The power of voice

Update: 27 August 2019. A beta version of Tesco on Google Assistant is now available. Ask your Google Assistant to “Talk to Tesco” to get started.

It’s been some time since voice emerged as a trend in tech, and 2017 saw a number of large retailers take their first steps to engaging with voice-activated assistants.

The last week has also seen a range of stories on this theme emerge from CES in Las Vegas, highlighting advances from both Google and Amazon, and showing that this trend isn’t going anywhere.

It was back in May 2017 that we announced that Google Home users could integrate their device with Tesco home grocery shopping using and voice activation for a seamless shopping experience. To date, the Tesco applet on has run over 74,600 times, with more than 5,500 people connecting through Amazon Alexa, and over 2,400 through Google Home.

We were also interested to see a strong peak in use on Christmas day (below) – we’re assuming that lots of you received voice-activated assistants as gifts, and had fun setting them up!

Want to get started? To set it up you need to have Google Assistant and Tesco accounts and have them both connected to IFTTT. You can then go here and switch on the applet.

We’re always keen to better understand how customers are using these devices, and how we can improve your experience. If you’d like to share any feedback, please feel free to contact us.

India Graduate Program – Meet the Graduates

ChandanKumar Singha is the second graduate we meet in this series of blog posts from our India-based graduate students. Here he shares his experience of the program.

“Tesco Labs placements is a program where graduates work in teams on assigned mini-projects under the Tesco Labs team.  The purpose of this exercise is to build teams, understand a range of problems and challenges faced by the business, and ideate around them with the aim of developing a prototype solution.

Phase 1: Understanding the Problem 
We were given six problem statements, and spent our first week understanding these problems. Having developed some understanding of the business and existing processes, at the end of the week we were assigned the problem of making recruitment process more efficient.

Phase 2: Ideate, Create an MVP
After delving into the problem statement, our team came up with a few ideas; which ranged from ways to better extract information from resumes, to creating an end-to-end solution for recruiters. We reached the consensus that the purpose of our minimum viable product (MVP) should be the development of a chatbot which would be able to answer retrieval based questions promptly, whilst also profiling and archiving users for future reference. In my experience of applying for roles, I’ve found that waiting for replies from recruiters can become frustrating – our use of chatbots aims to ease that pain and improve the user experience.

After a lot of online research, we came to a conclusion that the chatbot industry is still in its infancy; there is no well established framework, and players are competing against each other. With the current hype around chatbots, the team were hopeful that this would open up a world of possibilities for our work.

Phase 3: Build
Prototyping is a way to test our idea with a small scale implementation. We worked for four weeks to develop the prototype of our chatbot. On a personal level, through our team work I’ve been stretching myself to check on everybody’s progress to see if anybody needs help. I had to think of various events and tasks so that we could divide the work fairly, which is something I have never done before, and at times it was quite difficult to convince fellow team members to do something. I soon realised that anything proposed has to be backed by the proper resources to justify that ask.

On another note, it’s hard to digest the call back concept of Node JS when all you’ve played is with CPP and Java. Node JS was new to my teammates, and a number of times they ended up writing sync functions and returning values which required asynchronous computations. I was happy to take the role of teacher, and help them understand the essence of call backs.

For the bot itself, we used Microsoft’s bot framework. The advantage of using a framework like this is that it comes with a lot of developed, tested, secure and optimised code which speeds up the process of development. Since a framework has a developer community around it, the chances of scaling and finding help are much improved, but my team and I found it difficult to get relevant answers to our questions related to the bot framework. If you look into questions on stackoverflow tagged “botbuilder”, you won’t find more than 100 questions, so we had to ask a few questions on stackoverflow of our own – but I am glad that we could add to it.

We did come across a few challenges in the process, which started with the lack of time. I always try to find best possible solution to a problem and write elegant code, but soon realised that in a few cases, it is wise to  compromise. Sometimes it’s about getting things done. Hovering through various blogs on chatbots, I realised how mind maps can be helpful to impart a common understanding to the team, but since we had little time at hand we had to start digging. We couldn’t draw mind maps.

