?


Technology Adoption Observing innovative technology is of the utmost importance for retailers; they must understand the need to evolve and change their business strategy in order to remain relevant. A perfect example of the inevitable consequences of not heeding the innovative technological changes is demonstrated by the video rental corporation Blockbuster. For many years, Blockbuster was a major player in the movie rental business; however, they did not pay attention to the subtle changes taking place in online streaming capabilities and soon their way of renting physical artifacts became obsolete. When Blockbuster witnessed the popularity of online subscription strategies, it was too late to compete with the companies holding the dominant share of the market such as Netflix. Like Blockbuster, Netflix was in the business of renting DVDs and had been quite successful doing so. This Californian company has been widely successful because they were sensitive to the development of certain aspects of online capacities, realized the potential of internet streaming capabilities, and built their company around the technology. In turn, they survived the movie rental transition into the digital era and have become the world’s largest internet subscription service for movies and TV shows (Cohan, 2010).

Consumerism and Consumption It has become apparent that we live in an age of consumerism. Not only has it crept its way into our culture but it is also reflected in our national statistics for consumer debt (Chawla, 2012). Many people do not associate consumerism and consumption with grocery shopping because the right to food is considered a necessity of life, but any retail environment that fosters the exchange of currency for the procurement of goods is therefore an active member in a consumerist society. At the beginning of an exploration into consumption, Simon Campbell points out that most theories of consumption do not venture into the actual processes wherein consumers acquire goods. He notes, “The consequence of this omission is that little is known about how individuals interact with goods in such a way that the result is their acquisition� (Campbell, 1998). The monetary benefits that would result from this type of information is what drives research of consumer behaviour, especially at the point of sale. As this study demonstrates, obtaining this type of information has become increasingly difficult over time because consumers, assisted by internet and mobile technologies, have many more points of interaction through which they are engaging with the grocery store and making their purchasing decisions.

Consumption When it comes to discussing consumption there are two central themes to consider: the discourses of ‘need’ and the discourses of ‘want’. It is obvious how the rhetorics of ‘need’ and ‘want’ can be applied to the consumer act of shopping, but the activity of shopping can be further divided into work and leisure distinctions. Campbell elaborates on this differentiation: “For both men and women the main distinction in types of shopping tended to be that between food shopping on the one hand and what are commonly called ‘shopping trips’ on the other” (Campbell,1998). ‘Food’ or grocery shopping is sometimes regarded as a job because it is usually labeled as a household chore. “Consequently it is an activity that both ‘needs’ to be undertaken as well as involving the purchase of items that are themselves largely ‘needed’ rather than ‘wanted’” (1998). Traditionally ‘need’ and ‘want’ may have been easily distinguishable from one another, but in the modern grocery store, retailers and brands have given us so many options that consumers might forget that their calculated purchase is actually satisfying a need: “modern consumers expect to be able to satisfy their wants when gratifying their needs” (1998).

It is easier to justify a purchase that is needed as opposed to buying something that qualifies as a want, but in contrast, the fulfilment of a need does not result in the same level of gratification as acquiring something that is desired: This is one of the challenges involved in a trip to the grocery store. The grocery shopper may have a planned list of items to acquire but the action of making the decision to splurge on a product may actually come down to how to legitimize the purchase. Campbell reinforces this argument: “the need and want rhetorics are not merely situationally located in given roles and status but are also commonly ‘attached’ to goods and services in such a manner as to ‘assist’ consumers in the task of legitimating their purchase”(1998). Marketing designed to aid consumers in the justification of purchases is just one of the elements involved in the previously mentioned ‘sensory overloaded’ environment. It is this type of interaction at the point of sale that has been the focus of many studies funded by corporations looking for a superior advantage in a competitive retail setting.

Contextual Review



Researchers and methods Having pointed out that consumerism is a part of our culture, it is worth noting that interacting with advertisements and persuasive media has also become a part of everyday life. It is no wonder that corporations invest in research aimed at understanding how consumers can be manipulated into spending more money on merchandise. The grocery store is a fertile location for consumer research and provides many examples of how such research findings often get applied to real world retail situations. Described in detail earlier, this is an ongoing battle between the consumer and the design of retail atmosphere. In an effort to gain market share and increase profits, it has been a constant challenge for researchers to get inside the heads of the consumers they are studying. In a world where thousands of new products are introduced every year, grocery shoppers are constantly being tested and forced to make countless decisions, regardless of whether they have a pre- determined shopping list in hand. The financial benefits that result from an understanding of impulse purchasing habits have led to many studies into decision-making factors and consumer behaviour. Speaking about the production of persuasion, Dr. A. K. Pradeep writes: millions of people in our global economy have jobs that depend on communicating with and persuading human brains. A trillion dollars is spent on this effort every year” (Pradeep, 2010). Many researchers including Paco Underhill and Phil Lempert have been refining their skills of observation in retail environments and have drawn many conclusions about consumer behaviour and why we buy the way we do. Regarded as a pioneer in this field, Underhill writes about his notational

skills as well as the methods of observation he uses for tracking and studying consumer behaviour in retail environments. He has labelled his approach and scholarship ‘The science of shopping.’ Because this science has been invented as we have gone along, it’s a living, breathing field of study. We never quite know what we’ll find until we find it, even then we sometimes have to stop to figure out what it is we’ve seen. (Underhill,1999) With a more focused attention on grocery stores, Phil Lempert has spent many years studying consumer habits and trends, mostly by observing shoppers and communicating with them in order to gain useful insights. His methods involve listening to people in order to gain a better understanding of their biases: “Shopping (and buying) patterns are a result of the consumer’s learning and communication experiences.” He believes that prior to entering the grocery store, the shoppers have retained a large number of marketing messages which they have been exposed to over the course of their lifetime, which will in turn have an impact on their purchasing decisions (Lempert, 2002). The reality that marketers must accept is that this is a shopper driven world, but we’re ignoring the real shopper. Too many brand people spend too much time explaining why certain economics and trends occurred. This process serves as a one-way mirror into the past, and locks the brands into the never-never land of being stuck in process. (2002) Lempert elaborates on this type of focus and suggests that researchers need to avoid ‘consumer evolution’ (investigating current and future trends

and their effect on business), and get away from analyzing certain types of data in order to exercise their communication skills by actively engaging with consumers to discover what they are really thinking (2002). Both Underhill and Lempert have used their skills to gain a better understanding of the buying public, and they have made significant contributions to their respective fields, but their methods are beginning to lose value as they are only able to study one aspect of the shopping experience. For example, they have not tracked a subject who has used a computer to find the perfect way to prepare an eggplant, nor were they tracking the customer using a smartphone to compare the price of pasta between two grocery chains. Not only is the world of retail changing but the manner in which marketers track consumer habits is being forced to change. The first step in acquiring groceries does not begin in the produce section but rather by typing a request into an online search engine. Gone are the days when a corporation could forecast the amount of sales that were anticipated from a billboard campaign. This level of predictability has vanished because there is no closed-form solution that can measure all the different touch points that the consumer encounters while deciding what product to purchase. This lack of predictability has caused a disruption in the retail industry. This situation has been created because the Internet and mobile technology have provided consumers with multiple ways to interact with brands and retailers. The old methods of consumer research are being replaced with data analysis, collecting information that is left behind from online activity.

