Redesigning Subscription for Groceries App

A Case study

Note: If you are here for UI solutions, please scroll down to the Design section. ✌️

Background

A few days ago, I participated in a Design-Hackathon conducted by GrowthSchool. In the hackathon, we were divided into groups of 5. Some of the people we knew and some of them were complete strangers just like it happens when we start working in a new company. Then we were asked to choose a problem among the given 6 problem statements.

Scroll down and let’s see how we proceeded forward.

Introduction

To begin with, we were given 6 problem statements, out of which we had to choose one. In the beginning, to avoid future conflicts, it was necessary to bring the whole team to the same page. It was necessary to choose a problem statement towards which everyone could feel empathetic. I suggested that all of us should choose three problem statements each and why we think they should be solved. Later, we came back to brainstorm on which problem statement to select.

This was the foundation of setting up the First Principle. Our group followed this drill throughout our project. We used to take few minutes to ourselves to come up with ideas to solve the problem. And later brainstorm and finalize the next step together. I felt that some people are quick thinkers and some need more time to collect their thoughts. This activity helped the flow of unique ideas as everyone was thinking without the influence of another team member. This activity kept the whole group on the same page throughout the project.

We all agreed that grocery is essential for living and is a pressing issue in current times. Here’s the problem statement was given to us:

Due to the pandemic, there has been a high rise in ordering groceries online but users generally don’t remember all of the items available at their residence. Design a subscription model for a popular grocery delivery app to keep track of the regular items they might want so that it becomes easier for the user to place an order in one go with all the necessary items.

Many of us felt the need for a solution in our surroundings. Apart from that, it was easy for us to find users for this problem statement around us.

Plan of Action

Being a 48 hours hackathon, judicial use of time was another task we needed to tackle. We sat down and decided how we are going to divide the tasks. We targeted completing the project before time so that we could have some buffer.

We knew that we would have to divide our manpower at some point. But in the beginning, we felt it’s crucial that everyone does secondary research. This step was important to get a better understanding of the problem statements.

Plan of action

Initial Hypothesis

Before moving forward, it was necessary for us to redefine the problem statement in a detailed manner. For doing that, we came up with an activity in which we would jot down all the pain points (our hypothesis) which according to us, people might be feeling. Along with the raw ideas and gaps in our understanding. By following the first principle set in the beginning, we all took some time and came back for the discussion.

From the problem statement, we can understand that there has been a high rise in ordering online groceries which is because of the pandemic situation. As UX designers, we have been given a task to design a subscription model which makes people buy their groceries easily. This subscription model should be designed in a way that it will contain all necessary items needed by the user.

After the brainstorming session, we came up with the following hypothesis and gaps-

Hypothesis

  1. The main pain point is that people forget things and in a pandemic, it is difficult to make multiple rounds to the market. Here’s why:
    a) It’s unsafe for them as well as others if they go out again and again.
    b) Earlier people used to bring small things while returning from work. But while working from home, it’s difficult to make multiple rounds of the market.
  2. The frequency of such orders decreases when there are not many delivery agents. Hence increasing the need for accurate online shopping.
  3. The reason why some people don’t like to order online is the hesitation of not getting the right product. They fear they might receive duplicate or damaged products.
  4. People will prefer an online list of items from the app so that they can claim for repayment if they receive any damaged goods.
  5. Many crucial items are missed while shopping online possibly due to the following reasons-
    a) Missing of important stuff takes place when users don’t have a prior list in hand.
    b) Unavailability of the products in the online stores prompts users to buy other unnecessary items due to the fear of missing out.
    c) Another reason can be loss of memory.
  6. While ordering online, people get distracted and order advertised luxuries and forget to order the basic needs.
  7. Some users still do not prefer ordering online because they fear the quality of the packaging and handling of the items.