I also realised while writing code/building, how easy it is to forget our goal. Our team found standup meetings important to keep the us on track for the final goal.

We made sure to follow some of the good practices mentioned in the botframework’s documentation. Like narrowing down the user choices to broader questions like “how can I help?”, which gives users a perspective of what the bot can assist them with. Such suggestions help the users make decisions quickly and properly and are therefore regarded as an industry best practice. We also added carousels to enhance the users’ experience.

On a sidenote
During the build phase, we had to nominate people from other teams and acknowledge the help that we get from our peers every week. I was eager to be the resource guy. And on second week people acknowledged that I was of great help. The Bot industry is still in its infancy and there is great potential in it. Working on this was an enriching and motivating experience for me.

What’s Next?
It was fun working on the Labs placement, and I learnt a lot. During the development our team clearly felt there was a need for a more integrated and common platform for communication like Facebook or LinkedIn. If appropriate to the business, we think that this project could be taken forward in the form of a Facebook Chatbot or an independent bot that could be integrated with our company’s official website. Thanks to the Labs team for giving us the opportunity to work in this way and explore these options!”


India Graduate Program – Meet the Graduates

Saransh Mehta took part in the 2017 Labs Graduate Placement. He is an aspiring Product Manager, with a background in both engineering and science.

“While one would think that developers just need to know the language and the skill to write working code, the Labs placement activity made us think otherwise.

Before we jumped into writing code and building our working prototypes, we were taught about a certain way of thinking. I personally always felt that products should be designed to communicate stories, and the design thinking workshop we experienced carved out a path to understand how to do that.

Meenakshi, one of the product managers at Tesco Labs, had a couple of activities for all of us to dive into. As a mock brainstorming activity, we were asked to design a solution to improve cab journeys to the office for Tesco employees in Bengaluru. By taking a user-centric, solution oriented approach, we were able to come up with a well thought out and an in-consensus interpretation to the problem. Creating something of value being central to our exploration, we realized the importance of independent thinking in groups. It helped us come up with amazing ideas and finally with all the ideas on the table, we were able to narrow down the ones that were the most practical and that we, as a team, believed in.

The next challenge was to apply these learnings in our Labs project, our problem statement being along the lines of re-imagining the recruitment process at Tesco. We started with understanding the company recruitment and interview processes by talking to all the possible stakeholders, be it HR, or people from the interview panel. Once we understood what problems looked like from different perspectives, we started to narrow down, filter and combine the problems into separate categories and sub-categories. With the next step, we diverged, independently thinking of solutions to the problem categories.

Categorizing problems

Ideating. Breakthrough thinking. Breaking down the solution.

We matched customer needs with what is technologically feasible, and a viable business strategy.

Thinking about the future. The Next Big Thing?

Our biggest takeaway from the design thinking workshop was that we needed to pen things down, get things out of our head on to paper and create a distributed system for idea-sharing. Once you bring your thoughts out of your head into the world, you are essentially freeing up processing power. Following this practice, on parameters of need, feasibility and innovation, we could imagine and analyse our proposed solutions.

As an industry standard, agile practitioners use Kanban boards to set the priorities right and expand their memory-horizon. For our project, we used Trello boards to keep matters in check. To assign tasks, to organize our work, to ensure that we didn’t lose out on our ideas, we updated the Trello board daily during our stand-ups, which created a story line for us. With updated boards every morning, all of us knew what we had to do by the end of the day. Apart from task prioritising, we needed a structure as part of the team building process. Within the team, we tried to understand each other’s predispositions to be able to put every person in the right role. This idea revolves around making the best use of your team talents. All of us may have the same job title, yet we’re all very different people with different inclinations. After much deliberation, we decided upon four concrete roles in our team. We had a code reviewer, a researcher (product and feature critic), an integrator (breadth of technological knowledge, can get multiple things to work together) and a planner in our team. By creating well-defined tasks for every person, we were able to build confidence, reduce conflicts and cover all the aspects of product development needed for a successful outcome.”