The research of the future The mediums responsible for causing this disruptive change in the retail industry are the same mediums that researchers are turning to in order to understand and engage with the connected consumer. For example, emerging research methodologies in the grocery industry now employ online surveys, RFID technology, or even eye-tracking technology to help understand, for example, the relationship between a consumer’s shopping path length and purchasing behaviour (Kholod, 2010), or how demographics affect consumers’ decisions to use self-serve checkouts (Lee, 2010). Although these research methodologies are giving retailers new insights into consumer behaviour, a true multi-channel research methodology will be needed to give retailers a holistic understanding of the behaviour of the empowered consumer, so that retailers can cater to consumer’s needs. The digital revolution is a new era for retailers and consumers. The common assumption is now that consumers hold the power and retailers must become more transparent and devise innovative strategies to attract and maintain a loyal customer base. The devices and technologies that have been used to empower consumers are also important for those who study consumers, primarily because of the data that can be tracked and collected after an inquiry or virtual transaction has taken place. While there is value in the traditional research methodologies established by those such as Underhill and Lempert, emerging research methodologies are now more suited to the empowered consumer because they employ many of the same technologies that have led to that empowerment. Future research will need to embrace multi-channel methodologies to fully examine the behaviour of the empowered consumer.

Contextual Review



Methodology Action Research

The nature of this study requires an interactive, problem-finding methodology that allows end users to be active participants in the problemfinding stages and likewise in the development of a solution. This type of methodology must break from traditional research methods that keep designers from getting actively involved with the potential consumer of a product or service. The basis of this thesis revolves around the consumer and technology in the grocery store environment. When conducting an investigation into consumer behaviour and designing outcomes that will affect those consumers, it only makes sense that the subjects of inquiry be included in the process itself. In Action Research and the Practice of Design, Cal Swann suggests: Participation and collaboration in action research requires that all those participants (users, consumers, and the public) share in the developmental process in an emancipatory role (Swann, 2002). With that in mind, this thesis has employed Action Research Methodology to guide its research. Having its roots in the social scievnces, it is explained by Swann; “a practical research methodology that usually is described as requiring three conditions to be met. First, its subject matter normally is situated in a social practice that needs to be changed; second, it is a

participatory activity where the researchers work in equitable collaboration; and third, the project proceeds through a spiral of cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting in a systematic and documented study.” (2002) The strength of action research methodology lies in its flexible, cyclical structure that allows for the designer to continuously revisit any step in the process in order to evaluate any results before moving forward. This cyclical process of action research deems it a suitable methodology when applied to research and design. Swann points out the similarities that exist between action research and the design process (see figure 2): “The design process is iterative. It can only be effective if it is a constant process of revisiting the problem, re-analyzing it and synthesizing revised solutions” (2002). As illustrated in the diagram, the phases of action research methodology practically go hand-in-hand with the ‘double diamond’ design process. Although the phases of each process have different names, they do share common characteristics that seek to generate well-informed research and appropriate design results. Swann makes the distinction clear: “The social sciences brought forth a number of alternative ways to investigate and validate research and information, alternatives that have more affinity with design processes than the science/engineering model” (2002).




Interviews Mind Mappping Literature Review


Scale Models

Activity Analysis


Technology Review



5 Why’s Survey


Construct meaning


Construct knowledge


Fig. 2

“Action research requires the research process to be made visible.” Cal Swann


Methods Action Research

Contextual and literary review

Scale modeling

Sketching & Affinity diagrams

The literature review conducted throughout the course of this degree project was essential to the development of all areas of research. Design theories, design research, actual consumer behaviour, and vast information on retail strategies. As new knowledge was attained through design, literature was the next step in order to affirm what was learned. Most sources dealing with the technological aspect of the research were mostly found online and the majority were studies conducted by retail consulting firms or corporations looking for the competitive edge. This lack of current literature on the latest technologies affecting retail grocery stores only reinforced the need for further research on this topic.

Three-dimensional modeling was used early on in the development of the thesis. The process of designing and constructing these models served to reinforce the ideas and benefits of iterative design and the value of reflecting on the entire process. Not only did these models influence future designs but further reflection revealed additional questions that would have a direct impact on the direction of research. What primarily began as an exploration of form and concepts would open up a dialogue surrounding multiple ideas contained within the form itself.

As a form of visual thinking, sketching was the exercise of choice for getting ideas and concepts quickly onto paper. These practices were used in the formation of ideas, designing prototypes and even during mindful reflection. Being engaged in a level of visual awareness constantly serves as a reminder of the requirement to be able to express ideas in ways other than writing. Affinity diagrams are often implemented as a visual conversation with multiple people attempting to produce many ideas. This method is most effective when there is a need to find connections between multiple ideas and thoughts.



Technology review



Technology is the theme at the heart of this thesis. Constant search and review was necessary throughout the span of this study. The pace of technology provided a constant challenge as there were new product and services released daily. The act of searching out and testing current technologies proved to be very revealing and contributed to the many different turning points in the direction of the research. By being placed into the role of a future user, the designer is given insight into a user-centred design process and can inspect the product /service from multiple perspectives.

Interviews with professionals in the supermarket industry were conducted with the intention of gaining a new perspective on the day-to-day operations of the grocery store. Trying to understand how these store managers/ owners view new technologies like social media and the steps they are taking to deal with the empowered consumer and mobile technology. Questioning them on the importance of their Internet presence and how they plan to meet the needs of future consumers’. Learning the history of each location and witnessing the level of engagement that each manager has with their customers proved to be beneficial to research about technology.

The advantage of researching a topic about acquiring food is the simple fact that everyone is very familiar with the process. A survey was designed to delve into new areas of thinking about the grocery store experience and collect new and relevant knowledge, pertaining to consumer habits and opinions about their relationship with their local supermarket and technology. The most valuable aspects of retrieving information from survey questions was the act of comparing answers from people with different backgrounds, locations, and eating habits.



Analysis What does all of this research mean?

