Hellon: "Baby"- Reducing Stress and Increasing Parent Spend Through Design

The service design project was given an objective to create a compelling value proposition and to design a differentiating customer experience for parent and baby shoppers to visit the stores and for those already using the stores, to spend more active shopping time within the store. In addition to increasing footfall, the aim was to drive significant revenue growth in this shopper segment both in the baby category and in the overall stores.

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"Baby" - Reducing Stress and Increasing Parent Spend Through Design
Designing an improved shopping experience for Ireland's largest grocery retailer, in order to attract and support parent shopping with small children. 


The client, Ireland's largest grocery retailer with operations in Ireland and Spain, had identified an ongoing price war within the parental shopping segment in Ireland which had resulted in a competitive race on price in baby products. In some cases, products were
sold at or even below cost.

The company is founded on it’s strong values and they are known for their high-quality products, great service and strong local community engagement. Staying true to the company’s brand, the objective of the service design project was to identify ways to compete in the baby aisles without being drawn into the price war with the competitors. In addition to increasing footfall and driving spend holistically, the aim was to drive significant revenue growth in this specific shopper segment both in the baby category and throughout the stores, by offering a superior parent shopper experience.

Over four months, we co-created a compelling value proposition for parent shoppers, that not only offers a competitive in-store customer experience but also meets and exceeds our client’s business objectives. As a direct result of the service design project, the improved
customer experience and the new solutions have been estimated to achieve an incremental annual revenue of €4.84M.


The project process was based on Design Council’s Double Diamond model, with an emphasis on human-centric design and co-creation. A total of 45 customers were engaged throughout the process, along with a variety of important stakeholders from the client organisation.
Starting with a 4-week Insight phase, we utilised ethnographic research methodologies to gather qualitative data from customers. The research methodologies chosen were design probes and semi-structured interviews, that allowed us to gather two kinds of qualitative
data: data documented by the customer in their every day and data gathered by the designers in the in-depth interviews.

After analysing the design probe results (1 week, 5 assignments, each containing 5-7 tasks), 8 of the 12 customers were chosen to take part in the in-depth interviews, to dive deeper into the experiences of parent shoppers, following up on the probe themes. The 8
customers chosen for this phase were chosen to represent a variety of different needs and life situations. Some were more concerned about finding the best quality food for their child (organic, local) whereas others struggled with the shopping trip itself.

The data was analysed using the Affinity Mapping method, creating in-depth understanding of the needs and challenges of parent shoppers. Among the identified challenges was the checkout, that can be the biggest moment of tension in the entire shopping trip, with the combination of needing to juggle packing & managing the child, placement of impulse purchases and testing the child’s patience. All customers reported feelings of fear around whether their child’s behaviour would impact their ability to focus on the task of doing their shop, and many described their tactics for keeping the child distracted. All respondents spoke of an aversion to branded baby foods, and a preference for blending up their own meals. Food seems to be the area in which parents are least willing to compromise.

From the analysis, we identified 40 opportunity areas in how the retailer might better support the stressed-out parent shoppers.
The Insight phase was followed by the Co-creation and Concept Design phase, in which we co-created improvement ideas for a competitive parent shopper experience. Together with the retailer, we arranged 2 co-creation workshops with the objective of creating solutions and ideas for the identified opportunity areas. We then prioritised the most potential ideas together based on stakeholder interest, potential impact and concept value to the customer (is it functional, experiential, or emotional). A selection of 24 prioritised ideas were refined, iterated and designed in detail as a result of the co-creation workshops. The ideas then formed a total of 1 concept including 10 different prototypes proposed for the following phase.

The process finally culminated with Prototyping and Validation, during which the selected parent shopping concept was tested in a LiveLab in-store with real customers. For the LiveLab, together with the client, we decided to focus on testing an experience that makes the parents life easier, influencing where to do their “big shop”, giving them more head space to respond to offers and new products in the store. The ideas were refined into the Parent VIP Hour concept, a time of the day/week when parents of young children know they can receive preferential treatment in-store. The concept included 10 improvement ideas including; Flexible Parent Parking, Parent-Friendly checkouts, and Assistance from Till to Car.

