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The Marketing Goal and Challenge Redesigning the Grocery Items of IDEO

In the case study presented, a design team was given the challenge to completely redesign the classic shopping cart in just 5 days. The team is part of IDEO, a product design firm based in Palo Alto, California. During the video, we are presented the company’s strategy, in which the process is the main point to product development.

IDEO has designed a bunch of stuff – from high-tech electronic gear to toothbrush – they biggest goal is to design a human-centered product, attending the user needs. That is why they were chosen to redesign the everyday shopping cart. The regular cart is such a useful item that, nowadays, people see it as an icon, a symbol for shopping and consumerism, so changing it was a very tough challenge. Perhaps redesign, in this case, should be substituted to “rethink”. Their philosophy claims that designer role is to brush up on isolated ideas that, when put together, make the user experience more pleasant and practical.

First of all, the team studies, as a group, the classic shopping cart in order to find its issues. Then, the team comes up with points that should be taken in consideration when the designing the new cart; the points are basically: safety, security and usability. After that, the team is separated groups that take the role to work on each point. The groups have experts from different areas, such as psychology, engineering and marketing.

When looking to identify the cart’s issues, the team go to a supermarket and use the cart just like they would do in a regular day. Another strategy is to observe how people behave using it and what the biggest safety risks are, they did it by taking notes and photographs of random clients using the carts. This experiment was done in the same day they were given the test, so I believe it could have been more explored in the sense that they visited one market only, when supermarkets actually vary on size, purpose and audience. It is interesting to see how each expert behaves in a different way when trying to find issues, they only looked for problems that were related to their own expertise area. However, they were all concerned on the following experiences – shopping, safety and check-out. After that, the teams return to the office and design mockups of their own, then, as a group, they will decide where the carts need improvements in order to transform everyone’s cart in one single product.

While the teams are working outside, IDEO’s founder and CEO, David Kelley, talks how the company’s strategy leads to endless creative products. His vision of business is completely different from major companies, they believe that “best ideas come from wild ideas”. First of all, there is no hierarchy – everybody works at the same level, yet in different expertises. Also, the working environment is a crucial part of the design process, the working space is personalizable and the employees can do whatever they want on their desk, they are free to come up with ideas that would sound crazy elsewhere. It turns out that a playful environment is likely to provide good ideas.

This peculiar vision of work made IDEO a reference in the field of creativity working spaces, and nowadays many big companies embrace their corporate culture. At first glance, you may see it as a chaos, or an organized chaos, but they actually believe it is a focused chaos, where everyone is free to give ideas without being afraid of judgement. One of their techniques, for example, is to glue encouragement statements in the meeting room, so people will feel comfortable to give some crazy ideas. Ideas that, they believe, are the best ones, so they can brush up and come up with something totally new.

In the end, they present the cart, which is a compilation of everyone’s vision and take it to a real supermarket. The final product meets all the requirements and is completaly different from the regular ones. The wheels, for example, moves 90 degrees, which provides the cart to move sideways, and it changes not only the visual, but also the shopping experience. The cart itself is empty and does not have space for the clients to carry the groceries, it is sort of personalizable, in the sense that the client puts the basket on it. Therefore, it avoids theft, since there is no use in using the cart without the baskets. However, it does not work fine if the client needs to carry a lot of things, there is no room for a bunch of groceries, it is ideal for those who go shopping once a week, though. They even thought of attaching hooks to it so the consumers can carry bags on it as they walk home.

Personally, I am afraid they overthought a little bit. The cart itself is convenient and features a lot a good ideas in one single product, nevertheless, it also appears to the high-tec side – it comes with a self check-out attached, so the client can check the prices and pay for the products without having to go to the cashier. Also, there is a sort of radio in which the client can talk to an empolyee to ask questions about a product or something like that. Finally, they implemented a baby seat, which looks unsafe, since there is no lock and it seems like the baby can simply raise the bar and escape. I wonder if it was really necessary to attach a baby seat, not everyone takes their babies to the supermarket, so I believe there is no use for it at all.

Besides the final prototype, there is the market factor. Are supermarkets really willing to replace the old carts? Replacing means cost. In this video, regardless the product the result, what really matters is the design process. It is interesting to see how they got there and the company’s philosophy, which is really visionary. Many successful business use this vision nowadays. And even though I have never seen the car being used – what really matters is their mantra – fail in order to succeed.

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