Gaps to be researched

  1. What are the reasons for missing out on items while shopping for groceries?
  2. How often do they prefer to buy groceries? Frequency of the usage of the app?
  3. How often do people stick to a budget and are they okay with it?
  4. What do they prefer, quality or quantity? How do they do quality checks?
  5. Are they okay with the increased budget due to online shopping?
  6. The safety factor in ordering online
  7. People who don’t prefer to go to online stores, what is bothering them? How non-tech savvy people are dealing with the need of ordering online?
  8. What do we understand by the subscription model?

Secondary Research: Top Insights

A look at the industry

  • According to private estimates, the Indian online grocery sector is expected to reach $20–25 billion by 2025 online grocery sales in 2020, competition significantly increased between online retailers, who sought to distinguish themselves through discount/loyalty programs, faster deliveries (including same-day deliveries in select cities), easy returns policy, free/low-cost deliveries, ease of payment, cashback offers, and safety consumers to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy, and gourmet foods online.
  • The industry is expected to be driven by the consumers who stay in Tier-I cities, such as Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi, who are more adaptable to online shopping due to the availability of high-speed internet, better adaptability to mobile devices, and the logistical simplicity.
  • Notably, leading players in the grocery delivery market — BigBasket and Grofers — have been able to drive subscription adoption rapidly in less than 15 months of launch on average.

Customers’ opinion

  • Research suggested that 92% of people coming up without buying what they went for. Half of them do this on a regular basis.
  • A study by LocalCircles found that 80% of people ordered groceries online for convenience and not price.
  • Lockdown taught people a lesson. Earlier they used to buy groceries every 3 months and didn’t mind if some items were missing. But now they order twice a month. Also, their bill has reached 8–10 K from 4–5 K. Another person accepted that If they used to order groceries for Rs550, they now order for about Rs1,550. Another research suggested that shoppers spent 44% more per transaction and purchased more items online versus in stores, researchers also found.
  • During desk research, we encountered two types of people.
    1. One who started stocking up the groceries: “People are trying to avoid a situation where their pantry go out of stock.” Amidst the pandemic, consumers feared that they could face lockdown regulations at any point in time, therefore they have been stocking up on these essentials.”
    2. Second who tried to save money so that they can save it for medical emergencies:
  • A research report suggests-
    1.
    28% of the respondents strongly agree that there is a lack of product information.
    2.
    26% of the respondents agree that they get something than what they have ordered.
    3. 31% of the respondents strongly agree that there is an absence of personal quality check.
    4.
    37% of the respondents agree that they face difficulties in returning the products
    5. 38% of respondents cannot define hidden charges as the problem of online grocery purchase
    6. 31% of respondents stated with confidence that there will be a delay in delivery.
    7.
    34% of the respondents strongly agree that there is a lack of security in the process of online grocery purchase.
  • According to a Power Reviews survey, 59% of consumers named saving time as their primary reason for shopping online.
  • 49% of consumers named personal safety as their primary reason for shopping online.
  • When shopping in person, adults often bring along their children or other family members, who may ask for unhealthy candy and snacks.
  • “People fail to take these factors into account when predicting their memory. As a result, they do not take appropriate actions to prevent forgetting such as using a shopping list.”
  • “Recent research shows that customers often don’t walk all the way down the aisles in a grocery store. Not many people visit the middle of the aisle. So, when supermarkets place frequently bought items in the middle of the aisle and infrequently bought items at the ends, customers will actually see the items they infrequently buy when they walk to the items they frequently buy.” Placing the most purchased products in the most accessible places.
  • Lower-income groups also face additional obstacles with online shopping that could detract them from using the services.

