Arcohol – a collaboration from Tesco Labs and ribot

An innovative experiment to help you pick a great bottle of wine, every time.

Tesco Labs and ribot are both passionate about driving change to improve the lives of customers. The customer is at the heart of everything we both do. ribot innovate through the use of technology, behavioural psychology and design to build great products. The Tesco Labs team are building a culture of innovation and focussing on serving their customers a little better every day. Wherever, whenever and however they want to shop with Tesco.

Together Tesco Labs and ribot have created an innovative experiment that will assist customers to choose a great bottle of wine, every time. The Internet of Things shelf concept lights up to help customers navigate the complex category of wine in the supermarket aisle. You can come and try the prototype at RBTE on 8th & 9th May 2017 with ribot at stand number 1107.

Tesco Labs is currently investigating ways in which the Internet of Things can help enhance its customers’ shopping journey; something which Paul Wilkinson, Head of Technology Research at Tesco Labs will be discussing  in his Keynote in Theatre 2 on the 9th May at 10.30. Tesco launched on web platform IFTTT [If This Then That] earlier this year as a significant step along the road to using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help automate certain elements of internet shopping in the UK. The creation of an IFTTT channel has allowed the retailer’s shoppers to devise shopping-related actions based on certain triggers, as well as expanding the channels through which they can shop, as IFTTT is now available through both Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.

Just how do you select a good bottle of wine?
ribot first started working with Tesco Labs back in 2009, when they designed and built the first Tesco grocery shopping app. During that time, they worked with the team at Tesco Labs, who had identified an area in which they wanted to improve the shopping experience for customers. How could we help customers navigate the complex category of wine, beers and spirits in the supermarket aisle? How could we simplify choice for Tesco customers?

As part of the ribot innovation process, they interview and observe customers and create personas based on core segment types. Their findings showed that wine, spirit and beer selection is still a mystery for many. They wanted to discover if there was a simple way to educate customers about wine and to encourage wine exploration.

ribot’s goals for this project were to educate customers about wine choice and make the whole experience more personalised, inspiring, engaging and fun. The solution should also help users discover the wider Beers, Wines and Spirits range and could create more engagement and dwell time in the Beers, Wines and Spirits department.

They looked at possible solutions to the problem and worked through a process of innovation in order to create a prototype.

In summary, the people they observed and interviewed in the study tended to choose whatever was on promotion, something they were already familiar with or what they saw or knew someone else had chosen.

So how could choosing the perfect bottle of wine be made both easier and more fun?
As part of the innovation process they looked at possible solutions to solve this and asked some key questions:
– How can we simplify wine choice and make it both simpler and more fun?
– Can we use the Internet of Things to help solve this problem?
– Can we encourage customers to explore more and make better wine choices?
The ribot team mapped the user experience and generated a number of ideas using different creative techniques, then chose a preferred solution to prototype and build as a proof of concept.

A key part of the proposed solution was to enable users to select wine by pairing it with food they plan to eat. Everyone eats! Using food first is a more approachable way of accessing wine (or beer, cocktails or spirits!). It felt like a natural platform on which a customer could base an exploration of wine and make an educated, inspired and confident choice. The proposed solution – Arcohol – was to build an interactive wine shelf, helping users discover a personalised range of wine options providing both inspiration and education.

The prototype itself is a simple shelf connected to an app launched on a tablet at the point of sale. Customers can use the prototype to select the type of food they plan to eat, using food icons in the prototype app. This simplifies choice.

The proposed solution also lets customers filter choices by region, colour, grape and price. The app includes handy tasting notes that use keywords customers can recognise and associate with. Suggestions are made based on flavours that will complement the food. Wine suggestions shown on the app correspond to LED lights on the shelf. These light up, guiding the customer to make their final selection.

The psychology behind the solution
The prototype allows the user to narrow down options available, based on what they plan to have for dinner. This both limits choice and provides an element of closure. The LED lights on the shelf help create a helpful contrast, displaying the products that suit you and those that don’t. Items that stand out from their peers are more memorable to customers.

The tasting notes in the app are brief and use keywords that will help users identify the types of wine they might like, the Speak-Easy effect. There is enough information given in each description to enable users to make a confident choice about the wine.

The prototype app works with the interactive shelf using LED lights to highlight the chosen wine. The LED lights bring a sense of fun and theatre to proceedings. The prototype could be extended to mobile and could be personalised to work with Tesco Clubcard. Both the tasting notes and LED lights on the shelf arouse the interest and curiosity for users. The whole concept is fun and users remember choosing their perfect bottle of wine this way.

What’s next
ribot are in the process of testing user reactions to the shelf and installing an improved prototype at the Tesco Labs HQ. For a chance to see the interactive wine shelf in action, visit stand number 1107 at RBTE, London Olympia on the 8th and 9th May.