We tested the Parent VIP Hour concept in two of the retailers’ stores, engaging a total of 33 customers in the LiveLab, all of whom were interviewed after testing the new shopping experience. Feedback was gathered from both customers and store staff in order to evaluate and validate the impact of the improved experience.


The LiveLab results validated that there is potential to impact revenue and footfall by reducing the stress of the parent shoppers. From the prototype of Parent VIP Hour, we recorded an almost 50% drop in reported parent shopper stress levels when shopping with
kids. There was also indication of increase in spend (18%) and reported likelihood of increased visits (16%). The LiveLab participants reported being on average 90% likely to recommend PVIP 3 out of 10 ideas scored 92% or more for participant enthusiasm (4.6+). Those ideas were Extra Parent Parking, Free Fruit for Kids and Parent Treat (free coffee). The Parent Checkout, in which selected checkouts were cleared of sweets and there was support for packing, was reported as the 2nd highest influencer on shopping decision by the parents.
It was met by great enthusiasm, with comments such as ”Brilliant!” Checkout is normally the hardest time in terms of acting up - they want everything”.

As a result of the service design project and the tested customer experience prototypes, the client has launched several initiatives. During the project, we saw an increase of 643% in social media reach and 512% in social media engagement. For the stores involved in
the service design project and in the commercial trial, the total annualised incremental revenue impact was as high as 678,000€.

The service design project outcomes fed into the client’s 3-year plan in terms of possible outcomes and new routes to market for this segment. Based on the project, the improved customer experience and the new solutions, the client now estimates an incremental revenue of €4.84M annually to be achieved as a direct result of the work.


The benefits were multifaceted and can be split into three categories; 1) In-depth insight on parent shopper needs and challenges, 2) superior design for an improved parent shopping experience and 3) culture change towards customer-centric service development.

  1. Insights: For the client organisation, the project was the first to utilise qualitative research methods to deliver in-depth insight on the critically important segment for the business. Previously, the organisation focused solely on utilising quantitative research to gather insight for guiding development efforts. The project proved that smaller qualitative samples can give robust insight that is more suitable for identifying how to improve or design new services. The insight also unearthed new opportunity areas for the client that
    weren’t originally in their scope of development.
  2. Superior design: Through the ideation techniques, journey mapping and prioritisation of most impactful elements, the end propositions developed were of a high quality and the client’s feedback was that we managed to effectively deliver on what potentially could have been very in a traditionally siloed organization. On a market owner level, the client valued the fact that through prototyping they were able to get real feedback from consumers, then iterating the concepts, so that when they went to market with the final service they worked right on the first time.
  3. Culture: The project kick-started a shift towards customer-centric development within the organisation.

By being engaged in the insight gathering, the client stakeholders got closer to their users and developed more empathy towards the end users’ needs and challenges, making them aware that grocery shopping is an end to end experience, and that only by acknowledging the fact that it can be stressful for parents, can we support them better and ultimately strive in the competitive market. Due to the nature of the service design technique the company saw a breaking down of silos - the cross-functional team set up for this project worked extremely well together and provided a great outcome. This was a big learning for the company and has been continued in other projects.

As an overall - shared sentiment- the whole team from the store level partners to the senior stakeholders had a lot of fun during this project!


The project was a prime example of a successful Service Design project that had positive impact on various levels. It provided the client with valuable insight, an improved and competitive parent shopping experience and also managed to shake up internal processes, starting a shift towards customer-centric development in the client organisation.

The prototyped concept validated the desirability of Parent VIP Hour, and allowed the client to implement the new shopping experience with confidence that it will work from day 1, and supported in proving the ROI. Parent VIP Hour is now being rolled out to 50 stores
during the year (2018), Free Fruit for kids is now nationwide and all new stores have been fitted with hotel grade changing rooms and doubled family parking spaces. The results of the Parent VIP Hour are a great example of proving the ROI of Service Design. Through service design, we were able to not only reduce the stress of parent shoppers and make their everyday better, but also create a competitive customer experience that then results in increased spend and a substantial increase in revenue.

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