PROPOSAL FOR THE FOOD RETAIL INDUSTRY
The problem this project solves
1) Both supermarket customers and employees are at high risk of infection;
2) Due to high traffic, supermarket online stores have congested accesses and operating issues;
3) Supermarket (online) orders have been having extended delivery times;
4) Due to the huge demand, the average preparation time for each online custom order will be highly impractical;
5) Excess purchases (hoarding) create situations of inequality in the distribution of essential goods, namely to the elderly population, health professionals and other professionals who currently support the greater effort in this fight against the pandemic — and who don’t have enough free time to shop for essential goods;
6) In this context, it is also very difficult to ensure that the exact selection of a custom online order will actually be delivered, resulting that these supply failures will have implications on families' daily lives;
7) The daily supermarket shelf stocking, at this scale and pace, is unsustainable;
8) The employees that guarantee daily restocking are not immune to this infection and as a result, we will naturally see temporary store closures, worsening the problem locally.
The solution we bring to the table
Our proposal is to market and promote Pre-packed Essentials in the form of boxes + add-on boxes;
The boxes can be numbered, for example from 1 to 6, containing essential goods in increasing quantities;
The add-on boxes contain specific goods grouped by category and can be alphabetically ordered (A, B, C, D…): such as fresh groceries, toiletries, cleaning items, baby, bio, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free/lactose-free, kosher, prepared meals (for those who can’t cook), etc.
Ideally, stores may also offer a combination of Pre-packed Essentials with, for example, a maximum of 10 other single items so that clients may add a few specific products to their order;
What it does:
1) Convert in-store purchases to online and telephone channels;
2) Reduce the number of people in supermarkets and the consequent risk of contagion;
3) Enable access to essential goods;
4) Ensure the easy availability of essential goods to the elderly, health professionals and other front-line workers;
5) Shorten home delivery times;
6) Expedite order preparation and respective logistics/home deliveries;
7) Reduce the burden on workers in the food distribution and logistics sector;
8) Restore regular essential goods purchasing habits;
9) Increase inclusiveness because it allows the customer to place essential goods orders over the phone quickly and conveniently. This feature is particularly useful for the elderly and for people with special needs who cannot buy online or go to the store;
The boxes contents should be guided and determined by industry sector professionals aided by nutritionists, pediatricians and other relevant specialists;
The boxes contents must be shared publicly so that any store, small or large, can follow identical guidelines, thus promoting the easy adoption and use of this system by the population at large;
Prices may fluctuate because item/brand selection can vary from store to store and from week to week;
As the need for rationing is not expected, customers may continue to make individual custom purchases in stores and online;
By choosing Pre-packed Essentials, the customers will be guaranteed in-store product availability and also a faster delivery for online/phone purchases, thus making preparation and logistics of usual single purchases less of a priority;
Online/phone shopping should continue to be both promoted and favoured in the immediate future as in the coming months to mitigate the risk of contagion;
The Pre-packed Essentials boxes handling must be carried out on assembly lines in accordance with the recent Health guidelines and the usual sector regulations, in order to reduce the risk of team contagion and product/packaging contamination;
As the box assembly process is simplified, it can be guaranteed by external teams composed of new hires (e.g.: trainees), the military or volunteers;
The boxes can also be prepared remotely, away from stores, in food warehouses or in adapted spaces.
Consumer habits are difficult to change as are the logistics and commercial processes of distribution companies.
In this new reality we are living, both have to evolve and we must face this challenge as an opportunity to improve processes and experiences.
We assumed, as a basic rule for this proposal’s development, the use of familiar notions so that there would be no barriers to its implementation - consumers already know the concept of distance shopping (online or by phone), they already know the concept of food hampers (although usually associated with gourmet products), and distribution companies maintain their logistical procedures for storing and shipping orders.
This is simply a proposal to streamline processes and how to communicate them with users.
This is the development process we adopted:
3) Rapid solution prototyping;
4) User feedback;
6) Solution completion;
As a rule, we plan to go back to step 1 and start over for an ever-evolving solution.
Just the idea was not enough. It was necessary to structure this solution so we could easily communicate it to all potential partners and consumers.
We also took advantage of the work carried out during this hackathon to further develop the operational details of this distance purchasing system.
Namely, its evolution to the post-pandemic period.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
The use of this idea has no associated costs, any supermarket can use this system to more easily manage the sale and logistics of essential goods.
This solution also reduces the risk of contagion by simply removing people from stores and queues without reducing sales.
We believe that inclusiveness is a huge strong point of this idea because, with this simple system, anyone can make their of essential goods purchase conveniently from their home.
We propose that supermarkets distribute leaflets to the population with images and a content description for each box made available for purchase, because not all citizens use the internet.
The necessities in order to continue the project
This solution was designed for its widespread use in all supermarkets, be they small or large, and there are no language or culture impediments to its use.
The first step will be to present this solution to the sector decision makers, define each box/hamper contents, define the production lines that will guarantee the packaging of the various boxes and define the best logistical solution that guarantees the quick delivery of this simplified essential goods distribution system.
The value of this solution after the crisis
Following the pandemic, this solution may remain in use because it makes life easier for this sector’s consumers and company employees.
It is particularly useful from an inclusiveness perspective, as mentioned above, providing the older population with a fast way to purchase their essential goods.
By converting sales to online and telephone channels, the logistical requirements will increase - jobs will also be created in this sector as a response to increase in demand.
This concept of distance shopping also enables donations, as it becomes increasingly easy to offer essential goods boxes to those most in need or from the young to the older family members.
One of the main consequences of this pandemic will be a pronounced, transversal and universal economic crisis, which will have a significant impact on millions of people.
The notion of mutual support will therefore have to be reinforced, so that as a just society, these needs can be met.
This solution facilitates inclusiveness and solidarity.