There has not been a more exciting or important time to conduct research on the intersecting worlds of technology and grocery retail. Doug Stephens, known as the ‘Retail Prophet’ is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists, describes this time period as “the most electrifying and terrifying time in the history of consumerism” (Stephens 2013). He describes the future of the retail industry as “not merely an economic speed bump—it’s a head-on, no airbag crash into the end of multiple eras, some stretching back as far as 2000 years” (2013)! The fundamentals of retail practices he is speaking of are still very much in practice today. It is an experience “based around tangible goods on shelves and a clerk behind a counter” (Miller et al, 2013). Even though some of the components have changed, the basic process of exchanging money for goods has survived many centuries. The grocery store is not presently at risk of being replaced by digital technology, but it is in the best interest of grocery corporations and companies to acknowledge the reality that consumers are being exposed to innovative technology-enhanced interactions in other retail

environments and they may begin to expect the same benefits from their grocery shopping experience. Retailers need to see this as an opportunity as opposed to a problem, and adopt technology that increases the flow of information and promotes the exchange of data, ultimately leading to satisfied customers and the exchange of currency. Companies that are willing to recognize this change and prepare for it will have a definite advantage over those who continue to offer a one-dimensional service to customers. A thorough investigation of the grocery shopping experience has revealed many insights about consumers and the process through which they purchase their sustenance. This section will condense and clarify the results of that research by reaffirming that the world of retail revolves around the consumer, examining how technology has affected this situation, and evaluate what this means for the grocery shopping experience. The primary goal of this analysis is to demonstrate how the research outcomes have been interpreted to define an accurate appraisal of the overall situation and how that translation came to prescribe the design proposals that follow.


Customer Sentiment Everyone has to eat!



Fig. 3 68% of respondents own a smartphone with 61% of owners declaring that they would use an application that assisted them in their shopping process. The most suggested function for a proposed app was = one that would allow the customer to compare prices in-store.

The emergence of the digital era has demonstrated that information is the key commodity enabling the consumer to make informed choices. With the rise of the empowered consumer, shoppers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about what they want, and that they have the buying power to demand action. As consumers become more connected and tech savvy, they begin to build a virtual network that streamlines many aspects of their busy lives. Utilizing social media and other online trends, consumers are becoming exposed to many new ideas and lifestyle options such as recipes, food/health information, self help, etc. This segment is becoming more diligent and they expect to be able to find the best prices with the click of a button. In addition, contemporary consumers are expecting more transparency from corporations and demand to know more about their food: where it comes from and what it is made of. This elevated level of online engagement is synonymous with the empowered consumer, and has resulted in the creation of new online tools to further support them. It has become obvious that online technology is playing a major role in the consumer’s grocery shopping routine, even if online shopping is not available from their food provider. As a result of many discussions and survey responses, it has become apparent that there are a number of features that consumers clearly like and dislike. The top three recommendations were to eliminate lineups in stores, address high price issues, and increase the selection of products. These results may have been fairly predictable mainly because of past personal experiences, however there were other responses that broadened the scope of potential design outcomes and inspired multiple directional thinking with regards to design iterations. This includes responses that address the social aspect of grocery shopping. As alluded to by Doug Stephens, people use the act of shopping to fulfill deeper needs; to socialize, to commune, to disconnect, or simply to be out in public. We do not shop just to purchase groceries, any more than we go to a restaurant simply for nutrition (Stephens, D. 2013b).



Likes Dislikes

Likes Needs Change

Dislikes Fig.4 Needs Change



Current grocery corporations are heavily focused on directing consumers into their brick and mortar locations with the intention of achieving maximum sales by getting customers to spend as much time as possible in these over-stimulating environments. Interviews with grocers have shown that they are so busy with their single sales channel that they have very little influence outside of the day-to-day operations of the store. They rely on the franchise for all sales and marketing strategies, with little input or control over promotions, flyers, or web presence. Most of the existing online content is little more than an extension of their advertised specials and other basic store information. Independent grocers and farmers markets also have their own websites but they too function as a one-directional display of information that is hard to incorporate as a functional component of the shopping process. Due to the lack of online grocery store availability and competition in the research locations, many grocery providers do not feel threatened by online shopping and do little in the way of ensuring that they are evolving to embrace the changing landscape of customer behaviours and trends that are resulting from new technologies. As previously mentioned, the Internet, along with mobile technologies, are having an influence on the shopping experience, as is reflected by consumer behaviour. In light of these trends, there are many important elements of the shopping experience commonly taking place in a virtual environment. In order to gain a proper perspective and retain an advantage over these new consumer trends, corporations need to be able to access the data that is being created online and determine which factors influence purchasing decisions. There is a need for a constructive dialogue between retailer and consumer outside of the brick-and-mortar channel. Consumers in this area have enjoyed the resurgence of farmers’ markets and the ability to meet the people who are actually growing and producing the food that they are eating. Having this dialogue and the ability to tailor your food intake is something that is expected by empowered consumers and they will go to where they can get this level of service. If grocery stores could track these types of consumer preferences, they could adjust their strategies accordingly. Additionally, being able to access data that is specific to a local region is a valuable tool, as retailers can further shape their offering to meet local needs, such as the 100-mile diet and traditional or cultural preferences.




Social media Chris Combemale, executive director of DMA, points out the link between the digital era and the rise of corporate transparency. He credits the internet with giving consumers a platform to scrutinize business: “the advent of social media has created a powerful channel through which consumers can condemn poor commercial practices and behaviour� (DMA, 2012). Social media has grown to play an integral role in everyday life and can be partially credited with ushering in the era of the empowered consumer. The influence of social media is recognized by grocery corporations and this is reflected in a recent survey by Valassis, a media and marketing services firm, whose data is used by and displayed in figure 5.

market vendors and independent grocers. Social media acts as a form of exposure for the business, providing an important touch point with the consumer. Farmers markets and independent producers may broaden their exposure by using Facebook and Twitter as an advertising medium, however this fragmented approach does not garner important data about customer behaviour. Therefore since social media is usually employed to raise awareness about a company or product, an additional link is usually necessary to guide the customer to an actual platform where shopping or a purchase can be performed. The message and medium may be more effective and useful if it were integrated and consolidated into a larger platform.

One of the obvious benefits of social media is that it has the capability to level the playing field when it comes to the marketing budgets and capabilities of large corporations compared to that of farmers



According to research conducted by Valasiss and, social media is having a significant impact on the marketing strategies of grocery stores in the United States: Three-quarters of grocery retail executives surveyed in the US in March 2012 said they would use print media this year for marketing purposes, but just 17% expected to be doing so five years from now. Social media, by contrast, was expected to go from just 12% usage in 2012 to 65% usage in the next five years.


Fig. 5


Market Trends

Smartphone applications

For the most part, today’s grocery shopping experience is focused around the bricks and mortar store. However, there are several companies such as Peapod and Homeplus that are just beginning to offer innovative online shopping and delivery. These services are designed for consumers with busy lifestyles and have appealing qualities to other demographics as well. Even though the physical grocery store may always have its place for exploration and sensory wonder, these pioneering examples provide a glimpse into what may become more mainstream in the future. These contemporary online interfaces function as designed artifacts that provide useful data and knowledge that will contribute to this industry going forward.

