Market Basket


About the Project

Market Basket is one of the top 20 grocery store chains in the country, yet has never had a website or social media account. Our goal was to conduct necessary research in order to build a website that fully represented the company’s longstanding identity and values. We planned to examine customer needs and pain points through a series of in-depth interviews and shop-alongs. Along the way we spoke with store managers, staff and headquarter leads. As the research lead on this project, I developed the research strategy, led the implementation and analysis, and coordinated a small internal research team.

2016.07.11 Salem, NH interior_2 redone.jpeg

A typical Market Basket store.



Planning the Research

Our client requested a quick three-week turnaround time for our research, so I drafted a timeline that allotted for five store visits over the course of a week and a half. Working with the client, we identified key store locations and shopping times that represented diverse sections of the Market Basket customer base. 


Before deciding on research strategies, I started by gathering our team's assumptions about the Market Basket customer. This included assumptions about who customers are, what they need, how they behave, and why they do those things. I then ranked these assumptions based on certainty.

Assumptions list with filler content.

This list of assumptions gave us an idea of the research questions we wanted to ask in order to either confirm or dispel our beliefs. I drafted an interview guide with four sections: introductions, shopping habits, technology use and opinions on Market Basket. We tested interview questions internally for ease of understanding and refined the wording to be more concise. I left open-ended questions for the towards the end of the guide (ex: "If you had a magic wand, what would you change about Market Basket?") and included prompts to probe for further information (ex: probe for mentions of weekly flyer).


To complete our preparation, I created additional site materials so that we could gather customer information for later user testing, as well as photo shot checklists, signage and exit forms to gather demographic data after our shop-a-long. 


Field Work

Over the course of the next week and a half, I led our internal research team to interview 18 different shopper groups. We prepared for the fieldwork with an internal training to cover basic interview tips and practices. 


Our trusty table sign.

Once in the store, we worked in pairs to recruit customers via a table at the front of each store, shopped with customers through the aisles and asked them about their shopping habits. We quickly adapted to the hectic environment of the store: I reformatted our field guide to easily fit in a pocket, we kept a laptop available in the store office for each team to capture initial notes and checked in at the end of each store visit to debrief.

We documented customer artifacts such as the shopping lists above.


We captured photos of our customers and what they purchased (though any identifying images have been omitted to protect customer privacy)



After each fieldwork session, I gathered our notes, transcribed them, and organized them with the corresponding photos so that we could begin to analyze our research observations. Once the fieldwork was complete, I begin pulling out insights and searching for patterns.

To better facilitate synthesis in a small space, I experimented with printed user summaries for each customer, allowing me to put up all of our observations without depleting my post-it note collection. I then transferred ideas to post-its to more easily create spectrums, matrixes and other groupings. 


From the analysis, I created five key personas, a set of guiding design principles and drafted a six-page document of key insights ranging from shopping habits, to online behaviors to perspectives on Market Basket as a store.

Some key insights:
Customers use the physical store as a mental model for what to buy
—At Market Basket, customers don’t feel like they are short on money
—Grocery shopping is a deeply social activity


Persona text and imagery has been replaced with filler content. 


Our research phase concluded this summer. I presented these findings to our client along with recommendations as to how we could apply each insight to our website design and digital strategy. Our client was delighted with the research insights, and surprised that even after many years with the company, they too could learn something more about their customers. The personas and design principles culled from the research will be used internally to guide design and development decisions as the project progresses this Fall.