To find out more about how Tesco Labs are working with the Internet of Things, join Paul Wilkinson, Head of Technology Research, for his keynote session on 9th May at 10.30 in Theatre 2.

Women in Technology network launch

A few topics seem to come up time and again in the technology industry – two of the most important being the skills gap, and the lack of diversity.

As separate as they may seem, they are inextricably linked.  Current research questions whether the UK has enough graduates coming through our universities with the right skills – the number of under graduates choosing a STEM subject-based degree course is decreasing, something which some experts have put down to the declining popularity of these subjects amongst girls. We’ve already started to make inroads into schools through our work with Cubetto, but this doesn’t encompass the struggle of retaining women skilled in these areas in key roles. But does this affect Tesco? And what can we do?

Currently, just over 20% of our Technology team is female. Our Technology recruitment team is working hard to ensure that diversity is a consideration in all their activities; but we also want to make sure that we retain the incredible talent we have in our female workforce! Feedback has shown time and again that women at Tesco want to feel inspired and empowered to drive their careers forward, and we want to be as proactive as we can be in supporting this, bringing us together to learn from, develop and support each other.

That’s exactly what the recently re-launched Women in Technology network aims to provide. It kicked off on 8th March (International Women’s’ Day), with almost 200 of our colleagues in both the UK and India signing up to be part of the network. Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” philosophy, our aim is to bring together the women in our technology organisation to learn with and from each other about issues which affect us; focus on our development, career goals and aspirations; build confidence and capability (in areas where research shows women would benefit from it most) and develop our internal network. The Women in Technology Group will provide access to role models, peer groups & other valuable career resources, to support the development of women in our function. Our plan is to hold bi-monthly small group sessions (“Circles”) alternating between education & exploration meetings. These will be tailored to our network’s needs and wants, and will include discussions, external speakers and workshops.

We’re really excited to see how our network will grow, and the opportunities it will present for our colleagues. It’s for Tesco employees only, so unfortunately we can’t include any of our partners, but if you’ve got experience of something similar then please feel free to share your stories with us via email.

Collaborating with RCA Design Students

“code + food = ?”

As part of Tesco Labs’ continued outreach to academic and research institutions we have been excited to partner recently with the Design Products faculty of the London Royal College of Art.   During winter 2016 and spring 2017 we exchanged visits and feedback with 13 MA students as they embarked on tackling the brief: ‘code + food = ?’

Senior Tutor at the RCA Dr Robert Phillips created the initial brief below and contacted Tesco to ask if we would help to support.

‘Exploring the combination of food & technology

Hunger remains a challenge for the 795 million people worldwide who still do not have adequate access to safe, nutritious food in their communities, while global populations are expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Our relationship with food in the UK is becoming costly, distant and unsustainable, our consumption reliant on international producers. In a nation where we are experiencing increasing digital opportunities but also increasing evidence of class-based stratification and inequality, how can we inspire design students to not only think critically about food security issues, but also to build their own digital solutions aimed at provoking positive change? Furthermore, what are the design opportunities for innovative food and technology collaborations between industry and academia that can help solve core issues around food production, distribution, consumption, and security?

Design Products at the Royal College of Art, launched a project entitled Code + Food = ?, collaborating with a new set of industry partners and discussants, from Tescos, Microsoft and Growing Underground. We applied a three-stage process to learning, stressing a research-based approach to ensure design outputs were based on grounded evidence. The first stage, called SENSE/MAKE, focused on evidence gathering, and identification of design challenges to explore. This included field trips in collaboration with industry partners, from web grocery distribution centres to underground micro seed grow-ops. In stage two, MAKE/DEPLOY, students were prompted to experiment, deploy and intervene, iterating on their own design ideas with the help of hands-on workshops and 1:1 tutorials. The responses have ranged from: retail experiences through digital devices, health and wellbeing, reduction in food waste, using food to create music, rebalancing meat consumption and a more sustainable approach to rice farming. Food, its design, impact and implementation are key to our survival and emulates part of the Design Products approach of “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion…” (Thomas Paine 1780).’

During October 2016 Robert and his students visited Tesco Labs where they were immersed in the world of Tesco Technology, and walked through the key role role it plays in supporting the operation of the food retail business. The Tesco Labs team then completed a return trip to the RCA in January to support and feed back on the early project concepts being developed.

Tesco Labs introduced the students to some of the exciting new technology shaping the future of food retailing, including introductions to Tesco’s cutting edge developments within the area of APIs and Services through to the potential of Robotics and IoT.

Most recently Tesco was treated to an amazing day of final presentations from the students which took place on 21 March 2017 at the Tesco’s head office in Welwyn Garden City. It was an inspiring and illuminating event attended by lucky colleagues from across the Tesco business.

Tesco Labs are delighted to be part of this fresh new collaboration, and enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing and deepening the relationship with Robert and the Design Products team in the future.

(P.S: COMING SOON. Look out for videos of the students’ excellent final presentations.)