Subscription plans & related experiences

  • People are conscious of luxurious items due to financial instability during a pandemic and staying at home has meant larger purchase sizes. They are driven even more strongly by factors such as range, ease, speed, and convenience.
  • People are conscious of luxurious items due to financial instability during a pandemic and staying at home has meant larger purchase sizes. So, they are driven even more strongly by factors such as range, ease, speed, and convenience.
  • Subscription customers spend more customers to seek more variety and increase their basket size but do not reduce their order frequency.
  • Free delivery has a positive impact on customer behaviour.
  • Rapid subscription adoptions are affordable pricing and a variety of benefits ranging from price savings via cash backs and discounts. Users also get free/priority delivery with the subscription plans.
  • “As it can be very time-consuming to let customers go through all the grocery items in a virtual aisle, it helps to have a smart category structure that allows customers to easily skip whole categories, such as the pets section, or parts of categories such as sodas or light beers. It also helps if certain categories are clustered, like breakfast cereals and milk and yoghurt.” Emphasizing the Preferred category of the customers.
  • The report emphasized that the key drivers of rapid subscription adoption are affordable pricing and a variety of benefits ranging from price savings via cash backs and discounts. Users also get free/priority delivery with the subscription plans.
  • We found that people are more likely to forget the items they infrequently buy when using the memory-based search, but not when using the stimulus-based search. In fact, when using the stimulus-based search, people are sometimes even better able to remember the items they infrequently buy.” Example: Looking at the suggestion, one person thinks that he/she should buy that too.

User Interviews: Top Insights

Recruitment Criteria And The Process

After completing the desk research, we were left with gaps that could be only filled through primary research. We needed to analyze the users’ shopping behaviour, the factors which drove them into online shopping and their pain points in the online shopping experience.

We focused our research on these three age groups-

  1. Age 23–30 Bachelors and Tech Savvy People
  2. Age 30–45 Married people with a proper living. The millennial generation. As it has experience of both traditional shopping and online shopping
  3. The Age group of 45 and above — Non-tech savvy people.

These are forced to use apps to order online. We wanted to know what are their pain points? But we ended up knowing that they mostly rely on their children for online orders.

Due to lack of time, we decided to go and find users for the interviews instead of releasing surveys. To avoid the conflict by taking the people we know, I suggested that I should take the interviews of the people not friends with me. And someone else should take interviews with my friends.

Interview Summary

  1. Out of my interviewees, the first interviewee was quite happy with her arrangement of online grocery delivery. Being a Gen Z, she was very comfortable placing online orders. She didn’t have many pain points, but she did tell what she likes in current online grocery delivery services. She told me that she loves the doorstep delivery system and the flexibility of cancelling orders anytime. She also told me that the quality of online delivered groceries is not good in her hometown which is a small town.
  2. Another user a homemaker in her 30s mentioned her fear of the bad quality of products and poor handling of them. Another problem she faced was the unavailability of the products online. Due to such reasons, she prefers to shop offline.
  3. Almost 50% of the people complain about ending up buying unwanted things.
  4. Almost 66.6% of the people agreed that they mostly buy in bulk.
  5. Almost 50% of the users complain about missing important items while shopping online. Unavailability of the items & forgetting the lists are the main reasons.
  6. One of our interviewees mentioned that his mother looks after all the shopping lists. And there is no app for all age groups.
  7. Almost 33.33% of users showed no trust in subscription plans. And on the contrary 50% users were interested in offers.
  8. Almost 33.33% of users complaint that they get distracted by the unwanted suggestions on the app.
  9. Almost 80% of users doubted the quality of the products.
  10. Almost 66.6% of users complaint about excess delivery charges.
  11. Almost 33.33% of the users faced difficulty in returning the wrong goods.
  12. While interviewing users, I found a certain set of users (20–35 years in age) who order for two households. One for their parents living in another city and one for themselves. One of the users told me that to keep track of both lists, he uses multiple apps. He uses one app for himself and another app for his parents.
  13. One of the users also mentioned that it gets confusing while ordering a subcategory of an item.
Tabular representation of the main pain points

Apart from the pain points, we also validated hypothesis points such as: In pandemic people prefer convenience over money, people don’t trust the quality of the products especially vegetables, fruits, dairy & poultry.

Rescoping Problem Statements & Forming How Might We Questions

During the pandemic, there has been a rise in ordering groceries online but users generally don’t remember all the things and face difficulty in returning the wrong items. This leads them into spending more money while ordering online. Also pandemic has to lead them to order in bulk and hence they cannot afford to forget things. Derive a solution to help users get a less distractive experience with improved quality of products. And help to manage bulk orders.

