Why can’t I find Harissa Paste in Tesco?

20th June 2018

Update: For those of you coming here after searching for ‘harissa tesco aisle’ – check in the Morrocan section. In my store, it was beside the Mexican stuff.

I hate doing the weekly shop.

I’m lucky enough to live in a city where there are four 24 hour Tescos within a 10-minute drive of my house, plus two 24 hour Asdas (and, being in Scotland, they’re actually 24 hour).

I try and do one weekly shop on a Monday because that’s when the shop is quieter and there are less small children running around actively trying to get run over by my trolley. On a good day, I’m in an out in 30 minutes or less. But the bad days? It can take up to an hour. Why so long you ask? Because I can’t find things.

It’s relatively well known that supermarkets move items around every so often. The reason for this is that they want you to discover new items and then buy them. It’s the same logic they use for adding random little products into aisles. Like having an avocado slicer beside the avocados, even though the slicer normally lives in the homeware section. When they move products, they want to you go to where it used to be, and find something new.

And that’s great. I have bought many an avocado slicer and new products because they’ve been beside other things I wanted or simply because they were there and I fancied a special KitKat that day.

But seriously, why is it so hard to find some products!

Enter the tale of Harissa Paste.

I wanted to make a nice lamb recipe which required harissa paste. So off to Tesco I went! I found everything really quickly, apart from the paste. I found the spice, but no paste. It wasn’t with the other “slightly odd ingredients you buy once and probably use once” even though I knew it was from that range. I looked it up on the Tesco website to see what it looked like (as if that would help) and also to see if I could find any clue as to where it may be in the vast expanse of Tesco Extra. Nothing.

There was no information as to where this little jar might live. Eventually, after around 30 MINUTES of looking for this singular jar, I found it on the bottom shelf of the Moroccan section. I didn’t even know Tesco had a Moroccan section.

During my wandering in Tesco, I had a thought. Why was there no information available as to where the jar lived? Tesco knows where it is. They have extensive plans as to how the shop is laid out, how the shelves are laid out, everything. So why can’t I search for the one thing I need?

So what did I do? Did I forget about it and go home like a normal person. Of course not. I made a list of pain points.

Now, not all of these are real pain points. But they add to levels of frustration. I couldn’t find a member of staff to ask for help. And I really wanted to get home. It was a Friday and the last thing I wanted was to be in Tesco for longer than I needed to.

The pain points eventually became sketches of ideas. I skipped out a search results page because it wasn’t key to my idea (also it saved time).

The general idea behind this is that it should be a feature of a Tesco app, rather than a standalone app. Customers should be able to search for the product they’re looking for, by name. And also see their old searches in case they need to find something again. A list of hard to find products can be generated through analysing user searches. Lots of customers searching for Harissa paste? It ends up on the list. The list can even be specialised to the store you’re in.

For the product page, I felt the most important elements of information were:

  • name
  • a picture
  • the location of the item

So that information is right at the top of the screen. No scrolling is required. As you work down the page, the information gets less important to the task of “find the paste”. I added a list of alternative products to help customers out. If something is out of stock or is missing, the customer should be offered alternatives. This should also cover the issue of there being multiple brands of a product or sizes.

Eventually, I’ll get around to doing a nice mockup of the concept but for now, sketches will have to do.