Good UX

Transforming Defects to Dollars at Grocery Outlet

Product Background

Discount grocery stores are fascinating places - walking through the aisles you can attempt to figure out what about the products made them either unsellable to traditional consumers and/or why they might be desirable by the customer segments that shop at discount grocery stores. 

In California, my favorite place to do this is Grocery Outlet, which often has both ultra-premium health food/snacks that just didn’t cut it at Whole Foods and random CPG products that were limited edition runs that missed their original selling window. 

User Experience

There were two experiences that stuck out to me recently, the first being a great example of redefining value and the second a failure to understand your customer segments. 

The first is a Jelly Belly product ingeniously called “Belly Flops” that collects all of the irregular shaped Jelly Beans and packages them together for a very low price. The beans taste exactly the same as normal Jelly Beans and the only difference is how they are shaped. This is clever not only from a naming standpoint, but also from a waste minimization / revenue maximization standpoint. Every business wants to sell as much of its “finished” product as possible, and in any business that is manufacturing physical objects, there are guaranteed to be defects. While the ideal is to first minimize those defects, generating revenue from those defects is a very close second. Acknowledging a product is a “defect” also lowers the stakes for a consumer to try it and targets an entirely different consumer segment that doesn’t necessarily care about physical imperfections but purchases on price. In terms of pricing, the 2lb bag of defects at Grocery Outlet was $2.99 before tax, whereas on Jelly Belly’s website a 2lb bag of the same defects is $9.99 while an equivalent 2lb assortment of normal Jelly Beans is ~$19.99, or 2x the price of normal Jelly Beans at MSRP, and ~6.6x more expensive than Grocery Outlet (Prices as of April 2019)!

You can see the “defective” pink, red, and yellow beans that are 2 beans fused together.

The second is variant of General Mill’s Fruit Gushers snack which adds a spicy twist to what is normally a simple, sugary snack. I, of course, had to try a box and they were indeed fairly spicy for what is normally a children’s snack! While I have no specific evidence that the product is performing poorly in normal supermarkets other than it’s presence at Grocery Outlet, one could assume that the creators of this product failed to understand their customer segments properly. I would argue that most of the consumers of this product will be children that are (a) not expecting something spicy and (b) do not, in general, like spicy foods. While the product could be a surprise hit, based simply on the customer segments that make up its market, it is likely going to be a tough sell. However, in the secondary market at Grocery Outlet where there are people like me wanting to try new products just for fun, it is a product worth paying for albeit at a discounted price. This is an interesting example of the value shift that can occur based on the selling context and customer segment of your product. 

Spicy Fruit Gushers.jpg

Details Matter, Even the Subtle Ones [Good UX]

Product Background

While Apple has had their fair share of design missteps, Apple has remarkable product design consistency not only across products, but across platforms as well. 

User Experience

Most smartphone users are familiar with the “blue bubbles” that indicate whether a given message is an iMessage versus a light green which indicates a normal text message. This style is consistent across all iDevices (iPhone, Mac, iPad, etc.). More info at Apple, but image below.

This color scheme is also on display in Apple’s support conducted via web chat as seen in the image below, even down to my response “messages” being the exact same color grey as those in an actual iMessage conversation. 

This is a remarkable detail to get right, even at a company like Apple that prides itself on a consistent user experience. This design choice likely creates a higher degree of trust as well as the opportunity for the user to stay within Apple’s carefully curated user experience garden. 

Compare this to Intercom’s chat (which now looks eerily similar to iMessage) or to Zendesk’s chat platform, and imagine if Apple used Zendesk’s messaging platform for support. It would take the user out of the Apple “experience”, which even for just a moment, hurts the world Apple has created and attempts to maintain. 

Garbage In, Good Design Out [Good UX]

Product Background

I had the chance to travel to Utrecht in the Netherlands this past summer and one of my favorite examples of good design that I found there was actually a trash can and recycling wall!

User Experience

Normally, after enjoying a meal at a fast food restaurant where the patrons clean their own tables, the moment comes for each diner to awkwardly attempt to empty their tray into the trash can without touching the lid that separates the trash can from the interior of the restaurant.

This problem has been solved with the receptacle relocated to the top of the trash can to a certain extent, but many restaurants still use the old standby with the opening on the side with a vertically swinging door.

This restaurant cleverly put a handle that, when pulled, automatically opens the trash can door. This is a superior design in that it allows users to avoid touching the garbage receptacle door and instead use a lever to open the door further. This design could be improved even further if the handle had anti-microbial coating on it.

The recycling wall behind the trash can also provides a much more interesting and artistic way of recycling glass bottles than throwing them in a bin.

Optimizing Driver Ability to Find Parking Spots [Good UX]

Product Background

  • While E-Commerce has generally solved the problem of leaving your house for most material goods, sometimes you still need to head to a restaurant or mall, and in most of the United States, that means hopping in your car, driving to your destination and attempting to find a parking spot.

  • This last step can take a substantial amount of time, not because there are no spaces available, but because it is difficult to spot the spaces that are open.

  • On a recent visit to the UTC Mall in La Jolla, they have come with a fairly simple and helpful solution to this problem.

  • While I did not measure the time it took to find a spot, I would wager that the time saved for each driver in finding a spot is inversely proportional to the current level of parking garage availability.

    • For example, if the garage is 90% full, it will take significantly longer to find a spot than if it is 50% full, which makes the information displayed all the more valuable in shortening the search.

User Experience

Let’s walk through the experience image by image. It is much easier to see the details if you open the images in a new tab.

  1. In this parking garage, there are multiple sections and within those sections are rows of parking spots. In the first image, we can see the first “section” sign with a “13” illuminated, indicating that there are 13 spots in this “section”, eliminating the guesswork.

    1. In an ideal world, this would also take into account the cars currently in the section, but not yet parked, as this edge case could potentially fill all of the spots moments later while still showing spots available at the time that the driver turns into the section. There could also be a unknown fudge factor already employed to correct for this.

  2. Stepping into the “section”, we can see spot availability by row, which also accounts for the left and right sub-rows. In the first row, on the left you can see 0 spots available, which is nicely designed with a red X to utilize preconceived notions around color and X lacking availability. On the right, you can see that there is 1 spot available. Zooming in, you can see this pattern of availability all the way down the rows in this section.

  3. Within each row are sensors that determine which spots are filled as well as display parking spot availability after the driver has turned down the row. This is better seen in Image 4.

  4. Here you can see that the first two sensor blocks are Red, while the 3rd is green, and that there is a space in that block on the left side.

  5. Finally, in Image 5, we can see that the row now has 0 spots available on both sides, which allows the driver to continue without looking down either side to the next section with available spots.

Dynamic spot availability will also likely be a necessity if parking lots are to be helpful in a world of autonomous cars.