Here are some “HOW MIGHT WE” statements we came up with:

  1. How might we help the large families to keep a track of their varied needs?
  2. How might we make it easier for all age groups to shop their lists and save them from looking for every item on the long list?
  3. How might we make it easier to keep a track of long-listed items throughout the month?
  4. How might we avoid distractions and unnecessary shopping?
  5. How might we make categorization more efficient?
  6. How might we keep the user focused on their planned products?
  7. How might we provide more assured delivery and return/exchange benefits?
  8. How might we consider all the users’ pain points and crunch them into a subscription plan?

Coming Up With The Ideas & Creating Wireframes

For the ideation stage also, we followed the first principle. All of us went back and came back with solutions to all the problems. And then pitched those solutions in front of each other. The solutions which were found most reasonable were selected. I started with paper wireframes and then converted them into digital wireframes. It focused on reducing the noise throughout the app.

How might we help the large families to keep a track of their varied needs?

Wireframes depicting the shared list feature

For helping the large families and people living with flat-mates, we came up with two solutions-

Solution 1: Feature of Split Screen where the screen will change as per person’s preference but items will be in the common cart.

  • This version is creating multiple platforms inside one profile. And all the orders go to the same cart.

Solution 2: Another thing we could give users was a way to communicate their needs through a single account. For that, I came up with the idea of a “shared account”. All the family members will be sharing wish-list with each other and linked with each other. Now all the family members can add their needs to the common list and then they can order altogether from the primary account.

How might we avoid distraction and unnecessary shopping?

Wireframes depicting suggestions visibility management

In our research, we found that many users got distracted by the suggestions. But the almost the same amount of users found suggestions helpful. So to cater to the needs of both kinds of users, I suggested that we should allow users to manage the suggestions. To do that, I came up with the idea of “Visibility Management”. We decided to put that toggle buttons for suggestions based on past purchases and suggestions by us.

How might we make it easier for all age groups to shop their lists and save them from looking for every item on the long list?

Wireframe depicting voice and smart search

In most of the households, it was found that the women (>40 years) were taking care of the groceries and in many cases, they were non-tech savvy. Also, it was observed that searching for long lists was a tedious task. To make the use of the app easier for all age groups, we decided to incorporate voice search in our app. We went a step ahead and infused a “smart search” feature with the voice search. Now one can search chunks of lists in one go. We decided to provide a search bar where a user can search the whole list or speak multiple list items and the app will display a tabular list of the found items.

How might we help users with different categories of items and avoid the mistake of buying the wrong items with the same name?

In the user’s interviews, users expressed how they mistakenly purchase the wrong product with the same name instead of the product they are looking for. For example, if someone wants to buy Brown rice and mistakenly purchases Basmati rice. It was a common human error. So I came up with the idea of giving a list of similar items during checkout. This lead to micro categorization of items. Through this feature, users will be able to change the type of the product (for example brown bread to white bread) during final checkout.

Note: I came up with this solution during the later stages of the hackathon and hence was not able to create a wireframe.

How might we help the users remembering their needed items?

The initial problem statement was surrounded around this problem that people tend to forget things during shopping. Apart from this, we also validated this in the user research. It was also found from the user interviews that they actually forget to buy necessary items. The long list of the items and distractions on the app were the main reasons. To tackle this problem we came up with two solutions:

Solution 1: In the first solution, I figured that making lists every month is a tiring process. Also looking for all the items in the list. I also figured that most of the items are repeated every month in the grocery shopping list. So I came up with a “Smart list” which upon setting can be users go-to list for every month. Users can multi-select their needed items from there and directly add them to the cart saving a lot of search time. The people who don’t want to set up their own list can reorder from their previous purchases through the same process.

Solution 2: The second solution was brought up by my team-mate in which we decided that we will incorporate a “recommendation system” during the checkout process. This system would match your current order with your Smart list. In case users haven’t set up any list, it will give recommendations as per previous purchases. Recommendations would be suggesting items users usually order every month but have forgotten or purposely haven’t added them in the cart.