Saransh Mehta,
Tesco Labs Graduate Programme, 2017

And the winners are…

It’s been quite the week for the Tesco Labs team: we’ve been heavily involved in Tech. powered by Retail Week and were delighted to be named as winners in last night’s awards.

The team were delighted to hear that we had been shortlisted not once, not twice, but three times at the Retail Week Tech awards. The Tesco Labs team was listed in the “Tech Team of the Year” category, whilst Kunal Ramkumar and Vidya Laxman were recognised in the “Digital Transformation Pioneer” and “Digital Native” categories respectively. The awards ceremony, held at London’s Hawker House, was an exciting take on the usual format, and brought together the leading names in retail technology to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the last year.

We’re pleased to share that we took home the award for Digital Transformation Pioneer. This award was well deserved by Software Development Engineer Kunal Ramkumar, who, having identified operational inefficiency issues within our solutions for planning in store displays, with scope for huge improvement. Through looking at the basic principles of merchandising, and applying technological solutions to a basic merchandising problem which affects all retailers, Kunal found a solution which is both cost and time effective, the impact of which could change the face of future retail merchandising.

The Labs team was also named silver award winners of Tech Team of the Year, recognising the continuing innovative work that the team produces. With the consistent aim of improving the retail experience for both Tesco customers and colleagues, and with our sights fixed firmly on emerging technology, the team strive to ensure that Tesco remains one step ahead of the curve. Work with trends such as voice activated assistants, connected home devices, and VR and AR particularly impressed the judges.

But that’s not all…

On Wednesday, Angela Maurer, Head of Tesco Labs, took to the stage to talk about our schools outreach activity, promoting STEM subjects in schools, and diversity in the technology industry. Her grand finale was the announcement that we are open sourcing all the materials needed to deliver the activity, enabling other companies all over the world to reach out to this important demographic and help to shift the needle on these key issues.

Thursday saw Paul Wilkinson, Head of Research, Tesco Labs, addressing the audience on our work with voice activated assistants, and what this could mean to the future of retail.

Throughout the 2 day event, Tesco Labs was also delighted to be the headline sponsor for the Retail Week Tech Sprint. Billed as a “technology battle royale”, the Tech. Sprint brought together leading visionaries in retail tech to generate new and innovative ideas. The Challenge: 24 hours to build the shopping experience of the future in a connected world, was set by the Retail Week team and Tesco Labs. The teams pitched their solutions to an expert judging panel (led by Paul Wilkinson) with the three best teams battling it out on the Discovery Stage.

Congratulations to all the awards winners, and thank you to Retail Week – we’re looking forward to next year already!

Innovation through Inspiration: open source announcement

Earlier this year, the Tesco Labs team began looking into how we could inspire primary school children to study STEM subjects – today, we’re delighted to share what we’ve developed.

Through our research into diversity in technology, we discovered that children as young as 4 years old form stereotypes around gender roles in various careers; with the result that many girls are less keen to study STEM subject than boys. As a result, we’ve tailored our outreach activities for primary school children to impress upon them that technology is not just “for boys” and that opportunities exist in a range of diverse roles within the technology industry. You may have read about our first activity, when we spent the day with Key Stage 1 students at Roundwood Primary School in Harpenden. (If you missed it, read the blog post here).

We used “Cubetto“, Primo Toys’ friendly wooden robot which teaches children the basics of programming through hands on play and adventure. In order to give the activity a retail technology slant, we worked with Ape Creative to produce customised accessories for the robot, giving it a simplified Tesco store layout to navigate around, whilst challenging the children to collect specific items from a bespoke shopping list; all to be gathered in their personalised shopping trolley.

The success of the activity, and the popularity amongst both schools and parents, has been overwhelming. We’ve connected with around 250 children so far, and intend to continue to grow this as much as we possibly can. So, we were delighted to be invited to talk about our work on stage at Retail Week’s Tech event this week.

