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.)

Help wanted with our grocery shopping experiment!

Making a more intuitive way for customers to shop their favourites.

At the 2014 Tesco Globe’athon (our first global Hackathon) we had the idea to make the ‘favourites’ ‘browse and shop’ experience more optimal by allowing customers to organise them in more personally intuitive groups, in ways that make sense for them.

Favourites on the website, actually refers to past purchases in store or online and, with wide palates and big families, can become a very long list for a regular Tesco shopper. I should know, I’ve got over 540 favourites!!

We already offer customers the ability to create ‘shopping lists’ on the Tesco grocery website, but we wanted to recognise the centrality these ‘favourite’ or ‘previously purchased’ products have to a weekly grocery shop and extend a similar feature just to them.

It is our hypothesis that if there were a way for customers to organise, browse and shop their ‘favourites’ more intuitively then customers may well become more satisfied with their overall order.

What we’ve done:
We’ve created Foodlisto which provides a stand-alone window into a customer’s grocery favourites.

Foodlisto allows customers to login with their existing grocery details and:

  • Create bespoke categories for their favourites
  • List sort those categories that are created
  • Edit and update the name and the contents of categories that are created

(*Customers can also add products to their actual basket using Foodlisto. But customers cannot check-out on Foodlisto itself.)

What we’d like to do now with Foodlisto:
We want to learn more about our customer’s appetite for organising their favourites this way and also which categories are created.

To achieve this we are currently looking for willing recruits to use Foodlisto and categorise their favourites for us.

Over a period of 6 weeks, from mid December 2014 to the end of January 2015, we will collect all category names that get created and the products within them.  We really want to know if this is useful and how you real people would use it.

All the data and insight generated from Foodlisto will be passed to the grocery development team to help them improve the  overall customer experience*

How you can help:
This experiment has now closed but we have created a short video below to show how categorising your favourites work with Foodlisto would work.

Please note: Foodlisto is a hack and works best on larger screens. We recommend you are on a laptop or desktop computer. Foodlisto will not currently work on smartphones or screens smaller than an iPad in landscape view.

Data Caveat: for more information on the security and privacy of your data, please see

but basically for the duration of our experiment please be aware that the names and contents of the food categories you create on Foodlisto will be recorded and shared internally at Tesco. This information will be recorded anonymously and will not be distributed with anyone outside of Tesco. If you would not like your category data used in this way then please don’t use Foodlisto. 

A lesson in ‘experience design’ from our customers during ‘Feet on The Floor.’

How even the smallest things can make a big difference for customers.

To get the most from my ‘Feet on the Floor’ (the six days all Head Office colleagues spend in store in the run up to Christmas) I’ve decided to ‘walk the walk’ (see what I’ve done there) and focus all energy on being friendly, helpful and empathetic.

I am naturally intrigued by and drawn to what difference this actually makes when you are working on the shop floor and what clues I can gather for my work as a designer at Tesco.

In practical terms ‘walking the walk’ has translated in to a few simple things:

I greet customers as I encounter them. Typically with a ‘good morning’ a ‘good afternoon’ or a simple classic ‘hello.’

I offer assistance when I sense it’s needed. Typically with an ‘is everything OK there?’ or a ‘hi there, can I help?’

I respond politely and quickly myself when approached directly or I swiftly refer on to a more informed colleague. Typically ‘with a ‘yes/no sir/madam… I believe the product in question is over here’ or a ‘if you give me two minutes sir/madam I’ll check with a colleague/I’ll double check the back room for you.’

I smile at customers as I encounter them in the aisle.

At first I wasn’t sure how my ‘chirpiness’ would be construed. Happily, this slight sense of personal awkwardness isn’t mutual.

As anyone who has done this will know, the results are indisputably positive.

Every greeting I have made has been returned. Every small customer mission I have undertaken has been met with gratitude and warmth. I’ve encountered zero customers who are unprepared to interact at some level with me.

In a couple of instances I’ve even heard a faint murmur of happiness or spotted a fleeting glance of satisfaction as a customer has headed toward the tills with the product they wanted. When that has happened it has also made me feel good.

The powerful lesson here is that performing these simple interactions correctly has a disproportionately large impact.

If we bring this in to context of designing future experiences for Tesco it’s a reminder to have a broad lens when working on Tesco products and services of the future.

Our ‘experience design’ practices must start with an acknowledgement that our customers are human first and consumers second.  Compelling design therefore must meet both our customer’s human needs whilst completely satisfying their needs as consumers.

We know that friendly, tactile micro interactions produce this magical feel good effect. They reveal the path we must take to make customers feel good.

The opportunity for us in Tesco right now is to both remember this and to really invest in as many ways as possible to cater for and replicate this feel good effect.

As an important action in the lab this is a theme I want to carry in to 2015. It makes me feel very excited about the opportunities for designing new retail experiences at Tesco in the future.

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.

Wearables we’ll actually wear…

Will consumers every really wear wearables?

As the momentum behind wearable technology continues to build in 2014, I can’t help think that the devices and consumer products that will actually stick are those that get the correct balance of being both a ‘cool technology’ and a being ‘truly’ wearable ( and here I mean wearable in the sense that we actually desire and want these products about our person whilst we go about our normal lives.)

I think the Google Glass is the typical example here. You’d be a braver, more knowledgable man than I to predict the adoption of the Google Glass as a consumer product.

I’m deeeefinitely not going to do that.

However, as I’ve watched maiden voyages on the Glass product my experience has been that folk really need to digest the notion of having this new experience so vital, as it is, in relation to their head and physical person.

My point here with the Google Glass example – (and forgive me if it is relatively obvious) –  isn’t that Glass is not  a fantastically exciting consumer product, utilising some fascinating and compelling technology.

Of course it is.

It’s more the point that if consumers are going to adopt these devices as part of their daily routines and lives, it seems to me they really, really are  going to have to compliment our life’s – both practically and aesthetically – if they are to be taken to our consumer hearts.

My absolute favourite spot this year with regards a truly gorgeous looking consumer wearable is Todd Hamilton’s iWatch Concept.

If this Todd’s concept is a glimmer of the future of wearables, then I am all for it!