These two ideas would save a lot of time and effort for the users when they are shopping for their monthly recurring groceries.

The Design

Coming up with the design solutions

After ideation and finalizing the wireframes. It was time for creating the prototype. For creating smooth and fast work, I tried to set the design guidelines in place. I came up with the idea of using the Material Design System UI kit as well as the colour palette and the font used.

Note: The solutions are divided into two parts. First, let me show you what features I added to the app for smooth user journeys. And I’ll walk you through the subscription plan I came up with.

1. How might we help the large families to keep a track of their varied needs?

During the research, it was observed that online ordering of groceries is generally left on the younger generation of the house. While the making of the list is done by the older generations mostly mothers. Also in large families, members have varied needs and it can get tedious for a single member to track all those needs and do shopping. To bridge this gap I came up with the solution of the linked accounts. Users can link their accounts to a primary account and create a “Shared List”. Users can add their needs to the shared list throughout the month. And the primary user can order all the things in one go.

During the research, it was also observed that almost 66.6% of the people agreed that they mostly buy in bulk. And almost 66.6% of users complaint about excess delivery charges.

This feature will help the users in ordering in bulk and save their delivery charges for multiple orders.

The second part of this feature involves notification of the things added by users family members or flat-mates. Users will be able to see who added what item and can get all the details of the items. This feature will reduce the error of adding the same item again and again. Or missing out on an item needed by another family member.

2. How might we make it easier for all age groups to shop their lists and save them from looking for every item on the long list?

As mentioned above the major problem identified during primary research was the difficulty in ordering online by the older people. Also, we figured that the long lists are taking much of users time. To solve this issue and to make the app easily accessible by people (>50 years), we decided to put a voice search & a smart search.

Both the search algorithms are capable enough to search chunks of the list in one go. Users can speak or search multiple items at one time and get a tabular list of searched items. Users can directly change the quantity of the product and add them to the cart. Users can then scroll to the next item through the tabular list. This feature would save time for going through the same journey again and again.

3. How might we avoid distractions and unnecessary shopping?

During desk research, many users accounts were found. They stated that in the pandemic, their expense on the grocery has doubled or more. In my primary research, I have also found that almost 50% of people complain about ending up buying unwanted things. And almost 33.33% of users complaint that they get distracted by the unwanted suggestions on the app.

Grocery shopping can itself get very tiring as there are so many things to buy every month. And there’s no shopkeeper to help you with. To help people avoid getting distracted and wasting more time, I came up with a feature of hiding the suggestions. In our research, I also found that many people like suggestions. It helps them remember the needed items. That’s why I provided a toggle button that a user can willingly turn on/off the suggestions.

In the settings, we have given control to change suggestions by the app, suggestions based on previous purchases and suggestions based on the favourite categories.

4. How might we help users with different categories of items and avoid the mistake of buying the wrong items with the same name?

Another pressing issue we found during research was that the users get confused by the similar names of the two items. For example, there are multiple types of lentils available in the stores. Any person can easily mistake one for another. Or the user has to be very careful while ordering. Also, the exchange/return process is painful. To solve this issue, I have come up with the idea of providing a category dropdown menu. While looking at your cart during checkout, the user can go through what they have selected and change the type of the item then and there.

Another feature was added in the cart which solves the issue of forgetting important items while shopping. Let’s know more about that feature in the next how might we statement.

5. How might we help the users remembering their needed items?

Almost 50% of the user complains about missing important items while shopping online. Unavailability of the items & forgetting the lists are the main reasons. To help users with this problem, I came up with reordering from the previous purchases. Any user will be able to “Order Again” from the items which they have ordered in the past month. Or they can create a permanent list of the items from which they can add items to their cart. It’s a multi-select list. A user can directly select multiple or all items from their list. This feature will save them the effort of long searches and allow them to directly add items from the list.