The talk about our work, given by Head of Tesco Labs, Angela Maurer, not only covered the why, where and how of our work, but also the passion that the team have for continuing to address the gender imbalance in our industry, and the challenges that we face if we try to continue to do this as individuals. Which is why we are delighted to be able to open this activity up to other retailers, and look to give the opportunity to connect with schools in the same way to as many companies as possible.

From today, we are open sourcing all the materials we have used to bring this activity to life; from the tried and tested activity plan through to the bright and beautiful accessories created specifically with this in mind. If you would like to deliver this activity then all you will need to do is download the items and purchase the Cubetto kits that you need.

The links below allow you to download the pdf files of the original artwork. If you would like to download the indesign files, please email the Tesco Labs team who will be happy to share these.

Activity playbook

Print materials
Shop Layout Mat
Produce Cards
Shopping Lists

Primo Toys

Ape Creative

Finally, we’d love to hear your stories of the activities you lead using these tools! If you’d like to share them, please feel free to share them via email or twitter.

India Hackathon 2017

Hot on the heels of our 2017 UK Hackathon is the second instalment of the competition, this time running in our offices in Bengaluru, India.

We’re delighted to announce that the 24 hour event will be running on 21-22 September, and teams will be competing to harness the technology of the future and produce a working prototype to present to a panel of judges.

Working to the theme of ‘The Future is Now’, the teams will be encouraged to think big – and look to the current emerging technological trends for their inspiration. They’ll be following in the footsteps of teams (many of whom worked through the night) who have produced a wide range of very impressive solutions, from new delivery models through to collaborative shopping propositions, voice-activated assistants, and a two-factor authentication for online shoppers.

Each team will have a matter of minutes to pitch and demonstrate their idea to our panel of judges, who will be looking for a combination of an exciting use of new technology, a smooth and enjoyable user experience, and how applicable the solution is to the business.

If you’ve never been involved in a hackathon, now’s your chance! It’s a common opinion that you have to be a coder to compete, but that’s definitely not the case – we’re looking for teams with a range of skills, so whether you’re a comms specialist, a designer, security expert or product manager, we want you!

Tesco colleagues can register online today using the link circulated – please see communications for details!

(Please note that this competition is only open to Tesco colleagues, and that you must be able to get to the Bengaluru offices to participate – remote participation will not be available).


Hackathon Winners Announcement

With their sights set firmly on future technology, a total of 57 teams gathered last week to participate in our annual India Hackathon. Working on the theme “The Future is Now”, the hackers had 24 hours to produce a working prototype and pitch a solution to an existing problem to our panel of judges. There was a real buzz in the air as the teams got to work, with pressure and excitement building as they worked to the tight timeline.
48 teams completed the challenge, with 46 of those presenting to the judges – a very exciting event as each team had just minutes to persuade the panel of the winning attributes of their solution.

The winning teams were:
Winner: Gang of Four, with their hack to help customers choose the fastest queue for checkout.

1st Runner up: Robo Cards, whose solution was a robot which is able to use portable electronic devices, and complete transactions, as well as humans.

2nd Runner up: Smart Shoppers, with a solution to show ongoing deals and recommend shopping items with just a tap of your phone.

The winners of the “Most Ambitious” category were Grey Matter, who worked on a solution to crowdsource the Tesco delivery system, powered by Blockchain. And the “Most Creative” team were Cherry Pick, who presented a mobile app to radically simplify the in-store shopping experience. Congratulations!

A big thank you goes to Partha Roy and Bhavesh Kumar who led on the organisation of the event, and to all our participants, who made the event very special. We’re looking forward to the next event already!

Interview: the Labs Graduate Placement experience

How easy is it to produce a project to pitch to the Tesco Technology leadership team…in just 7 weeks?

Each year, our cohort of Tesco Technology graduates spend time with the Tesco Labs team. They are divided into groups and challenged to come up with innovative solutions to problems which affect our business, customers or colleagues. Their time on the placement is peppered with workshops, training, ideation sessions and mentoring; and their final task is to present their solution to the Tesco Technology leadership team.