Technology has permeated every aspect of contemporary society and it plays an essential role in the average consumer’s everyday life. In the last few years we have become very familiar with online and smartphone technology and it appears that there is an application for every single facet of modern life. In the context of the grocery store and the many acts required to execute a successful shopping trip, there are numerous apps and programs designed to organise and automate the process. The apps that are successful in addressing multiple issues of the shopping process are produced by grocery corporations, designed for exclusive use with their brand and products. To further dilute the effectiveness of these apps and programs, many are produced for use in the United States market, with very little compatibility in the Canadian market. When deciding on a single application to assist in the chore of grocery shopping, consumers are faced with the overwhelming task of sifting through literally hundreds of thousands of options available. There are even apps developed to help with the task of shopping for apps! Existing apps are often focused on a single channel, with no integration or multi-event management. There is no “Swiss Army knife” for the grocery consumer; it would take multiple apps to cover the entire grocery store experience. In addition, these apps are delivered via smartphone, and although a high percentage of consumers own these devices, it is not convenient to hold it in your hand during the entire in-store shopping experience.

Currently, value added services offered by retailers offer are still focused on the physical venue; cooking classes, nutritional assessments and co-locating with convenient services such as fitness centres and dry-cleaning. However, the international retailer Target, has recently moved towards a multi-channel approach with their acquisition of two online food websites. “We are excited to bring Chefs and Cooking. com into the Target family,” said Casey Carl, president of multichannel and senior vice president, enterprise strategy. He goes on to say; We know consumers are increasingly looking online for cooking solutions to make their lives easier — from utensils and cookware, to recipes. These strategic transactions provide us a great way to address this growing opportunity and will offer expanded online options for our guests.

This transaction is indicative of trends that see companies expanding their brand to offer a multichannel approach to the shopping experience. Having seamless integration into the everyday life of the consumer is becoming an essential strategy in order to stay relevant.






It is no secret that marketers and brands are always looking for data that will help them get to know more about consumer behaviour. Sharing personal information is more common than ever before and with more complex concerns about digital privacy, there is a necessity to re-define the environment of data exchange.

The lack of online and social media presence of grocery stores in Canada suggests that they have not acknowledged the fact that the retail experience goes beyond their brick and mortar locations. They need to understand that the shopping experience is a continuous cycle that begins the moment the customer leaves the grocery store and is inspired and influenced by many outside factors. Customers now expect a seamless experience that works in unison with their lifestyle choices. Just because there is not an online grocery shopping platform does not mean that consumers are not using the Internet to fulfill many important aspects of their shopping routine. If grocery stores are not communicating through these channels they may be missing out on valuable revenue and perhaps more importantly, knowledge of consumer behaviour.

Traditionally brands could only perform a one-way dialogue when it came to communicating their message to a target audience. Innovative technology has changed this situation and it is now possible for brands to interact with their customers through multiple channels such as smartphones and social media. Valuable data is generated by virtual transactions and reveals a lot about a person by how they navigate from page to page, what they like on social media, and especially in making online purchases. As consumers realize that the data generated by their online transactions is a valuable resource to brands and businesses, newly emerging technologies will enable them to exchange personal information in a more controlled and directed way (DMA, 2012).

The evidence gathered from the research methods in this thesis confirms the disruptive effect that technology is having on contemporary society, the world of retail, and ultimately the act of grocery shopping. The design proposal was developed with careful consideration of many factors: Food prices, product selection, and a reduction in line-ups were recognized by grocery store customers as the top problems that needed to be addressed

There is great potential for the future of retail, as long as consumers are actively involved in establishing how their data is shared. They are becoming more open to the idea of trading personal data in order to receive a more targeted personal shopping experience. Therefore, to appropriately serve the empowered consumer, the company/brand needs to have access to consumer data and offer transparency and value in exchange. This will be accomplished by using the tools and technologies that have lead to the empowerment of consumers because they are the same tools that will allow brands to offer more efficient, targeted services and infrastructure.

Need to eliminate searching multiple sites when planning for meal and conducting food research The technology needs to be simple to use if it is going to be integrated into an everyday shopping routine The interface needs to be customizable by all user(s) There is an obvious disconnect between farmers/brands/ food providers and consumers Need to provide a searchable database of recipes For both parties to benefit, the project needs to be organized and operated by a neutral party




Design Iterations Making as a way of knowing 3D food printer Research through design was used as a fundamental practice throughout the course of this thesis. Numerous sketches and diagrams along with designed prototypes contributed to the body of knowledge acquired during this thesis. Although these ideas were not fully developed, they functioned as a designed artifact which initiated insightful dialogue. This dialogue which would influence the direction of the research topic. Knowledge gained from these designs was instrumental in forming questions and developing ideas to further the research.

3D Printer sketch

Augmented Reality

This 3D printer is a critical design proposal experimenting with the ideas of eliminating the grocery store altogether and installing this type of food provider in every home. The printing material would consist of an organic compound that could then be used to reproduce any food for consumption. This concept printer was the product of an exploration of disruptive thinking aimed at challenging the workflow and patterns currently associated with the grocery shopping experience. The fabrication of the model invited viewers to engage with the project physically, spurring conversations that were not possible with a twodimensional diagram.

Process sketches

The augmented reality concept drew inspiration from recent advancements in AR technology and applied them to the shopping experience. In this scenario, package design would be displayed virtually, thereby eliminating all inks, resulting in environmentally friendly packaging that never becomes outdated. This design protects the consumer from the sensory overloaded in-store experience and limits their exposure to unwanted items. The consumer will have access to specific product info and only view items that are within in their chosen preferences such as Vegetarian and gluten free. This concept increases the level of interaction within the grocery store.

Design Iterations


3D Food Printer

Process sketches

Augmented reality concept


Nutritional Information App When the mandatory nutritional label was introduced to food products it was intended to provide a quick reference for consumers to obtain the proper dietary information about a given product in order facilitate informed purchasing decisions. One of the challenges when navigating a nutritional label is calculating calorie information when the product is going to be one component of a larger recipe. For example, how can the average consumer determine the dietary information that a can of kidney beans might contribute to a pot of chili?

harmful to their health. Conceptually, it consists of a database that contains the dietary data on every available stock-keeping unit [SKU] and will generate the nutritional information for any recipe and ingredients uploaded by the user. It will also provide the user with a printable code, which can be scanned, allowing the user to input the portion consumed. This information will be added to the data output for that day. Subscribers will have access to a growing collection of recipes and can order a customized cookbook or simply print them from the website, complete with code for scanning.

This nutritional app was a designed to address the issue of food consumption by giving the user real-time measurements of their daily intake of required nutrients as well as to alert them of anything that might be

This design proposal was inspired from earlier concepts that attempted to predict how food consumption would be recorded automatically in the future in order to battle food-related illnesses.

