Shopal is a humane shopping companion that can provide timely service and necessary information according to senior customers’ preferences for shopping habits. It will also provide customers’ feedbacks for supermarkets.
Ziqing Zhao
Yahe Yang
Yizhou Yang
Lu Chen
Beyond the screen: Voice-led experiences for the low touch economy
In the near future, the pandemic will remain recurrent, bringing social distancing rules and a low-touch economy. At the same time, it shaped grocery retail with reduced physical interactions between customers and supermarket staff. The elderly is one of the groups of people whose lives are threatened most; in the meantime, their connection with technology is tighter than we thought. They have to adapt to modern life and learn how to use electronic devices. 96% of seniors are using a smartphone daily. Thus we decided to focus on the elderly shopping experience. Here CUI comes in, requiring less cognitive workload and giving a command to it hands-free. So for this project, we partnered with the Modal to explore voice-based interface in experience for shopping then to encourage more social connection.
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Covid-19 has shaped grocery retail & research findings
Firstly we did some research on the trends that come with Covid-19. There are new rules in supermarkets to keep people 2 meters away from each other. Meanwhile, self-checkout and “scan as you go” have been more common to limit physical interaction between customers and staff. Senior customers prefer physical stores to online shopping, but they feel anxious because they are easy to get infected. Secondly, to gain a deep understanding of senior customers, we interviewed 10+ seniors and their children; we also live together with the elderly to observe their real life, acquiring interesting findings through our research. 1. The conversation between the elderly and their friends or children begins with food. 2. The elderly are willing to try new things shared by relatives and friends. Their leaning is based on a hierarchy of skills. 3. Seniors prefer getting information from conversations. They trust the content derived from the conversation more.

Insights about customers and supermarket staff

We gained some insights from interviews. Firstly, items are essential carriers. They help maintain social behaviours between humans. Besides, the elderly are willing to be exposed to new technology recommended by their family and friends, and their learning curves are gradual. There are some challenges as well. The elderly prefer to get information through communication because they need the social connection to keep mentally healthy. Besides, there is no motivation for supermarket employees to serve senior customers. Also, due to Covid-19, supermarket workers are hard to communicate with the elderly as usual. Our objective is to provide timely and trustworthy communication for senior consumers who desire a smooth and safe shopping experience in the entire shopping process, thus help supermarkets offer better service to get more profit and a better reputation, and to help supermarket staff feel their value at work while reducing their workload.

What is Shopal

Shopal is a humane shopping companion that can provide timely service, necessary information according to senior customers’ preferences for shopping habits and customers’ feedbacks for supermarket. It gives shopping reminder based on users’ shopping habits, modifying shopping list at any time. It can also answer users questions as well as provide relevant information about the certain items.

Test and prototype to design a better touchpoint
We went through mainly two experiments to make Shopal a better touchpoint. The first test was to find which device would be the best vessel for Shopal, and the second one was to find which feature is both feasible and useful. A perfect device for Shopal should be insensible, private, and the interaction must be simple. At first, we tried smartphones and smartwatches, but both of them require hand movements. Then we attached Shopal to a shopping trolley and found many people who didn’t use trolleys. Finally, we moved it into an earphone, which made conversation private and hands-free. As for the feature, there were two more functions, which were navigation and product recommendation. However, we found them difficult to realise when we were prototyping. Therefore, we decided that all Shopal would do is recognising products and assisting customers’ shopping procedure.
Route to the real world
To encourage stronger social connection, which is our ultra-goal, Shopal will have four stages to go through. The first stage is installing Shopal in a supermarket chain, for example, Sainsbury’s. Customers will get used to Shopal in this stage and their data will be collected for machine learning. At the second stage, Shopal will get into Google Home to cultivate customers’ habit of using it while shopping. During this period, Shopal will provide a new feature to help customer manage their shopping list. Afterwards, Shopal will cooperate with more supermarkets. It will launch the online shopping feature to infiltrate in customers' life more deeply and enlarge its database for better service. Finally, it will publish a family recipe feature, which allows online purchase for others. Customers will then build up their family network and communicate with their family members more, with CUI involved.
special thanks
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