April 19, 2012

Shared Student Shopping System: PACT analysis and prototype design

[toggle title_open=”Close Me” title_closed=”Contents” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”]1. Introduction
2. PACT analysis
3. Observations
4. Secondary research
5. Low Fidelity visualisation prototype for the interface
6. Feedback on the Design[/toggle]


1. Introduction
The purpose of this report is to act as a PACT analysis accompanied by a prototype design for the (SSSS) that needs to be implemented in the online grocery ordering process. The online grocery shopping is offered by many supermarkets (ASDA, Sainsbury’s, TESCO, Waitrose, OCADO) from which everyone can order and be cost efficient with the help of the graphical user interface that lets them verify how much they have spent before making the checkout, and trough the delivery system that is relatively cheap, but most important, environmentally friendly.

2. PACT analysis
The main types of people that are using this system are those with a busy schedule, those that do not have a car to transport their items (i.e. students), or people with disabilities (Cheng 2011). Whatever the reason, this system has to fulfil everybody’s requirements whether they are expert users or novice.

If we think about the problems that a group of students who share an accommodation can come across, the most significant ones are: having to collect the payment and arranging the delivery for a combined order. This problem emerges from the fact that all of them are different, with unique preferences and personalities, fact that makes the sharing activity complex and difficult to deal with. Furthermore, since the system that could solve their partitioning problem is missing, they are strained to buy expensive groceries from local stores individually.

Online grocery shopping is an activity that is not very frequent, it generally occurs three or four times per month, depending on the user’s lifestyle and on how much money is he willing to spend. Supermarkets make online grocery shopping available seven days a week but the orders have to be placed by 10PM on the day before the delivery.

In a shared house the online ordering activity is carried out by all of its tenants because they have to select their personal products from the same user account and then checkout as a group. This whole process consists the following six stages: browse products, select items, book a delivery slot, enter personal information and payment details.

Context of use:
Physically, this activity takes place at any time of the day in an indoor environment (the room of a house or a computer lab for example) where the presence of at least one computer is essential. Socially, this task does not need privacy and it may happen in a group of cohabiting students that have to use the system in the same time. Organisationally, this system is very ecologically constructed due to the fact that all the products are listed online and due to the delivery method that is made trough only one vehicle for 20-30 customers, bringing their items right to their door.

Current Technology:
First of all, to start the online grocery shopping activity, a computer with an operating system installed on is required. There is a certain amount of information that needs to be inserted by the user (contact details, address, payment details, etc.), which indicates the fact that a keyboard is a necessary tool. Another essential input tool is the mouse, which permits the user to navigate trough the website.
A monitor is necessary in order to have visual access to the data stored on the website. The user has to perceive the information transmitted through the electronic channel (the monitor screen) and decode it using his language skills and his ability to interpret and recognise graphics (Bloisi 2010).
The communication between the website’s database and the user’s computer is established via an Internet connection. Updates are being rolled out on the website every day by its administrator to ensure the user about what products are still on stock or what offers have been changed. Besides the option to order through a classical shopping website, another way to run this activity is trough a Google Chrome Application, which only the Tesco supermarket has.

Future Technology:
One of the technological improvements that could be made for the online grocery system is smartphone app integration. In an era where time matters the most, a smartphone application would offer the user the flexibility to do the online shopping anytime from everywhere, as long as the smartphone is connected to the Internet (3G or Wi-Fi).
The second improvement could be a GPS notification system that alerts the user 15 minutes before the delivery truck arrives. By doing this, the customer would know exactly when the groceries will arrive and would not have to wait for one or two hours.

3. Observations
In order to get a better understanding of how users (students in a shared accommodation in this case) act when they come across different situations while ordering groceries online, it is essential to use the process mapping method (Jacka and Keller 2009).

The online grocery shopping activity begins in the moment when a shopping list is made by each one of the participating users, and one of them adds every item that is on the list to the virtual basket. The biggest problem of the system already appears from this early stage due to the supermarket’s website incompatibility to let multiple users select their products as a group on the same account.

 Furthermore, this impractical mode of sharing an order is very frustrating for the students, who care less about groceries and more about their personal time and entertaining activities.