Lawrence, 23, has just come to the end of his 2 year Graduate Scheme with Tesco. His placements around the company have been varied, ranging from being tasked with looking at new devices for customer picking, upgrading backend systems, working as a Technology Manager in the Tesco Bengaluru office, and most recently working with the Transport and Tracking team as a Product Manager. Coming to Tesco with a combined Maths and Computer Science degree at Warwick University, Lawrence has so far thrown himself into technology-focused activities at Tesco; including participating in hack days and the annual company Hackathon. With aspirations for an engineering or technology manager-style role as the next step in his career, Lawrence was prepared to be one of the more technically-minded in his Labs placement group. We caught up with him at the end of the Tesco Labs section of the Graduate placement to find out what he thought of the experience.

Q: Did you have any preconceptions about the Labs placement?
A: I had heard about the placement from grads in the year above me, and was generally excited about it. At that point I didn’t really have any ideas but I was really looking forward to working with my peers in that environment. I was a bit apprehensive about what my group would be like, but we have I think that we have such a real mix of skills across the cohort that any group would have been manageable. which has made it really enjoyable.

Q: How did you find the group work?
A: We started with ideation, and found this quite challenging initially. From the outset I wanted to work on something that would ‘revolutionise retail’, specifically I wanted to take some risks and steer clear of just developing another app, but we were having trouble coming up with an idea that was achievable yet stretching and that would actually add value. Our lightbulb moment came following a 10x session, where we looked at how we could really ramp up the value our ideas would deliver without considering the limitations of existing systems or processes.

Q: What was the hardest / easiest thing you had to do?
A: The hardest thing was sticking to our idea throughout the placement, but the easiest thing was maintaining morale. This was really helped by the working environment – it was really refreshing to work in such an unconstrained way. We were able to have absolute control over engineering and product, which helped us to work in a fast-paced, high-energy way.

Q: How did you prepare for the demo day and the final presentation?
A: We opted to roll the preparation for presentation and demo day into one, so we basically split the presentation between the three of us and drew up some slides. Our concept wasn’t massively visual so we put together some diagrams and graphs to demonstrate the work we had done.
Our aim for the demo day was to gather a lot of feedback from colleagues and understand what the FAQs were, so that we could address these in the final presentation. This turned out to be a really good idea as the nature of our idea led to a bit of a grilling in the Q&A following the presentation.

Q: What did you learn?
A: I came into the project with a good technical background, but I was relatively inexperienced on the product side of things. Throughout the project I took learnings from the Labs team and my team members on the product vision and how we can work in a more value-driven way.
On the flip side, both of my team members were starting from a non-technical background, so I could pass on some knowledge too, which was quite rewarding as I could see real growth from both of them throughout the placement.

Q: Do you have any advice for grads doing the same placement next year?
A: I think that future grads shouldn’t be afraid to take risks, and should definitely do the 10x exercise. A lot of the value I gained from the placement came from taking on a controversial idea, so I would encourage them to do the same. Don’t let the restrictions of our existing systems or the availability of data prevent you from building your vision. Whilst we had moments of doubt throughout the project, each time we resolved to ‘embrace the concept’ to deliver a quality product, and one that certainly sparked lively discussion at the demo day and the leadership presentation!
One final thing is to make the most of the demo day. It’s a really good forum to discuss your idea in-depth before the presentation, so make sure to capture any thoughts or questions that come out of the day as they will probably come up in the presentation.

The placement was really rewarding, and while there were challenges, there isn’t much I would do differently. Having control over product and engineering simultaneously enabled us to operate in a start-up style team and iterate really quickly. A totally absorbing and totally rewarding placement overall!

Inventors flock to our annual Hackathon

When you’ve had that lightbulb moment it’s hard to switch it off, and for 70 budding inventors our seventh annual 24-hour Hackathon was the perfect place to turn bright ideas into reality.

We were thrilled to welcome 16 teams of hackers to our Welwyn Garden City campus this year where they had just 24 hours to turn their ideas for new technology to help our customers or colleagues, into a working prototype. Teams were a mix of office and store colleagues, and guests from companies such as IBM, O2, Oracle and Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH).

