Grocery Store Research

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Grocery shopping is something that almost everyone does consistently in their lives. “There are 63,328 supermarkets and grocery store businesses” -(Rogers, 2023), the same article states that “55% of people shop at a mainstream grocery store chain and 54% shop at a supercenter”. After observing shoppers, and conducting surveys and interviews, I came to find there are several irritations that shoppers face that seem to have been overlooked and have just become part of the grocery shopping experience. There is room for designs to help assist users to have a smoother experience unpacking groceries from their vehicles into their homes.  

The problems that I intend to design for are one of the following. How to easily unload heavy groceries from a consumer’s vehicle. How to reduce the number of trips needed to bring groceries into your home. And how to eliminate the need to place delicate groceries (such as eggs or bread) in a separate part of your vehicle so they don’t get damaged by transportation. 

  • Describe the context

I surveyed 54 people, and of that 54, 32 did not express many issues at all when it came to shopping, but upon interviewing participants and digging a little further with the interviews, I found that the majority of my participants noted needing to take multiple trips from their vehicle, to their home. As well as wanting to get groceries in their home as quickly as possible. Some even expressed over-exerting themselves to do so, loading as many groceries on their arms as they could bear to avoid lots of trips. One participant stated she “tries to bring too many groceries at once and strains [her] back.” Five of the ten interviewed call out having to make multiple trips as well. One user noted she has to walk up a steep flight of stairs to reach her kitchen. Another stated that because there was no close parking by her building, she would have to quickly park her car in front of her building to unload so she didn’t have to make such a long journey back and forth.

Another interesting commonality noted loading/unloading heavy groceries as a burden. Four of my interviewees directly pointed this out. One mentioned how they position themselves to avoid back injury they “[use] legs and [try] not to injure back when lifting”. Two other participants noted that they waited for another household member(s) to show up and help unload the groceries. One states she asks her son and husband to unload groceries when she arrives home from the store. The other said she waits until a male family member or friend stops by and unloads heavy groceries if it’s not a time-sensitive item, like cases of water. This was very interesting to me because, from my survey, I learned that 64.8% shop alone even though only 27.8% of them live in a single household. And half of the interviewees specifically stated they go to a bulk store like Costco as part of their shopping routine meaning they are deliberately buying heavier/ larger products to supply their homes.

The last big grievance for shoppers that I discovered was that many shoppers place delicate groceries in a separate location from the rest of their groceries. In the interviews I conducted, 7 of the 10 stated that they did this. Many say that they are placed in the passenger seat next to them in their vehicle. One interviewed participant was very passionate about this topic stating how irritated he was that the bread always ended up smooshed when placed in the trunk with the rest of his groceries. This also ties into the ethnographic (styled) research I conducted. My group mates and I noticed that people had other objects in their car’s trunk area when conducting curbside pickup. Aside from the employees having to maneuver placing groceries around those items, there presents the opportunity for those items to damage the groceries on the drive home

  • The issues

The main issue I will be designing for this second half of the semester is unloading/loading groceries. With a focus on either how to make loading/unloading heavy groceries easier, how to reduce the number of trips a person needs to take when loading groceries into their home, or how to create a safe spot for groceries that are more prone to being damaged while driving (notably eggs and bread). 

There are, however, a few other issues I observed but chose not to focus on for this project. Those being bags breaking, 12.32% of people from my survey experienced this issue with paper and plastic. Not having enough room in the vehicle or having a messy vehicle, leads to difficulty placing groceries in the vehicle (experienced by 9.5% ). Bags falling over on the drive home occurred to 24.7% of participants across the use of paper, plastic, and reusable bags. And the last complaint was having bad produce selected for you when shopping curbside. This was a common complaint among those who don’t or rarely use pickup, several people interviewed said they won’t use it because of hearing horror stories of bad produce. 

  • The stakeholders

One of the difficulties in narrowing down a path for this project was that there were many stakeholders for grocery shopping. Shoppers come in all shapes and sizes because practically everyone is a shopper. For the sake of my survey, I narrowed it down to 6 main categories of people. Those who are in a single household, single people with an animal, roommates, parents with small children, adults with teens or other adult family members, or those living with their partner.

For my final product, I will be focusing on single shoppers and designing for a person who will have to unload/load by themselves. I may also want to focus on female users since that was the majority of my demographic who stated these issues. As well as Honda manufacturers and consumers since they would also be impacted by whatever design I make.