Another issue spotted during the observation process is related to the delivery time. As it can be seen in the picture on the left, not all the people are consuming the same amount of products during a given period of time, fact that determines those who consume less to delay the order until their products are finished too.
Only one member of the group paying for everybody’s groceries online is another issue that was observed, meaning that the responsibilities are unequally partitioned. This has an impact on the moment when the groceries arrive and the person who paid has additional tasks: to determine how much the others have to pay and collect their money. Furthermore, supermarkets like Tesco offer vouchers when ordering over a certain amount, which makes the payment collection even more difficult.

To sum up, all the aspects that have been observed during a shared grocery order are pointing out the fact that the online system requires a revamp. By making some improvements on their websites, supermarkets could easily resolve the sharing issue and more importantly, benefit from this and raise their profit.

4. Secondary research
Nowadays, almost every supermarket has the necessary infrastructure for an online shopping system built. Mintel (2011), a market research company, states that supermarkets have made a significant investment in the e-commerce business lately because they “have looked to avoid being left behind and lose customers to competitors“.
Apart from this, a website named mySupermarket was developed in 2005 to join five popular online retailers from United Kingdom and give a new experience to the online grocery shopping trough their distinctive graphical user interface.

Like any other retail website that is on the Internet, this website does not holds the solution for the Shared Student Shopping System problem, but it offers, compared to others, a clearly defined organisational structure of the products, labeled icons for each category and the option to compare prices between retailers. With features like these, shopping online for groceries becomes an easy and pleasant task, even for people who use the site for the first time (Brinck et al. 2002: 164).

Besides having a checkout as a group option for a shared order, these are the key features that my interface prototype should incorporate. Furthermore, I think that the new design will stimulate customers to conceptualise and infer the structure of the website more easily (Brinck et al. 2002: 126). Consequently, they will be focused only on doing their shopping, no matter if they share the order or not.

5. Low Fidelity visualisation / prototype for the interface

This is a low fidelity visualisation of the basket panel that is structured to support a shared order. Based on this sketch, I have created the following prototype for the Sainsbury’s online grocery shopping system.

The products from the basket as well as their specifications (i.e. price, quantity) are divided between the members of the group. This division is made by a distinctive color assigned for each member. Additionally, users can choose to add or remove members from the group by pressing the “plus” or “minus” button from the overall order summary panel.
When each member of the group wants to add something to his basket, he has to login on the shared account, click the “add” button under the desired product and finally, select his basket from a pop-up window.

If two or more users are buying a product that is on promotion (i.e. two for one), then the promotion will still be available and the cost will be automatically split between them. Also, if the supermarket offers a voucher for orders over a specified amount (i.e. £10 off on orders over £50), the website will automatically cut the right amount from everybody’s total, based on the following algorithm:
M=S-S × r/T
M – the sum that one of the members has to pay (after reduction)
S – initial sum of the member (without reduction)
r – the reduction that the supermarket is offering
T – the total sum over the whole group

Finally, the checkout (payment) will be made by the leader of the group, and due to the notification system everybody will know how much they have spent, therefore the payment collection will be an easy task.

6. Feedback on the Design Visualisation
Surveys can be an inexpensive way to gather large amounts of data from potential users; by doing this we can evaluate our initial ideas. In order to collect the feedback for my prototype design, I have used “Formiste” as an online survey form creator (

Q1: Do you understand what this system is and what it would do?
User 1 – Yes I think shared shopping is a great idea and this makes it very clear.
User 2 – Yes I understood, it is really helpful when the weather is very cold and it saves a lot of time and energy of students.
User 3 – This system aims to make it easier for students living in a shared accommodation to combine their grocery shopping. It requires the people to create a shared account in which they would be able to shop and pay using separate examples.

Q2: Are there features that are missing and you would expect to see?
User 1 – No everything I need features on the website.
User 2 – No
User 3 – No. Everything I would expect to see is there

Q3: Do you have any confusions or questions?
User 1 – Does each person order on the same account/computer? Is it one shared account for all the students? Is there a limited number of members?
User 2 – Can each person order their products and checkout separately and then combine them for the delivery? or The payment should be made by a single account(one person)?
User 3 – I would just like to know, when must everybody pay. Does this mean that all four of the members have to shop and pay at the same time?

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