To help users remember if they are forgetting something, we have gone one step ahead and added a reminder system in the check out process. The UI of it is shown in the previous image. Once the user has added all the things in the cart and proceeding the checkout, they’ll get notified of anything they frequently order and forgetting this time. If they want, they can add it directly into the cart or move ahead with the checkout process.

Coming up with the subscription plan

Due to lack of time, we couldn’t design the subscription plan during the hackathon. So I came up with three different subscription plans post hackathon. Let’s have a look at them:

Plan 1: Basic

The Basic Plan is designed for the people who order moderately and monthly or bi-monthly. This plan caters to the need of the people who prefer to order in bulk. This plan involves free delivery of up to 4 orders, a smart list feature in which a user can order from their previous purchases, a Doorstep check and easy exchanges if the quality is not satisfactory.

Plan 2: Long Distance

This plan is designed for the people living in the suburbs and neighbouring towns of metro cities. During the research, it was found that the quality of the product and delivery is not good in second-tier cities. This plan enables users to order from the bigger cities nearby. The only need is to order a night before and get the delivery by the morning. Other than this, users of this plan will get the feature of Smart List, Free delivery of up to 4 orders a month.

Plan 3: Doorstep Daily

The Doorstep Daily is designed to cater to the needs of users who prefer to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs every day. This plan provides free delivery and there is no limit to the number of deliveries. Unlimited Delivery is the reason for the highest rate in this plan. Apart from these, it involves the Smart List feature and Doorstep Check. Users can check the freshness, brand and quality of veggies/items they have ordered.

Since almost 80% of users doubted the quality of the products. And almost 66.6% of users complaint about excess delivery charges. Hence I have provided free delivery (up to certain orders) in all the plans and I have included “Doorstep checking” on the basic and Doorstep Daily plan. I didn’t keep it in the Long Distance plan as I thought it won’t be much feasible to make trips to the suburbs and neighbouring towns of metropolitan cities.

Future Scope

The theme of groceries as an umbrella takes care of all the basic needs of the people. The pandemic has proven the importance of an efficient and smooth grocery system. Because of such importance, designing an effective groceries app needs much more research.

Due to lack of time, we could only take interviews of 5 people. In future, I would like to expand our research to more users. I would like to understand how Indians with so much diversity of living styles manage their groceries.

Apart from research, the current subscription plans are based on the factors like frequency of the requirements of the users, distance from the store and ordering habits. But during the research, I also came across the angle of the size of the family and how it affects the grocery shopping list. Hence it’s an interesting angle to explore in the future. I would like to devise a plan which can also address the size of the family and its needs.

For delivering the best quality of the products, I have added the feature of Doorstep Check in the subscription plans. Users can return and exchange products if they don’t like the product. But since returning the products is an important issue, I would like to research and test more on this aspect.

Conclusion

This product was made after consecutive sleepless nights and lots of hard work. After all, this was my first design hackathon. Unlike usual hackathons, this hackathon had teams of people who never met each other. We were assigned teams by the GrowthSchool which organised the hackathon. So trusting your teammates whose work you haven’t seen, was the biggest leap of faith. But luckily I got an extremely hardworking team. By the end of the hackathon, it didn’t feel like we don’t know each other. 🙌

Last but not least I would like to give a huge shoutout 📢 to my mentors Arpita Dhir & Anudeep Ayyagiri, because of their constant help, I was able to create a work to be proud of.

It taught me how to trust my teammates and respect their opinions as well.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading the case study as much as I enjoyed working on it. I would love to learn more about you. If you’re someone who gets joy in talking about solutions that make a difference. Or if you want to read my oversimplified definitions of design theory. Feel free to drop a hi! 👋 on my Twitter or LinkedIn.

Also, before leaving do let me know if this case study inspires you. Few claps would be much appreciated. 👏

Hi! I'm a engineer turned UX/UI Designer who gets joy in talking about solutions that make a difference.

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Apoorva Agrawal

Apoorva Agrawal

Hi! I'm a engineer turned UX/UI Designer who gets joy in talking about solutions that make a difference.

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