Whether it’s to restock the fridge or grab a couple items for dinner, people frequently take trips to the grocery store. This is especially true for families. Parents are often left with no option but to bring their children along to the store. While these places have tried various techniques to keep little ones engaged – small carts, free cookies, stickers – there are opportunities for stores to engage children in meaningful ways during the shopping experience.
Course project for Purdue UXD Graduate Studio 1
Enhance the shopping experience of grocery shoppers by maximizing positive interactions, while considering tradeoffs between patron convenience and potentially reduced sales, as well as the ways in which technology may disrupt current monetization strategies
Our final proposed product is an enhanced self-checkout feature: a “family-mode” feature which creates a “scene” on the screen as items are scanned, along with a recipe involving those items. In addition to engaging adults and children, our research found that early engagement in this manner often leads to healthy, lifelong habits.
Two weeks. September 30, 2020 – October 19, 2020
We kicked off our investigation through examination of existing literature. Our initial round of research yielded several opportunities to explore, but one article about family co-shopping piqued our interest by discussing how “even 5-6 year old children most often take on cooperative and constructive positions in family co-shopping” (Gram & Grønhøj, 2016).
In this early phase, we limited our scope to Pay-Less stores only. We collectively agreed that exploring multiple stores would not be feasible given the time constraints and variables between each store (layout, selection, clientele).
This research was supported through our first round of interviews as well. When asked about grocery shopping as a child, one interviewee, a self-described grocery store enthusiast, recalled the following:
“As a small child, I used to go grocery shopping with my mom…we’d go every Saturday or Sunday [when I was really little]. We would sit in the kitchen and open the pantries. I mean, she was a mom with three kids, plus a husband, so it was a much more expansive grocery list. And then we’d make the list [together].”
In this situation, cooking was not just a means to an end. It was an opportunity for familial bonding.
We kept these anecdotes, and the rest of our research, in mind during our first contextual inquiry, a trip to Pay-Less at 8:30 AM, during which we observed several parents with children who seemed more like passive companions instead of active co-shoppers. We began ideating on how to involve children during the shopping experience.
We attempted to address our findings from research through a round of sketching. Our initial sketches explored different ideas that would potentially engage children during the grocery shopping experience. These ideas included (1) a parent-child linked cart system, (2) a modified app coupled with traditional in-store print materials, and (3) a racetrack game that would highlight the child’s next “stop” for a predetermined list of ingredients.
While all our sketches addressed a variety of approaches to the parent-child co-shopping experience, our ideas encompassed the entire shopping experience, not a single focused aspect. We determined to narrow our scope further and accomplished this by researching projects that directly addressed co-shopping with children.
Around this point, we determined it would be helpful to conduct a few more interviews regarding experiences different shoppers had as a family. Our interviewees included people with strong family grocery shopping memories, as well as people whose parents neglected the family shopping experience. We took notes from the interviews and organized them into an affinity diagram to help identify common perspectives. While our initial diagram didn’t offer much insight directly, reorganizing the affinities by emotion presented strong opportunities. This was most clear when it came to feelings of nostalgia as feen in the figure below:
We identified the relationships from our emotional affinity diagram as an area of opportunity for increased engagement amongst parents and children. To look further into this, we consulted more literature; this time focusing on the effects of shopping as a family.
Upon discovering how “opportunities for early learning experiences play a key role in supporting kindergarten readiness and future academic achievement (Gregory & Rimm- Kaufman, 2008), we narrowed our scope further to this pre-K age range. Another project (A Taste for Learning) focused on this same age range. Alongside “fostering children’s learning opportunities during grocery shopping,” A Taste for Learning encouraged us to “meet people where they are…[because] engaging families at grocery stores reaches them at a place where they already need to go” (Harte, et al, 2017).
At this point, we refined our focus to address three to six year-old children and the co-shopping with parents at Pay-Less stores.
Having a clear and focused audience in mind, we decided to meet them where they were (again!) by conducting a follow-up contextual inquiry. Through observations of three various families, we noticed that during the shopping experience, children were relatively distracted whether they were eating a snack or hanging out in a cart. They did not seem to mind these distractions. However, our biggest takeaway from this second session was that children were completely unengaged during the self-checkout process (the preferred method of checkout for the families we observed). Therefore, we decided to focus on this final part of the grocery experience. This discovery led us to another round of sketches. We retained one commonality from our earlier sketches (the recipe element) and brainstormed ways this could involve both child and parent in the checkout experience. After another round of sketching we decided on the following approach:
When it came to prototyping methods, we truly had to put ourselves in children’s shoes. While general concepts and big ideas can be explained to adults, we believed working with tangible objects, such as an egg container, as well as creating sound effects when buttons were pressed, would be necessary in order to engage with children when testing our prototype. Our goal from generating this prototype was to see if children will understand how to use it (through a usability test), if they enjoy building a scene and if they are engaged with the prototype (evaluated through a post-session interview).