Design Iterations




Design proposal

Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want. –Anna Lappe Author and founder of the Small Planet Institute

Nourish is a concept designed to provide an educational, personalized approach to the act of planning for meals and acquiring food - basically, to enhance the process of grocery shopping. It has been designed to provide unique benefits to the consumer and the retailer. As a custom food shopping network that allows for collaboration and sharing among multiple users, nourish provides a platform for beneficial regional dialogue between consumers, grocers, farmers, and food providers that can facilitate a more sustainable approach to food consumption. As a multi-channel shopping experience, nourish draws from many existing technologies and social networks and applies them to the food shopping industry in a unique application. In doing so it will provide a distinct experience for every shopper/ buyer while simultaneously providing vendors with a valuable collection of behavioural data which could be used to adjust selling/marketing strategies accordingly. By giving both parties an online platform to interact and perform their trade and transactions, nourish will accommodate diverse, personalized dialogue that can be advantageous to both parties and ideally result in environmental benefits as well.

The most valuable component of nourish is its ability to evolve and grow smarter and more intuitive every time a customer interacts with the network. By continually using the website to conduct their shopping routine, the consumer allows data to gradually transform their browsing practice into a personal experience that is a custom fit for their shopping/eating preferences. While many preferences can be established in a shopper profile, nourish does provide the option of allowing the network to use your information to limit exposure to appropriate content, ie: products, articles, and interests. As the director of one’s own experience, the customer can choose to shut down these filters and browse the aisles as in the actual store environment. Nourish is able to facilitate the social side of shopping by enabling connections with friends similar to other social networks, and provide opportunities to share and learn according to preferences. Another convenient sharing component to this multi-platform network is the ability for multiple users to add to an ongoing list and contribute to discussions about future gastronomical adventures.

Design Proposal


Value for users Nourish aims to be a simple solution that will enhance the grocery shopping experience. Currently consumers must navigate multiple channels to locate their favourite items, choose recipes or obtain the best price. By involving the store, local merchant and integrating with existing recipe sites, Nourish will streamline the entire process of obtaining and preparing food. It is important that the user interface is natural and easy to use in order to integrate seamlessly into the daily routine. Both the consumer and the retailer must obtain value, as both parties must be involved to create this multi-channel system.

Fig. 6 Current Shopping Model Contemporary consumers have a plethora of options available to them when it comes to buying food, so that the problem now is one of choice and preference. The current model of obtaining the items of a preferred grocery list involves additional effort spanning multiple venues. This model does not reflect a consumer-centred approach to grocery shopping.



As a fully customizable shopping experience the Nourish website concept is an attractive option for everyone. The target demographic of Nourish are consumers who are familiar and confident with an online user interface and possess a real desire to learn more about the food that they and their families are eating. The advantages of nourish are far-reaching and users will benefit from increased health information, monetary savings, and social enhancement through awareness of local food producers in their own community. Even if a potential user never uses the site to actually purchase anything they will still have a unique opportunity to have access to all of the food providers in their area. The intention is to provide such a desirable and rewarding experience that consumers and retailers alike will not want to revert to their old ways.

Retailers, grocers, vendors, food service providers and the stay-at-home mom who bakes pies everyday as a side business could benefit by becoming active members in the Nourish food network. As mentioned previously, modern technologies are changing the practice of consumer research forcing many companies to rely on data to understand their customer in order to advertise and market appropriate content. Nourish will provide a dashboard that displays a constant flow of instant data to subscribers in order to break down all of the relevant information pertaining to their interests. This will allow a heightened understanding of customer’s needs, wants, and purchasing patterns and will also provide a platform to conduct an open dialogue which will assist with back end logistics that are a part of ordering and inventory management.

Fig. 7 Nourish Shopping Model As a member of the Nourish food network, consumers become the primary focus of chosen stores and vendors of food products. Whether shopping or researching for a personal diet the customer only has to make one stop that contains all of the information needed to make the proper buying and lifestyle decisions.

Design Proposal


Nourish: Site map

by Department by Store by Merchant by Promotions

Fig. 8

Stores Merchants Recipes Health Favourites Cooking Lessons Weight Loss Events

Recipes Meal Planning Calendar Promotions/Flyers

Shop Nourish will enable consumers to browse and shop online, locate detailed information on products, compare prices, and subscribe to promotions. The shopping experience should be easy and informative. All types of producers will be located in one place: major retailers, local producers, chefs, and home cooks. Pre-selected diets or preferences can be chosen, so that the consumer selections can be consistent with their food preferences, such as gluten-free. As the consumer uses the service, more information will be gathered and the Nourish algorithm will begin to make intelligent suggestions. Retailers will be able to share special promotions according to the needs of the consumer. Additionally, there will be a dialogue section, where consumers can discuss their preferences and concerns. Retailers and producers can respond or gather information to better serve the customer.

Explore The core of Nourish is the combination and integration of all aspects of a consumer’s food life. Here, one can explore retailers, local merchants, farmers markets, recipes, and events, bookmark favourite features. All retailers and producers can have a storefront that one can ‘follow’ for updates, promotions, recipes, and information. There will be separate sections for food events, cooking classes, and health information. All of this will be linked to a home newsfeed, where one can share ideas as well as see what your preferred producers and connected friends are sharing. This will also be integrated with other social networking sites, to facilitate sharing among social groups.

Plan The planning section will allow consumers to easily organize and take control of their food lives. Integrating with other recipe sharing sites, such as Pinterest, as well as with those shared by the Nourish retailers, producers, and consumers, the user will be able to save and access these recipes to plan weekly meals. The Nourish algorithm can optimize the meal plan for promotions, specific retailers/producers, in-season items, and other saved preferences or favourites. The meal plan will also integrate with a mobile shopping list app, so that when in-store, it can act as an assistant, removing items as purchased or reminding the user of items forgotten.

Design Proposal


Section 1: Homepage / Newsfeed

Notifications Calendar alerts are a permanent fixture of the main menu bar. This will alert the user whenever they have a book-marked item that has been made available, as well as seasonal items that the user has subscribed to. Other notifications might include promotions, events, and any personal notes that come due with the date.

List The list option is a drop down list window that allows the user to add to it from multiple channels such as smart phones and tablets. As the user browses through recipes and makes plans for weekly meals they will have the option to add ingredients directly to the list from the recipe and shopping sections. Another unique function for this list is the on/off switch. If the switch is flipped while shopping online the user will be limited to viewing only items that are directly related to those on the list.

Preferences This section of the interface represents a chance to personalize one’s network and provide data about personal preferences. Location, store selection, nutritional choices, and time available for shopping and preparing food all contribute to one’s profile. Nourish will begin the filtering process automatically. Having limits on content is a very powerful tool but it can be countered with the simple flick of a switch that will let the network revert to a first time shopper experience - with no previous history or preferences.

Design Proposal


Section 2: Shopping | Accumulating data Shopping Having control over preferences and the content one will potentially be exposed to are only a part of navigating through an online grocery shopping website. Having an exhaustive selection of products with the information and price comparison just a click away puts the purchasing power into the hands of the consumer. Nourish is all about gathering data about how you shop in order to provide you with a more

personalized shopping experience, and to make sure you like or share the products that you want to hear more about in the future. The product window has four convenient shortcut buttons to allow you to immediately process common activities: Favourites: adds the item directly to your favourites list for future reference.