  • Conjectures

Some additional research I did were conjectures, to try and design a few ideas for solutions to grocery shopping issues. This was before I narrowed down my research topic, so I will only talk about two that are most relevant to my narrowed-down topic. One of my conjectures revolved around the science and tech section of the newspaper was to create a pickup robot that was able to place groceries in the user’s vehicle. Hypothetically, it would be able to scan the car to avoid placing groceries in spots where they could fall. Or be able to assess where customers’ non-grocery items vehicles are and avoid them. To slightly change the concept to fit my main ideas I would reverse the functionality saying it may now be an at-home robot that helps unload into your home.

The last conjecture I will call out is in the arts section. A foldable drop-down bag for groceries to help avoid messy floors and keep groceries packed securely, to add on to one of my main points it could also just be storage for those delicate groceries (eggs, bananas, bread), the design could either be a car attachment or built into the vehicle.

  • Ethnographic research 

For ethnographic (style) research I observed 3 Krogers and one Whole Foods for comparison. My group mates and I also did a curbside pick-up order to get first-hand experience. Some of the general findings are that the workers generally came up to the driver’s window to talk to the customer to confirm their order before loading and several opened their car doors before the workers even showed up with their groceries. The service, in general, usually took less than a minute. Only exceeding that time if a person had 5+ bins of items.

Step by step.

The general process for curbside pickup is as follows. A car will pull into one of the pickup parking spots, the number of spots varies from 10 to 4. In some locations, you had to pull in through 2 spots and others provided no arrows or directions, but all pulled in forwards leaving the truck exposed for easier access. We noted that several people opened their trunk before the worker came out. After waiting ranging from 17 min to one. The workers would come out. Their dress was varied in every store we went to. The majority wear a safety vest, but it might have been neon yellow, red, and silver or no safety vest at all. After that the worker would have a very short interaction in our 1st hand research with our curbside order which was just to confirm the pricing, if there were any extra coupons we wanted to add to the order, confirming where they wanted to place the groceries. Generally, the worker would place the cart of groceries in the park by the trunk area before coming and confirming but at Whole Foods I noticed that at least twice that the workers only spoke to the customer through the trunk (only observed for SUV.) then the worker would start to place in their vehicle. Generally in the back seat only a few times we witnessed a rear seat placement of groceries. I observed at Whole Foods some people got out of their vehicles to reorganize their trunk before the worker came with their groceries. Kroger has 2 different types of bins that they wheel out with your groceries. The 1st being blue, which is for orders with items from their store. The groceries from this bag are either a white Kroger logo pickup plastic bag which is larger and sturdier than general plastic grocery bags, or paper for groceries that could contaminate other items (like meat). The other bin is red and comes with blue bags. These are for orders that are not from Kroger but from some third-party store. Whole Foods on the other hand had no special cart for curbside. Tt was just a grocery cart with a sign that said pickup, and the bags were paper with an Amazon logo

Honda museum tour

To continue our research, we went to visit the Honda Museum in Marysville to see some of the processes Honda uses to design their vehicles. There was a functional assembly line robot that we were able to see how it put together the different parts of the car. We were able to see makes and models from many different generations of vehicles as well as some of their motorcycles, planes, and robots. It was interesting to look at the plethora of designs Honda has curated over the last 50+ years.

Honda Dealership 

The last bit of on-site research we did was to visit a Honda dealership. We wanted to take another in-depth look at the interior of Honda vehicles, and we noted the differences in sizing of bumpers off the floor from a couple of different SUV models to make sure to take a mental note of that for future reference. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the interiors of the pilot or passport in full detail since they were out on test drives but we have access to one of the vehicles through the engineering department as well as a 3D model that we can look in depth with.

The experiences from the museum and dealership did not make their way into my main presentation or yet tie into my main three topics, but I believe the observations made will be more useful in the later stages of this project when I get more into prototyping and finalizing my model.

Sources: 

Rodgers, Emily. “Grocery Store Statistics: Where, When, & How Much People Grocery Shop.” Full-Service Market Research Company, 27 Apr. 23AD, www.driveresearch.com/market-research-company-blog/grocery-store-statistics-where-when-how-much-people-grocery-shop/.