Our final prototype (shown here) is our version of an improved self-checkout station. The features of the Kid Mode Prototype include:
- Touch screen
- Initial Screen
- Build-a-Scene Screen
- Credit card station
- “Thank you” Screen
This prototype replicates what the parents and the child will see when first coming to the self-checkout. From here the child (or adult) can press “Kid Mode” in order to engage in the interactive experience of scanning items, creating a scene, and ultimately, having a recipe card printed off as a means of encouraging them to go home and cook with their parents.
Testing and Evaluation
We tested Kid Mode through a usability test and evaluated it through a post-session interview to discuss the children’s experience as well as the parent’s. Our testers included a five-year-old and a three-year-old. We made the usability test as interactive and engaging as possible while evaluating if they could use it with minimal adult guidance. As the children scanned items, we made beeping sounds, to simulate a scan, as well as “boop” sounds when items would “appear” (taped to the screen scene). Finally, we made printing sounds when the prototype printed the receipt and recipe card. The youngest user was engaged after the first item and made the sound effects himself.
Following our usability test, we evaluated the experience with a post-session interview. Our follow-up questions to our users were simple in order to be cognizant of their age. Such questions included: “What did you like about Kid Mode?”, “Would you like it if this was at a grocery store?”, and “What was your favorite part of Kid Mode?”
The younger tester responded to most questions with squeals of delight or a broad smile. The older tester greeted each step of the usability test with smiles, concluding “It was cool.” While the questions above were met with one word answers or nods, we learned more through our observation of the children engaging with the prototype. There were moments of joy appearing on their faces as items “appeared” on the screen and the child was in complete control of which items to scan next. Furthermore, both users were focused on what was happening and the prototype was successful in holding their attention.
Finally, we discussed Kid Mode with the parent of the children who said the following:
“I would love this if this was at a grocery store! While I do let my kids scan some items, I love the idea of taking home a recipe card that we can cook together when we get home.”
Furthermore, when it came to the actual test, the parent let her child have complete control with little guidance. We believe this level of trust and cooperation led to many moments of delight from the tester throughout the process.
One of the greatest limitations of our testing was our small sample size of only two users. While we did reach out to many potential testers, due to the pandemic and a parent’s comfort level, our options were extremely limited. Furthermore, we were testing in a home environment rather than at a grocery store.
While we are confident in our idea, we know there are some changes that must be made. In order to efficiently test the usability of our idea, we kept the grocery shopping experience limited to three items. We acknowledge this would not always represent the full experience and families are likely buying more than three items. Therefore, below are some proposed changes we would make.
One proposed change would be to include the addition of animation. It is likely that families will be purchasing more than one item that could fall under the “dairy” category. Therefore, when a second item is added, a movement or sound from the cow, like a growing cow, a shake or a “moo” (or a combination of the three) could be a nice addition. As we discovered in our testing, the addition of sound when the item “appeared” on the screen was met with giggles and joy from the children being tested.
In order to make this truly successful, every grocery item would need to be categorized into a picture. One suggestion we have is only associating whole foods with pictures since it would be most difficult to generate images for processed food or junk food. One suggestion would be to not give these items a picture. By doing this, parents can discuss the negatives of junk food with children thereby assisting in instilling some healthy habits. However, this concept requires further investigation given the differing concept of what it means to be “healthy.” This is a factor that can vary significantly with personal and cultural differences. Additionally, groceries purchased during a single trip may not always offer a complete nor accurate representation of the family’s diet.
We had set out to change the way families experience grocery shopping. From our research, testing, and analysis, we believe our solution encourages stronger engagements between parents and children that extend past the grocery shopping trip. Although obvious limitations still need to be addressed within our solution, our proposed design integrates seamlessly in the current environment without degrading the shopping experience for other shoppers. Through each stage of the project’s development, we were driven with purpose﹣ from discovering an opportunity in the current setting of grocery shopping to effectively developing a strategy for promoting interactions currently lacking in the space.
Based on our research, the proposed design has the potential to create long term skills that lead to improved proficiency in shopping and cooking when children grow up and become independent. This is outside the scope of our project, unfortunately, but we are curious to see the extent of the impact if the design is implemented.
Gram, M., Grønhøj, A. (2016). Meet the good child. ‘Childing’ practices in family food co-shopping. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 40(5), 511-518. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12295
Gregory, A. & Rimm-Kaufman, S. (2008). Positive mother-child interactions in kindergarten: Predictors of school success in high school. School Psychology Review, 37(4), 499-515.
Harte, H. A., Gilbert, J. L., Kinne, L., Tiller, L., & Neal, A. (2017). A Taste of Learning: A Collaborative Early Childhood Pilot Project at Grocery Stores. PRISM: A Journal of Regional Engagement, 6 (1).