Share: share the product with your Nourish contacts or other social networks. Add to List: add the product to your mobile shopping list app for when you go to the store. Add to Cart: add the item directly to your online shopping cart, if the retailer offers this option.

Design Proposal


Accumulating Data:

Building your personalized profile Nourish Website Every time Nourish is used to plan a meal, browse for recipes, or simply look for inspiration, it adds valuable information to theis user’s Every time Nourish used toprofile. plan a meal, browse for recipes, or simply look for inspiration, it adds valuable information to the user s profile.

Scanning and Mobile Shopping With gps tracking capabilities smartphones upload information effortlessly. With gps tracking capabilities smartphones upload information effortlessly.

Data Liking an item is the best way

for Nouris toItems understand your Favourite personal preferences. Choosing an item as a favourite is the best way for Nourish to understand a personal preference.

Tracking in-store shopping purchases will allow Nourish to cater to your routine and Brick-and-Mortar Shopping allow retailers to offer custom promotions. Tracking in-store shopping purchases will

allow Nourish to cater to your routine and allow retailers to offer custom promotions.

Section 2: Shopping | Interface options Shelf Interface Nourish provides customized viewing interfaces, to allow the consumer multiple viewing options. The grid in figure 9 provides the user with a view of the store shelves that mimics the shopping experience of a brick and mortar location. This type of interface enables the designed elements to disappear and allows the act of shopping to flow naturally, as if the customer were browsing the shelves of the physical store.

Fig. 9

As the network grows, the trend of online shopping will be much easier for retailers to offer. Nourish will offer various options for the consumer such as simple information viewing, online ordering with in-store pickup, or full service home delivery. When the shopper clicks on a product, the site will take them to the dedicated information window, which lists nutritional information, price comparisons, and origin information.

Product Window The results from customer research indicated that lower prices and price/product comparison were recognized as the most important features desired by the shopper. Currently this process is very laborious and fragmented, as the consumer must visit multiple online sources and physical store locations to obtain this information. The product window

Fig. 10

enables the customer to undertake both of these tasks. The product window in Figure 10 displays the best value from different locations, from lowest to highest price. All vendors will be provided with equal visibility, from small independent stores to large retailers. With the click of a mouse the consumer will also be able to read product details and nutritional information.

It will outline information such as where the product was produced, enabling consumers to make a more informed purchasing decision aligned with their values. Through tools like these, consumers truly have the buying power to effect real economic change and lessen environmental impact.

Design Proposal


Section 3: Explore | Merchants Merchant Storefront Perhaps the most valuable component of Nourish is that it provides a platform for all levels of food merchants to display and sell their wares on a level playing field. Market vendors will have the same exposure to the browsing consumer as the large grocery stores with large advertising budgets. The dashboard that is available to all selling members of Nourish

Fig. 11

will provide vital information on consumers and competitors. Having access to data that shows a particular format of any given product that sells really well can make a huge difference to a roadside vendor. For example, a vendor who sells fish from a refrigerated vehicle in a parking lot will be able to determine which size package of haddock is the top seller overall, and then customize

his selection in order to have his product presented in a product window of Nourish alongside similar products from larger grocers. He gains a unique selling advantage and the consumer has the convenience of buying local and supporting a regional economy, as opposed to buying fish that has travelled hundreds of kilometers.

Design Proposal


Not only does this type of practice provide benefits to local merchants and farmers, it raises the level of awareness for consumers who may not have time to research local merchants, let alone drive to multiple sites for one grocery trip. As seen in Figure 11 and 12, Nourish provides a flexible template for vendor types and allows them to set up a virtual storefront. This is especially beneficial for vendors that do not have their own website already. Even if they already have an online presence, Nourish builds on their existing online presence by providing them with exposure to a specific network of people shopping for food. They are likely to experience a lot more traffic because of the consumers who actively seek out food buying options to complement their need for variety and selection. The large retailer can also benefit by having more information on their customer. They can obtain demographics and purchasing information to better serve customer groups, as well as optimize their advertising budgets. Currently they must blanket all potential consumers; however, with a storefront they can solicit followers and interact directly with customers that purchase their products. It also personifies the local store, allowing them to customize their offering and altering the image of a standardized corporation. Fig. 12

Section 3: Explore | Favourites Favourites One of the most used functions of many social media sites is the ability to share an opinion about a product or an idea. Liking and pinning to a virtual board has been so successful and popular that users have demonstrated the need to establish and track consumer preference. Nourish is no exception to this trend and it contains a database for all things that have been recognized as a favourite of the user. Figure 13 illustrates the Nourish add-on for any web browser. Simply click on this icon when you find a recipe on another website and it will be added to your favourites section. The user will also have the option to customize and categorize their experience by establishing subsections that keep everything organized. This not only includes recipes, but health information, cooking tips, preferred lifestyles, and special events. The favourites section is also integrated with the calendar feature to allow the user to track progress, log activities, or schedule meal plans and note seasonal items.

Fig. 13

Design Proposal


Section 4: Plan | Recipes

Design Proposal


Recipe Collection System The internet has given us access to an incredible amount of recipes and food preparation ideas. Saving and printing recipes and adding them to a binder for future reference has been a challenge of home cooks for many years. Not only does Nourish provide potential users with a large collection of user-generated recipe content to draw from, it also allows traditional recipes to be uploaded along with photos and directions, and provides a platform to share with others. For ease of use it will also be integrated with other sites, to allow sharing and increased exposure. The recipe collection can be easily accessed to drag and drop into meal plans and grocery lists. Personal preferences can limit or focus content on items that are in line with the user’s lifestyle, such as weight loss or gluten-free requirements. Recipes can be shared, tagged, or uploaded, to ensure Nourish is practical as the central source for all food-related endeavours. When planning meals, the contents of any recipe or meal can be added to the shopping list with one click. Then the only decision remaining is, whether to have the food delivered or pick up in-store. The responsive grid layout of Nourish has been designed to allow for ease of use with any device - web browser, mobile, or tablet. The content and behaviours of the network translate naturally to other platforms.

Section 4: Plan | Calendars Calendar The Nourish calendar option is integrated to the other sections of the network, and one click of the mouse will take you to the calendar page. It can provide notifications of any event, availability of a tagged item, as well as alerts from vendors followed by the user. The average consumer has become accustomed to having year-round access to many seasonal and regional items. This type of shopping habit has presented an unrealistic demand

Fig. 14

on the food retail industry, forcing farmers and food suppliers to develop unnatural growing, shipping, and retail practises. Growing awareness of this problem forces consumers to reconsider their buying habits to determine whether they are part of the problem and not the solution. For example, in figure 14 the user is researching locations to buy scallops and Nourish provides the seasonal information that indicates when the product will be available locally.

