This is a part of my everyday routine that is up for improvement – the entrance area to my local supermarket. I went to observe the area during rush hour the other day and took some notes, then went home and brought it all together on paper. It’s pretty rough and ready, but this is what I came up with:

I discovered that it’s a source of congestion. Primarily I guess that is because the entrance and exit are in the same areas, and they are both funnelled through quite a small place. You can’t stop at all or have any kind of delay as both the customers entering and customers exiting don’t like to be held up one bit. I heard people say “come on!” and many a frustrated face as they tried to navigate through this area. To compile the issue, people had to pull out their trolley or pick up their basket, some stopped to donate to a charity, some to buy a Lotto ticket. It was a busy place – not one that deals kindly to slower people, people with kids, people seeing other people they know and wanting to chat, or people who just want to get in and out again ASAP.

An interesting sub-set of this I found were the people who nipped through the one-way door when it opened for the exiting customers. I suppose they wanted something on the other side of the supermarket, and didn’t want to weave their way through all the aisles you have to if you use the main entrance. Still for them though, they had to go halfway down the side to then find an open way into the supermarket, as all the others were blocked by checkouts and people.

The nature of a supermarket means there will be a range of people visiting – some doing their big weekly shop, some picking up particular speciality bits and bobs, some just wanting the staples. Some people rushed and some people took their time. This caused tension as many of the “rushers” were getting frustrated and walking around the “slowers”. Those people just wanted to get in and out.

It was a nice day when I observed, but I’ve been there on cold days and the wind rips through that entrance – it can get cold and dark and drafty. Then as soon as you step into the supermarket it’s regulated, bright, colourful, with safe music playing. There are no windows in the supermarket, no clocks, no easy to get to bathrooms.

I’ve already got a few ideas buzzing around about potential improvements but I’m looking forward to sitting down and getting into some distraction free ideation time. Then I’m going to send it the supermarket owners and keep moaning about the area until it gets changed!

Other blog posts I’ve commented on:

Bec – ‘Observation Task’

Liz – ‘Blog Task 2: Observation’

Shannon – ‘Blog Task 2’

6 thoughts on “Observation

  1. Some marketing experts have probably spent years coming up with the layout they believe sells the most product, never mind how much it inconveniences us poor shoppers. It’s so frustrating when you know you are being manipulated into travelling past particular products when all you want is milk (right up the back corner) and bread (as far from the milk as physically possible).
    This particular supermarket looks worse than most in terms of poor thinking about the layout at the entrance and exit – what a nightmare. It’s time these multi-national big businesses spared a thought for those for whom the daily or weekly shopping trip is a social highlight – perhaps if they thought more about making people comfortable, and safe to take their time coming and going, they would feel less manipulated and would view the expedition as more of an outing and less of an obstacle to be dealt with as quickly as possible…who knows, they might even sell more stuff!
    I hope you come up with some great workable ideas and the management does something about them. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Heather! I like that – supermarket shopping should be made “more comfortable and safe”. Would that be a known unknown? We know that it probably should be make more comfortable, but don’t exactly know how to do that? Cheers for the comment 😀

  2. And who said this was just an assignment – you’ve taken it to a new level Matt by deciding to send through your ideas to the supermarket in question! Good on you!
    I find myself wondering how many of the “problems” you highlighted in your observation were deliberate design features, developed that way for marketing purposes (eg. having to walk through much of the store to get to the item you came for, perhaps buying some other things on the way that you hadn’t initially planned to??)
    I relate to the tension that you described between the different users of that space – the “slowers” and the “rushers”. It’s a challenge isn’t it – How do you design for the needs of such disparate users, both of whom have very legitimate, but different, needs for that space?

    1. Hi Jo – yes I think most of the inside of the supermarket has been designed specifically to eek out as much moolah as possible from the customers. I wonder though, with a few redesigns, could it attract more people thereby equaling out any loss in profit? Interesting!

  3. Great detailed sketch Matt
    I did the Supermarket observation too – but more centred on the actual different types of tills – mine was in a Mall so don’t get me started on the rest of the place!! I think these places ignore the ‘feasibility’ and ‘viability’ part of the equation and concentrate on the ‘marketability’ part – the lotto for instance – lots of opportunity for us to be captured into spending money – not much thought of congestion, they forget the ‘returnability’ part of it too! If I hate a Mall or Supermarket I’m in no rush to go back to it – just try another one – then they just lose my $$’s

    1. Cheers for the comment Ronnie! Malls are the same kind of deal aren’t they… maybe not as annoying as a supermarket, but designed for a purpose nonetheless – to get people to empty their wallets. Supermarkets are more like lines at airport security or a theme park – being herded through in a particular way. I want freedom!

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