Project: Health Buddy

What role can Tesco play in promoting good health and wellbeing?

Background and Introduction

What we eat can contribute a huge amount to our general health and wellbeing. As the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco recognises the key role it can play in promoting good health and wellness.

The app and wearable tech market, in particular, has grown dramatically over the last 3-4 years. Health products from Nike, FitBit, JawBone and Pebble have emerged on the market as fantastic Health aids.

In the lab we wanted to see whether we could develop a product that would harness the excitement generated by this new app and wearables market, but put a Tesco spin on it.

Goals and Objectives

HealthBuddy is ostensibly research driven, we’ve had ‘fun’ exploring:

  • Alternative ways for customers to record their daily calorie consumption.
  • Utilising in-built android phone sensors to track customers daily activity.
  • Pairing an Android application with a wearable hear-rate monitoring device.
  • The latest Android UI patterns.
  • Activity based gamification mechanics.
  • How to build mobile apps using the Xamarin platform.

Our aim has not been to produce an application we would immediately give to customers.

Where We’re At Now

We have built and Android app that delivers on what we set out in our goals and objectives. Customers can use HealthBuddy to track their calorie consumption in multiple ways and monitor four variations of physical activity.

Customers can select an activity goal when they setup a profile. A simple overview screen is available to track progress. Rewards are released for achieving activity goals which can then be shared socially.

Our next step is to test HealthBuddy with a control group and gain feedback on potential uses for the prototype moving forward.

Embarking on a voyage of Discovery

To keep our colleagues informed of the latest happenings in the world of technology.

We spend a lot of time keeping on top of the latest technology trends, and it’s our job to share those trends with the rest of Tesco. Since the inception of the first IT R&D teams the easiest way to do this was via email. Of course, the progress of technology waits for no man and in an always connected world of smartphones, tablets and social media our old weekly bulletin was in desperate need of an overhaul. Enter Discovery, a complete rethink of how we communicate the most relevant technology news to our colleagues. We wanted to not only replace the old weekly bulletin, but develop a strong communication brand that would bring together the diverse mix of internal publications we’ve accumulated over the years into something more coherent. The standard bearer being a completely new news site, a platform that allowed us to share and discuss content across the entire business. Our main objectives were to:

  • Be able to curate relevant news articles as we find them
  • Automate the administration process as much as possible
  • Be easy to use on desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone
  • Provide a commenting facility for colleagues to share their thoughts
  • Establish a platform we can evolve into a valuable reference tool

The Discovery news site is now live for colleagues. We’ve adopted a clean, responsive design that puts the focus on the news articles themselves, it’s simple and instinctive to use for both readers and editors, is underpinned by some of the latest web technologies and has been developed from the ground up. That said, the real boon for us is not necessarily how we’ve simplified the way we deliver news content, or in the technology used to create the site – for the record it’s built on MEAN stack (MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS and NodeJS) and a fair dose of blood, sweat and tears – but in the possibilities it opens up for innovation at Tesco. By integrating the Yammer enterprise social network for commenting it provides every colleague across the business with an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts on how the featured technology could be used. That in itself might prove to be the headline feature.

Lunch & Learn with Toby Stone: how start-ups and big companies can work together

The beauty of disruptive innovation is to be as disruptive as possible.

Last month, Toby Stone came to Tesco HQ to deliver our very first Tesco Labs Lunch & Learn session on how big corporations and start-ups can work together.

Below are six nuggets of wisdom from Toby’s talk. The link to the full video is at the end of the article.

1. Start-ups move fast
As they’re so much smaller than big corporations (maybe just 2 or 3 people), making decisions is quicker and easier: they aren’t fettered by reams of red-tape, and don’t have to get sign-off from 10 people in 8 different departments if they want to change their app’s font colour. They also have an added incentive to keep them on their toes: the real threat of running out of cash.

2. “What have you done for me lately?”
It’s a two-way street when it comes to working with start-ups.
Big companies have lots of customers, which can help start-ups get traction, and have extensive experience and knowledge in areas that start-ups might not be familiar with. They also have $$$!
On the flip side, start-ups can bring disruptive innovation, new ideas and agility to the party. They’re adaptable, and their friendly, non-corporate face can be a good way of engaging people.

3. ‘Watching big corporations try to work directly with start-ups is like watching your dad dancing at a disco.’
Harsh but true… or just plain harsh? Toby says big corporations shouldn’t try to BE start-ups, but rather should think of getting someone in to act as a middle-man, or ‘interpreter.’ Toby says: “the start-up world, like the corporate world, has its own vocabulary, its own media outlets.” This is where corporate accelerators and incubators would be an ideal solution.

4. ‘Pfft. I liked their music back when they only had 300 friends on MySpace!’
The ‘hipster factor’ is a big deal these days; but can a cool start-up retain its street cred if it works with Tesco? Toby says the key to this is staying a healthy distance apart.
If we were to take over a start-up and rob them of that mentality, this would defeat the point of working with them: they are no longer friendly-looking, but look like a cynical corporate Marketing ploy. But if we work with them but keep our distance, and let them keep their identity, then we both benefit: we can ‘borrow’ their street cred, and they keep their identity.

4. The dreaded ‘Process’ is a start-up’s kryptonite
Even if the start-up has the support of a Venture Capital Fund or a big corporate partner and is gaining a decent customer base, if they have to wait too long for the big company to make a decision, they will lose money – and run the real risk of going bust.

6. Time Differences
Corporation and start-ups have different conceptions of time: ‘quickly’ could mean weeks to months to a start-up, whereas to a big corporation, this could mean months to years. Can a big corporation move fast enough to do anything meaningful with the start-up before they get bored…or go bust?

Watch Toby deliver his talk, and field your questions with panache here:

Project: Insta-Search

We’ve been exploring new ways to search Tesco online.

Background and Introduction

Search is one of the biggest pain points for Tesco.com, primarily on factors such as relevance and speed.

Insta-Search is a new way to search Tesco products, providing an unprecedented degree of relevance at blazingly fast speeds.

By mining through web-analytics and product catalogue data, Insta-Search continually self-learns and evolves along with changing consumer tastes and trends.

Goals and Objectives

The objective of Insta-Search is to provide a high quality next-generation search experience by taking an instant best guess of what the customer intent might be.

It achieves this by:

  • Providing relevant search term suggestions as soon as a customer begins typing a search term.
  • Refining these suggestions instantly as the customer continues to type, while being tolerant to typos.
  • Displaying a rich mini product catalogue, consisting of up to 4 products with images, for the ‘best-guess’ search term suggestion.

As a result, customers experience an engaging and immersive product finding method, where the target product is quite possibly just a key-stroke away.

Where We’re At Now

Insta-Search has been trialled on Tesco Direct in January 2013 and is currently live to 100% of Tesco Direct customers.

As part of the initial trial covering 10% of customers, following were some key observations:

Insta-Search outperformed other instant search providers on conversion rate as well as average order value.

Customers seemed to type less than before while searching for products.