My team and I have decided on an idea for our final project, which is to create a grocery list optimizer (the name is still a work in progress). The mobile app will look for money saving opportunities within someone’s grocery list as well as making healthier recommendations. Moving forward with this idea we need to validate that we are building the right thing.
I had the urge to want to jump to creating the product now that’s it has become more of a concrete idea, but this is idealistic thinking. For all we know our idea may make sense theoretically, but in the real world we could possibly be missing the mark. This is why we will be conducting a pilot for the next 4-5 weeks. The point of the pilot is to validate our idea through a simplified version using manual tactics rather than creating the mobile application. In the end, it could manifest into something completely different than a mobile application.
The first week we are employing a strategy of testing our idea in person while our participants shop to capture as much feedback as possible. There are also small nuances we may not be thinking about that we will be able to observe to better our product. Although I’m excited to start getting people’s opinion, my mind was jumping into simulating the idea as close as possible for “accurate” results. This landed our group into focusing on the wrong thing, which I may have been facilitating a bit. There are many grocery store apps on the App Store, most of very poor quality. As we continued researching what currently exists we learned that HEB has their own app with many of the features we have planned on incorporating. I saw two things happened because of this.
- Momentum in our creation seemed to slow because “someone else is already doing something similar”.
- It limited our mind as to what was possible and began to slightly feel defeated.
Because of the similarities, my mind was wanting to try to leverage the already existing system to help us conduct our pilot. I was excited to test using something that was so close to our idea because I felt then we could really focus on the details that separates us apart from them. The point I was missing is that the purpose of our pilot is to not simulate our system, but simulate the core value our system is providing.
The advantages we are providing over the HEB application, and many others in the grocery store is that:
- We are being more proactive about money saving opportunities.
- We aren’t limited to working with any singular grocery store chain.
- Most importantly, we are helping people eat healthier in an incremental manner
During our pilot, we have some primary assumptions that we are looking to confirm our hypothesis and whether or not our idea should manifest into another form. After all, we could design an award winning mobile application, but if the application doesn’t meet people where they are at it will ultimately fail. The assumptions we are testing include:
- People use grocery lists, and if not, they will use one
- People will choose a healthier option if prompted
- People will choose a lower price over a brand they like
- People are willing to leave brands and items they’re used to
- People generally want to eat healthier
- People will eat new items they purchase
- People will be more likely to buy a new item if they get the new item before they get the original item
To quickly kick start our pilot and start gathering data we reached out to our friend and family network and asked people to send us pictures of their pantries and fridges. The purpose of this is to further understand the variety of food people keep at home, as well as starting to identify opportunities where we can begin making recommendations. One realization this made me think of is that by looking at individual items it could possibly feel healthier than what the end meal is being created. But this doesn’t exactly tell us what is being created when items are combined. This should be a consideration moving forward.
After spending a week testing our idea out in person we want to back further out to see if we can have the same affect without being there in person. We acknowledge that by conducting our test it in person we are introducing a bias that wouldn’t normally be there if they were shopping by themselves. So it’s important to learn from this first week then run the rest of the pilot as remote as possible. Our goal is a minimum of 15 tests, ideally we would work a number of people for multiple weeks to learn how they shopping habits might evolve, even if in a relatively short period of time. Just because someone eats healthier one week, doesn’t mean they’ll continue down that path.
There are so many small nuances in using coupons and trying to save money while grocery shopping, this might have started to distract a little from our primary goal: helping people adopt a healthier diet with small gradual changes. The money saving techniques are how we plan on providing more value to the user to have more inclination to use our service, but we can’t let that turn us away from our primary goal.
Lastly, a very important detail we are addressing is the fact that we aren’t subject matter experts within the food space. As we started fleshing out the pilot and were forced to start making recommendations on real lists, we learned when fact checking the recommendations that were coming to mind that they weren’t as healthy as we originally thought. This is where it’s vital for us to bring in nutritionists and/or dietitians into our pilot. We have a meeting scheduled with a dietitian this week to help us navigate recommendations within our pilot. When our product becomes a reality we will work even closer with a dietitian, if not hire one, to ensure the quality of our product is where it needs to be to make healthy food recommendations.
There are even more questions that are derived when trying to build an idea than when creating an idea. I am excited to receive feedback from our pilot and mature our idea into something that will help people adopt a healthier diet. If you’d like more detail of our plan you may read our pilot plan deck.