Shop local: food accessibility made easy

Photo by Megan Thomas on Unsplash

This case study describes a problem solving exercise where we endeavoured to resolve the issue of local product accessibility and food sustainability.

Local organic food is not accessible to everyone, being restricted by availability and cost. Supermarket chains and other big companies benefit from the organic food market and conscious customers, but don’t actually solve the situation. Labelling a product “organic” has become a marketing gimmick and there is very little reliable information available that defines what this actually means. Furthermore, “organic” products are often not local which means that the process of getting them onto the supermarket shelf negates any positive effects of their “organic-ness”.

We were briefed to come up with a solution to help communities access the local seasonal produce fuelling fair and honest relationships between producers and customers while ensuring food safety for all.

Our process

For the purposes of this project we followed the 5 step design process which included researching the problem, identifying the user and their needs, then coming up with feasible ideas to solve the problem. We then created a prototype which we tested.

Empathise

It is important to empathise with the user to ensure that we create useful solutions for real people. We needed to eliminate any incorrect assumptions and personal preferences, so the first step was to conduct user research. We created a survey to get baseline information about our target market and their shopping habits. Using a Lean Survey Canvas we were able to define what we needed to learn and who we should target with our survey.

Lean Survey Canvas

The survey that we sent asked users about what organic and local food meant to them and what limited their accessibility to local organic products. We were also interested in what motivated them to buy certain products while shopping and what could potentially improve their accessibility to local seasonal products.

We received 147 responses and the data that was collected through the survey was really interesting.

Visualisation of some of our survey results

Using this information we compiled interview questions and interviewed 5 users to get a deeper insight into the problem and richer user information. Below is a summary of some of the quotes that stood out from the interviews.

Key quotes from our interviews

Having gathered this information about our users and their shopping habits and thoughts on local and organic, we created an Affinity Diagram to summarise everything in the context of our challenge:

Come up with ideas to solve the issue of fair and honest relationships between producers and customers while ensuring food security for all.

We then organised all the thoughts, quotes, data and ideas into broad categories and dot voted on what we, as a team, felt were the most important issues to address with our app.

Three ideas chosen from the affinity diagram using dot voting.

With these issues chosen and decided, we created an empathy map of our user. This collaborative tool helped our team to gain a deeper insight into the user’s pains and gains as well as what they see, hear, say, do and feel regarding the topic of local organic products.

Empathy map tool developed by Dave Gray

This really helped us to set up a detailed User Persona which more specifically defined our user. We named him Organic Oliver and his archetype is “The Conscious Buyer”.

Organic Oliver is a 28 year old software developer, living in a big city with his partner. He wants to shop organic and choose local products as it is better for the environment, but finds his choices are limited and over priced. He also doesn’t like shopping if it is inconvenient and finds the information available to him about organic is insufficient.

Organic Oliver User Persona

The user persona led us to create a detailed user journey. We considered a scenario where Organic Oliver is watching a documentary on television about local sustainable products, then endeavours to find out more so as to purchase local and finally goes to the shop to try to buy local products. The journey ends with him not buying anything local as he didn’t feel that there was enough information and the products we limited.

We described all of his emotions and thoughts relating to the actions he would take through this journey, and identified opportunities where the app could help him, based on these emotions.

Organic Oliver User Journey

Define

The opportunities that were identified in the User Journey helped us to define the problem statement and hypothesis statement for this project.

Problem statement

Young conscious professionals need to find a way to be able to access more information about local products because they want to connect with their local producers.

Hypothesis Statement

We believe that making information about local products more accessible for young conscious professionals will achieve the goal of connecting shoppers with their local producers. We will know we are right when 30% or more of their grocery budget is for organic, local products.

Having a problem and hypothesis statement aligned our team by clearly defining the problem. Once defined we could work on conceptualising a suitable app that could address Organic Oliver’s issues and concerns.

Ideate

We brainstormed ideas for the app, putting the problem statement at the centre. All of the team’s ideas were added, no matter how crazy or seemingly impossible. With all the ideas on the board we then dot voted on what would be the most important features of the app and how it would address the problem. These features included product information, where to buy local products, producer or farmer’s location and a map.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Prototype

Each member of the team created concept sketches independently. We then came together and discussed them as a group, making note of the best ideas or features in each.

Initial team concept sketches

Based on these notes, final concept sketches were created that incorporated all of the best ideas.

Final concept sketch for app

The app concept can be described as “UberEats for Local producers” as it is structured in much the same way. A user can search for local producers using a map with “where” and “what” filters. Depending on what the user chooses the map shows relevant local producers. The user can then find out more about the producer by tapping on the dot location on the map, or go to the producer’s page where a product list is available.

A user can select items from the farmer’s product list and then check-out to order them, either for collection or delivery.

A user can shop and buy products from multiple producers on the app, making the shopping experience easy and convenient.

Testing the idea

Using the concept sketches we tested the idea with a few potential users who all thought that the idea would definitely encourage them to shop local as it made local products more accessible.

They also liked the idea of supporting local producers by buying from them directly. It also appealed to some users that they could use the app to locate stores where local products are available.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Learnings and next steps

From this project we have learnt that there is not enough information available about local products and that local organic is not easily accessible. We also discovered that there is currently no relationship between the user and the producer.

Our next steps on this project would be to create a new survey to address questions that have come up during the process. We would also like to research, define and interview a secondary persona (the farmer/producer) to investigate how this app could solve any of their issues such as distribution. We would also like to ideate the logistics of the app in terms of product delivery and collection, and a third party payment system.

Overall we are very excited about this idea and hope it is something that can be developed to help with food sustainability and local product accessibility for all.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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Karen Anne Lilje

Karen Anne Lilje

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Designer illustrator, fascinated by user experience and how everyday decisions are influenced by the way that the world around us has been designed.