Providing this level of information for every type of food item will not only raise consumer awareness but it will encourage local spending and has the potential for environmental benefits as well. This alert system works especially well for smaller vendors who base their business around pre-orders or those who have perishable inventory they must sell. It can also notify customers when smaller vendors will be available, as well as where they will be located.

Meal Planning The calendar will also be naturally integrated with the meal planning section, to assist consumers and the retailer in optimizing the weekly meal plan and grocery bill. Users can select from their recipe collection, as well as those imported from other recipe sites. They will be able to easily populate their grocery list, based on the meals selected, which is also integrated with the mobile app to assist with in-store shopping.

Fig. 15

As the customer uses the Nourish website, the algorithm will learn from their habits and be able to suggest options or optimize the meal plan based on promotions from their usual vendors. The retailer dashboard can directly target customers with specific items in their meal plans, or those that have included them in previous history. This will not only assist retailers in optimizing promotions, but by giving them access to future

purchases it will enable them to streamline their inventory, providing customers with the best value. Lastly, customers can integrate their meal plans with pre-selected profiles, such as those targeted for weight loss. This option, paired with personal profile settings, can limit the user’s exposure to nondesired content, such as tempting sugary or fatty foods.

Design Proposal


Section 5: Mobile | Smartphones and Tablets




Nourish is intended to be used on multiple platforms and devices. The responsive layout and proportions of the page elements are designed to function consistently, regardless of screen size. However, there are options exclusive to the smartphone/ tablet application that take advantage of the innovative capabilities of these devices. The camera can be used to photograph meals and recipes in order to archive them in the database. Additionally the camera allows users to scan products for information, comparison, or to add an item to the master grocery list.

Utilizing mobile gps faculties, Nourish allows users to locate vendors/merchants that are members of the network, providing directions and product availability. In addition to regular grocery shopping, Nourish allows food trucks and street vendors to maintain a storefront, which provides locals and visitors the benefits of a onestop urban food locating service, eliminating the need for users to search multiple sources.

In spite of it’s convenience, online shopping and delivery may not be for everyone. Purchasing groceries at a farmers market or offline venues, does not contribute data to one’s evolving profile. Therefore, Nourish provides the option of a scannable code that, when swiped at participating locations, uploads the user’s purchasing information to their online profile. A membership card is available for consumers that choose not to own a smartphone, but want to participate in and benefit from the website.

Philip LeBlanc

Bananas Spinach Onions Butter OJ Greek yogurt Applesauce WW Flour Pasta sauce Chick peas Multigrain bread

Fish ‘n’ chips

Bananas Spinach Onions Butter OJ Greek yogurt Applesauce WW Flour Pasta sauce Chick peas Multigrain bread

Bananas Spinach Onions Butter OJ Greek yogurt Applesauce WW Flour Pasta sauce Chick peas Multigrain bread

Design Proposal


Tablets The convenience of tablet browsing is ideal for shopping through the Nourish website. Taking advantage of the touch and swipe functions, the traditional shelf view allows for a natural progression through virtual store aisles, simulating the grocery shopping experience from the comforts of home. Due to their portability, tablets pair well with the abundance of recipes and cooking lessons available through Nourish. With access to this information and the ability to use the tablet in the kitchen/food preparation area, it acts as a personal assistant when planning and preparing meals.

Section 6: Retail Dashboard

Consumer Data As technology continues to have an influence on the shopping habits of consumers, the practices used to study their behaviour change along with it. In this era of the empowered consumer, it becomes even more important for companies and brands to establish a connection with their customers and potential customers, with the objective of establishing a loyal relationship and learn more about how purchasing decisions are made, whether instore or online. As consumers become more familiar with the idea that they can release personal shopping data in exchange for value, retailers can then use that information to design a more targeted approach for selling their products. The retailer or producer will be able to subscribe to Nourish as a premium user and receive access to a dashboard of activity, allowing them to obtain detailed information on consumer preferences. They can receive a higher conversion on advertising dollars, as the need to blanket all customers in a geographic area will be eliminated. Having this unique access to valuable data will allow vendors to offer custom targeted incentives based on consumer profiles and behavioural data. The dashboard provides users with a monitoring option so that they can see transactions in real time. As the network continually gathers data it evolves and grows

more accurate with its information and services over time. This builds trust with retailers and vendors and allows them to schedule specific campaigns with increased levels of confidence. Various levels of data will be available to subscribers and can be streamlined to facilitate the independent merchant. Presentation of consumer behaviour will be tailored to fit the individual needs of the seller, ensuring that additional resources will not be required to translate the data into usable information. In the spirit of transparency, consumers will have access to a dashboard of their own that will allow them to view what kind of data that they are producing and to identify who is monitoring their profile information. Understanding the value of their data as a consumer, they will also have the option to offer access to their profile in exchange for value incentives.

Design Proposal



Conclusion Paper or Plastic?

This thesis was inspired by a lifelong passion for food and a background that involves several years in the retail grocery industry. The research began as a general investigation into the physical design of the grocery store environment. Realizing that these spaces are designed specifically for the purpose of increasing sales through customer manipulation, the research began contemplating how design can assist and defend the grocery store shopper from this stimulating environment, and from the bad decisions that often result from it. This involved looking at the past, present, and eventually the future of the supermarket. Expanding on those curiosities, the work began to take on an exploratory approach by using critical design practices to challenge contemporary ideas and to visualize the future of the grocery store. A sequence of designed prototypes incited a new series of questions that positioned the research where it would culminate with this document– at the intersection of technology and retail grocery. Action research methodology was chosen as the framework of investigation for this thesis in order to develop a situation that would arise from an internal understanding of the issues. The process of designing and reflecting provided unique insights through exploratory designs. This cyclical process encouraged various design iterations which addressed several aspects of the grocery shopping experience. It became apparent early on that this study was being conducted at a very crucial time in the history of retail. Internet and smartphone technologies have facilitated the emergence of the empowered consumer such that the balance of power is being pulled away from retailers and corporations. New technologies provide new ways of shopping, which in turn provides the opportunity for new types of research into consumer behaviour. The design outcome for this thesis provides an online venue that will address many of the issues facing contemporary grocery stores. The website provides a custom user interface, enabling users to design their own experience. It will also serve as a model for the transparent exchange of data between retailer and consumer. This thesis suggests that we are going to experience a shift in retail behaviour and proposes a designed outcome that will be able to facilitate many of the demands that will come with it.




