Using a social enterprise model, we’re creating a shopping list app, which will not only save people money while helping them buy healthier food, but will also collect data about their shopping habits, which, when linked with their postcode and household income, will hopefully allow researchers to better understand some of the correlations between eating habits and health outcomes.
We appreciate that one of the big issues with data collection is getting people to regularly and reliability fill in whatever form/survey you’re looking for them to complete - the recent Census is a perfect example of that! What we’re hoping to create is a shopping list app, giving users a very clear ‘What’s in it for Me’, by providing an easy to use, intuitive shopping app that can be accessed by the whole family, which tells them how much they can save each time they complete a shopping list, providing a running tally of the amount they’ve saved to date using the app, tracking specials, telling them when they should or shouldn’t buy specific products based on their price history, and offering them tailored sale advice, based on their buying habits.
If we do this properly, and provide users with a free, accessible, intuitive and easy to use app that genuinely saves them money and makes their life easier, we hope that people will be more likely to use the app regularly enough to provide real, usable data that can then be passed on to UTas and other appropriate research bodies to help inform health research.
We plan to start simple and small, only releasing the app on Android initially, only including products from the two big supermarket chains (Coles and Woolworths), only providing a fairly limited set of core functionalities, including taking a list of products from the user, and returning advice re how much they would save if they chose to shop at Coles or Woolworths, or if they were prepared to split their shop between the two stores. It would tell them how much they’ve saved to date using the app, and show you your ‘shopping history’. It would track items they wanted to ‘watch’, to see when they came on sale, and would offer advice on when and where they should buy certain items on their list, e.g. we all know that you should never buy Vitamin tablets at full price, as they go for 50% off regularly! Basically, we aim to help people shop the bargains more often than not! As an added benefit, we hope that by saving money on their grocery budget, people will have more 'disposable' money to spend on perceived 'expensive', healthier foods, including fresh fruit and veggies. We hope that the app may also help to break down some of the, often false, perceptions that eating healthy is more expensive.
Looking to the future, we would plan to expand the functionalities to include other shops beyond ‘the big two’, e.g. IGAs and other smaller supermarkets and local producers. We would make the specials more tailored, integrate suggested recipes based on people’s product history, and continue to improve the machine learning element of the project. We would push the app onto IOS, as well as launch a web platform. Once we started to get some credibility and traction with users we may also look at asking some extra questions, like whether you got the flu this winter, and how often you eat out or buy take away food.
In a nutshell, our goal is to create something that not only improves people’s health, and helps them make ends meet, but also, potentially, will help to inform health research into the future.