In Spring 2016, Penn’s Integrated Product Design program offered a simple design challenge: learn about people’s dinner habits and transform them into Amazon’s next product offering.
I worked on a three-person team to develop and implement the research plan, ideate, and refine our concepts through prototypes.
INDUSTRY: E-commerce, Grocery, Entertainment
EXPERTISE: Design Strategy, Ethnography, Research, User Interaction, Interface Design
COLLABORATORS: Danielle Lashley, Eric Tepper
Americans spend an average of 80 minutes consuming food each day. Increasingly, this time is spent away from home, often while tackling secondary activities.
In fact, in 2013 50% of food expenditures—a $1.3 trillion industry—went toward meals consumed away from home. An abundance of evidence shows that this trend has negative health, social, and emotional outcomes. To understand user needs in this space and explore new product opportunities for Amazon, our team focused our primary research on an extreme user group: individuals working overnight or otherwise unorthodox work schedules.
To understand Amazon's stake in the market, we explored their existing products, company culture, and market strategies. While Amazon Prime is a critical force in their business, fewer than half of their 120 million shoppers were Prime subscribers in 2016.
Over the course of two weeks, we built a research plan and conducted in-depth interviews and observations with 4 individuals who work irregular, overnight shifts, including three nurses and 1 hotel concierge.
We knew interviews alone would only give us a glimpse into what our user group’s food habits looked like, so we asked each participant to help us better understand their experience through different tools, including a camera journal, cart sort, shadowing, and daily meal log.
Though we heard users echoing the same needs--ownership, variety, and satisfaction--our primary research made clear that not all users in our target audience are inclined to expend the same energy or effort on food preparation. In our following work, we focused on the ‘Aspirational Home Cooker.’
We mapped each step of the Aspirational Home Cooker's journey to understand where pain points arise and to identify opportunity areas Amazon hasn’t yet capitalized on. It quickly became clear that making a single meal isn’t as simple as it may seem.
People feel a responsibility and a sense of accomplishment when they have a hand in their meal preparation.
…even if no one else is present. In addition to face-to-face interactions, social media and video content offer their own means of relaxation.
People want food that tastes good! Small work-arounds, like adding a sauce, warming a dish, or breaking out the panini press, spice up otherwise ordinary meals.
Using the same formula for dishes helps cut down on planning and can offer opportunities to increase variety in each dish.
Before ideating, we broke out our research findings into actionable criteria and identified overlapping opportunity areas for both Amazon and their users.
First, customers select their desired recipe and order ingredients through Amazon Fresh. When their purchase arrives, they can return to the site, where they're prompted to pair an Amazon Prime video with their recipe. While their chosen content plays, each recipe step appears on screen. A portable tabletop button makes it easy to switch between steps without needing to touch the computer.
We gave her the ingredients and a spatula equipped with a button, and asked her to cook a meal while streaming a favorite show. After each recipe step, she was asked to used the spatula’s button to progress to the next instruction.
Result: Our tester was easily distracted by what was on the stove and wound up missing key moments in her show, but had no way to manage the content's pacing. Plus, pressing a button on her spatula became counterintuitive when she made use of other kitchen tools.
We simulated the experience by reading the recipe steps aloud to the chef and asking them to mark Post-its around the kitchen to indicate each time and location the ‘button’ was pressed.
Result: We found there wasn't one perfect spot for our button to live. Instead, where the button was placed depended on the stage of the recipe and recipe process. This made clear our final product needed to be portable and easy-to-clean.
Eats provides variety and balance by creating modular meal options, pre-frozen in sets. Each dish can be composed from a range of frozen starches, proteins, vegetables, and sauces. Individual servings may be easily snapped off in portions congruent with the user’s preference, then added to their Amazon lunch container and heated at work for just a few minutes.
To test the concept of Amazon Eats, we put together a set of fresh and frozen meals that could break into pre-portioned servings.Then, we gave them both to a user and measured the length of time from refrigerator to table. Finally, we rated the cooking time for each.
Result: The dish took under five minutes to prepare and heat. The snap-off interaction was surprisingly pleasing, though the consumer questioned whether the proportions would work for different eaters. Finally, we found that frozen dishes warmed up more evenly than fresh.
Next, we wanted to know if the taste and quality of our frozen dishes met user standards, so we A/B tested two dishes, one fresh and one frozen with a skeptic.
Result: After eating both, our tester declared, “I don’t care [that it is frozen food] anymore, now that I’ve tasted it. It’s pretty good.”
With Prime’s annual subscription fee and higher user purchasing rate, these products tap into significant market potential in an underrepresented category.
Before creating Amazon Cookmate and Eats, we explored existing products and services, using 2x2 matrices to identify gaps in the market. This competitive analysis showed that while there are products that make food preparation easier, few products offered both a variety of options and user ownership in the process. And even fewer ensured healthy options.