Working to the theme of ‘Future Trends’, the teams (many of whom worked through the night) produced a wide range of very impressive solutions, from new delivery models through to collaborative shopping propositions, voice-activated assistants, and the two-factor authentication for online shoppers.

Each team had three minutes to pitch and demonstrate their idea to our panel of judges: Chief Technology Officer Edmond Mesrobian, Technology Directory Mike Yorwerth, Chief Customer Officer Alessandra Bellini and BBC Click journalist Kate Russell. Together the judges chose their first, second and third prize winners, while an audience of colleagues from our Technology team voted for a ‘People’s Choice’ prize-winner. Event organisers from the Tesco Labs team also awarded a ‘Most Valuable Player’ prize to the person they thought had contributed the most to the event.

The winners

First prize: Tickets to attend Web Summit in Lisbon
Winners: James Davenport, Matthew Bennett, Oliver Joel and Lawrence Rayner (atHack of the Clones)
Hack: Multi-basket shopping. This extension to our Grocery Home Shopping site allows groups of people (e.g. in a house-share) to shop together – each adding their own products, but being notified of cost savings that they could take advantage of through multi-purchases. The customers are then able to shop in the most cost-effective way, but can also easily work out how much each has spent.

Second prize: Google Kitchen Sync cooking experience
Winners: BBH Stockholm
Hack: Collaborative shopping solution: an app that notifies customers when their friends, family and neighbours are planning to visit a store. This allows them to request items to be bought for them, and would reward the shopper with Clubcard points. An added benefit is that this would reduce the number of cars driven to stores, lessening the impact on the climate.

Third prize: Tickets to Tech. powered by Retail Week
Winners: Antony Turner and Roger Bowler – Clay Cross Extra
Hack: A McDonald’s-style drive-through delivery model for groceries. In the style of many fast food drive-throughs, customers would be able to drive directly to a tablet placed outside a store and select the items that they would like to purchase. This information would be relayed to colleagues via an app, picking would be done immediately, and the customer would have their items delivered directly to their car.

People’s Choice prize: Amazon Echo dot devices
Winners: Antony Turner and Roger Bowler – Clay Cross Extra
Hack: Drive-through delivery model

Most Valuable Player prize: Google Cardboard virtual reality device
Winner: Darren Gibson

Tesco Technology Grad Matthew Bennett was on the winning team and said: “I feel delighted about winning and so proud of what the team achieved in this time.” Meanwhile the third prize and coveted People’s Choice award went to Antony Turner and Roger Bowler of our Clay Cross Extra store. Antony commented: “Neither of us has much technical knowledge, and we don’t know how to code so it goes to show what you can achieve with a good idea!”

Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winners! It was fantastic to see teams from so many different disciplines come together to create such innovative solutions in such a short amount of time. Check out our photos of the event on Flikr.

T-Jam 2017 dates announced!

Large retailer WLTM exciting, driven and creative start-ups, for collaboration and maybe more: perhaps even to create the next big thing in the retail space.

We at Tesco Labs are dying to hear your start-up or company’s idea for the next big thing in retail innovation…and what better time to hold our next speed-dating event than during London Tech Week?

We’re bringing our 2017 T-Jam event to our London offices in the Lever Building, 85 Clerkenwell Road, EC1R 5AR on Wednesday 14th June; and we want you and any start-ups wanting to pitch their idea to join us for an exciting afternoon of food, drink, and tech speed-dating!

Come along and speed-date your idea with senior Tesco product owners, technologists, and members of our multichannel leadership team. We’ll provide you with the chance to have your idea heard by Tesco people from across the business; to hear which problems at the top of our ‘to-solve’ list at Tesco; and to meet lots of interesting people.

Numbers are limited because of time constraints (we want to give each speed-dater the chance to meet as many Tesco people as possible), so please apply for a place here.

You have until Friday 2nd June to apply – what are you waiting for?

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.