List of figures 1. Mobile planet statistics 2. Action Research Diagram 3. Survey Statistics 4. Survey Likes/Dislikes 6. Current Shopping Model 7. Nourish Shopping Model 8. Nourish Sitemap 9. Shelf Grid Layout 10. Product Window 11. Vendor Window 12. Home Cook Storefront 13. Nourish add-on Icon Window 14. Calendar Window 15. Meal Planner

References (PWC) Price Waterhouse Cooper. (2012). Navigating the era of the empowered consumer. A conversation among media, content,distribution and advertising executives Baba Shiv, & Alexander Fedorikhin. (1999). Heart and mind in conflict: The interplay of affect and cognition in consumer decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(3), 278-292. The Gruen effect: Victor Gruen and the shopping mall. Baldauf, A. and Weingartner, K. (Directors). (2009).[Video/DVD] Baumeister, R. F. (2002). Yielding to temptation: Self‐Control failure, impulsive purchasing, and consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(4), pp. 670-676. Burke, R. R. (2002). Technology and the customer interface: What customers want in the physical and virtual store. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 30(4), 411-411-432. Campbell, C. (1998). Consumption and the rhetorics of need and want. Journal of Design History, 11(3), 235-235-246. Chawla, R. K., & Uppal, S. (2012). Household debt in Canada. Retrieved 01/28, 2013, from pub/75-001-x/2012002/article/11636-eng.htm Ciarula-Taylop, L. (2012). Chicago subway station walls turned into virtual grocery store shelves. Retrieved 10,21, 2012, from store_ shelves.html Cohan, P. (2013). Why blockbuster went bust while netflix flourished. Retrieved 02/21, 2013, from Danziger, P. N. (2004). Why people buy things they don’t need: Understanding and predicting consumer behavior. Chicago: Dearborn. Deloitte Digital. (2012). In Brinker M., Lobaugh K. and Paul A.(Eds.), The dawn of mobile influence (2013). Technology. Retrieved 01,25, 2013, from (2013). Grocery stores plan shift to social. Retrieved 03/20, 2013, from Article/Grocery-Stores-Plan-Shift-Social/1009331 Future Store. (2011). Hypermarket of the future. Retrieved 01,21, 2013, from Gilboa, S., & Rafaeli, A. (2003). Store environment, emotions and approach behaviour: Applying environmental aesthetics to retailing. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 13(2), 195-211. doi: 10.1080/0959396032000069568 Google. (2012). Our mobile planet. Retrieved 01,14, 2013, from Goss, J. (1993). The “magic of the mall”: An analysis of form, function, and meaning in the contemporary retail built environment. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 83(1), 18-18-47.

List of Figures / References



Gravelle, E. (2010). Front and centre: Report on emerging technology. Retrieved 11/02, 2012, from Houser, D., Et al. (2007). Checking out temptation:A natural experiment with purchases at the grocery store. Retrieved 11/02, 2012, from Inman, Jeffrey. J, Winer, Russell. S, Ferraro, Rosellina.- The interplay among category characteristics, customer characteristics, and customer activities on in-store decision making. - Journal of Marketing, (- 5), - 19. doi: - 10.1509/ jmkg.73.5.19 Kalyanam, K., Lal, R., & Wolfram, G. (2006). Future store technologies and their impact on grocery retailing. In M. Krafft, & M. K. Mantrala (Eds.), Krafft, manfred, and murali K. mantrala. retailing in the 21st century: Current and future trends. (pp. 95-95-112). Berlin: Springer. Klein, S., Mueller-Lankenau, C., & and Wehmeyer, K.,. (2004). Developing A framework for multi channel strategies . an analysis of cases from the grocery retail industry. BLED 2004 Proceedings, Paper 9 Kohn, R., & et al.2012 retail StudyRise of the connected consumer. Retrieved 01/09, 2013, from connected_consumer_062612.pdf Lempert, P. (2002). Being the shopper: Understanding the buyer’s choice. New York: J. Wiley & Sons. Lewis, D., & Bridger, D. (2000). The soul of the new consumer : Authenticity -- what we buy and why in the new economy. London; Naperville, IL: N. Brealey Pub. Margulis, R. (2012). Supermarkets must understand the new shopper mentality to thrive. Retrieved 11/06, 2012, from thrive-13587 Mediacom. (2012). In Riddell F. (Ed.), Rise of the empowered consumer: How to reach audiences in 2012. New York: Michaud, A. (. (2013). Savvy global consumers take control: Retailers lag behind. Retrieved 11,14, 2012, from http:// Miller, D. (1998). A theory of shopping. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP. Mort, F. (1996). Cultures of consumption: Masculinities and social space in late twentieth-century Britain. London: Routledge. Norman, D. A. (2005). Emotional design: Why we love (or) hate everyday things (Paperback ed.). New York: Basic. Park, C. W., Iyer, E. S., & Smith, D. C. (1989). The effects of situational factors on in-store grocery shopping behavior: The role of store environment and time available for shopping. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(4), pp. 422-433. Popkowski Leszcyc, Peter T. L, Sinha, Ashish, Timmermans, Harry J. P. (2000). Consumer store choice dynamics: Analysis of the competitive market structure for grocery stores. Journal of Retailing, 76(3), 323-323-345. Pradeep, A. K. (2010). The buying brain: Secrets for selling to the subconscious mind. . Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. Roncarelli, S., & Ellicott, C. (2010). Packaging essentials: 100 design principles for creating packages. Beverly, MA: Rockport.

Schwartz, B.,. (2005). The paradox of choice : Why more is less. New York: Harper Perennial. Solomon, M. R. (2009). The truth about what customers really want. Harlow, England: Reason Prentice Hall. Statistics Canada. (2013). Retail sales, by industry (monthly). Retrieved 09/12, 2012, from Stephens, D. (2013). The retail revival: reimagining business for the new age of consumerism. MIssissauga, Ontario. Canada: John Wiley & Sons. Stephens, D. (2013b). The future of the retail store. Retrieved 03/12, 2013, from Strother, J. (2011). Shopping by phone at south korea’s virtual grocery. Retrieved 10/15, 2012, from Supermarket News. (2013). Target to buy recipe, Cookware Companies . Retrieved 03/20, 2013, from 02&Issue=SN-02_20130315_SN-02_999&YM_ Swann, C. (2002). Action research and the practice of design. Design Issues, 18(1), 49-61. Tesco PLC. (2013). Tesco homeplus expands number of virtual stores. Retrieved 10,21, 2012, from The Direct Marketing Association, & (DMA). (2012). In The Future Foundation (Ed.), Data privacy: What the consumer really thinks Turley, L. W., & Milliman, R. E. (2000). Atmospheric effects on shopping behavior: A review of the experimental evidence. Journal of Business Research, 49, 193-211. Underhill, P. (1999). Why we buy: The science of shopping. New York: Simon & Schuster. Vohs, K. D., & Faber, R. J. (2007). Spent resources: Self-regulatory ResourceAvailability affects impulse buying. Journal of Consumer Research, 33, 537-547. Ziccardi, D., & Moin, D. (1997). MasterMinding the store: Advertising, sales promotion, and the new marketing reality. New York: J. Wiley & Sons.




Acknowledgements All illustrations and diagrams are the copyright of the author. Unless credited with a web address, all images featured in this document are credited according to the Creative Commons attribution licence agreement (CC BY 2.0) or according to attribution agreements of respective sources. All product images courtesy of








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Preparing the Grocery Store for the Digitally Empowered Consumer  

Master of Design Thesis - Philip LeBlanc

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