Service Design

Redesigning a gourmet supermarket to reengage customers





Jan 2017 - May 2017

UX Researcher & Designer, Video editor

User & market research, Visualization (personas, customer journey maps, stakeholder maps), ideation and design, prototyping (Arduino), video


The Fresh Market (TFM) is an upscale, gourmet supermarket with 30 years of history selling quality fresh food. Consumers’ desire to purchase quality, natural and organic food products fueled TFM’s strong growth into a good distribution network of over 130 stores across the U.S.


It was smooth sailing for TFM until 2010, when competitors from the west coast invaded the market and quickly capitalized on the organic food segment. Using a combination of projection mapping and interactive storytelling, we redesigned TFM’s shopping journey to be a differentiated one where customers literally experienced the food  and be converted to a regular shopper.


Stakeholder Map


With assistance from NCR Corporation, we interviewed stakeholders from TFM to get a comprehensive picture of the internal workings of the company. Combined with online research and annual reports, we came up with a stakeholder map that weighs all of the competing demands on TFM by each of those who have a claim in it.


Before we can dive into design, we needed to understand our users and build empathy around what they experienced at the store. These are our primary research questions:

  • Why do customers shop at TFM? 

  • How do they shop at TFM?

  • What are the user interactions across all touchpoints with products, services, and the brand?

  • What are customers’ attitude and perception of the brand and the products?

We conducted 6 contextual interviews where we would investigate touchpoints and shop-along with customers.

During our shopalongs, we discovered the product labels that TFM as part of their marketing strategy. However, we found that customers couldn’t be bothered with the lengthy descriptions.

We affinity mapped the qualitative data after each session. It was gradually expanded as we conducted more research sessions.


Informed by our findings, we designed a customer journey map that would representing their fluctuating emotions as they enter the store, search for items, check out and leave. We identified 2 key pain points in this journey – random food samples and lengthy product descriptions.


Based on the main types of shoppers and shopping behavior that emerged from our contextual inquiries, we designed 3 personas to guide our brainstorming and idea selection later.



Triangulating our findings, we discovered several patterns in terms of shopping behaviors. Customers rarely used their phones for planning or while shopping due to the small and confusing presence TFM had. TFM was not their weekly grocery stop but it was their top go-to for unique items for special occasions.



We also discovered several frustrations and dissatisfactory areas in their shopping experience, mainly the assurance of quality, and finding uses for the expensive items that they bought for a once-a-year occasion.



Essentially, in order for customers to become loyal to TFM, they needed a differentiated shopping experience that would show them the quality, andhow to use those singularly expensive items in their everyday life.


​​Faced with a customer loyalty problem, we started throwing out as many ideas as possible related to attracting customers back to the store and growing their basket size. Some of our ideas include:​​

  • Augmented Reality shopping

  • Food Journey - shop from raw ingredients to processed food

  • Sample store with recipe instructions

  • Auto-scan Carts

  • ...


Going back to our user research and design recommendations, we decided to center our ideation on these 2 concrete pillars:

  • Make the extraordinary relevant and actionable

TFM had so many unique products that cannot be found in other grocery stores. We need to show users how they can use these items on more than just one special occasion but also in their everyday lives so that they would come back to TFM to purchase those items.

  • Compelling storytelling

Customers preferred buying fresh produce in physical stores rather than online because they would be able to handle the produce and check how fresh it was. We needed to communicate TFM’s quality through more than just written text, especially for our millennial shopper Angela (our primary persona) who didn’t necessarily know how to consistently identify great fruit from stale ones.

Using lego blocks, we built a 3D model of the store that helped facilitate design discussion and situate ideas.


Part 1: 3D Food Projections at Sample Stores

Using an empty plate on the sample store, 3D food projections are played onto that plate to show how TFM products can create an everyday meal. Specific projections could be played according to which sample the customer picked.

Part 2: Talking Produce

We made an interactive product narrative that bridged the gap between farmers and customers. We let the fruits and veggies speak for themselves directly to the customers.

Part 3: Change Management Plan

We made a service blueprint to show how the changes involved in implementation for our design, and to activate key stakeholders in showing how certain steps were improved behind the scenes.

  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • Dribbble
  • White Vimeo Icon

© 2018-2021 by Zhangyan Ling