Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Try our prototype 'Beauty Room' application

Tesco.com grocery is presented on our web site using a list-based format. For example, you type in 'baked beans' and you get a list of baked-bean products.

The list-based format is all well and good because it performs well, allowing quick access to products and customers understand it. Unfortunately it has one drawback - it just isn't very exciting. Indeed I have often referred to our grocery product listings as a bit like a quartermaster's store. It's just "pages of stuff we have in stock".

And - let's be clear - we've done this deliberately. Most of our grocery product range listing doesn't need to be exciting - it needs to be fast and functional. Customers tend to order around 5o different product items in a single shop, so woe betide us that we pretty the web up and find it annoys customers by slowing their shopping experience down.

However some aspects of our product range should be exciting but just aren't exciting thanks to our list-based system. Think about the emotional contexts of beauty products - brands such a L'Oreal, Pantene, Radox, Olay and others. These brands create products that involve the emotions: inspiring, relaxing, washing, bathing, rejuvenating, making us feel cleaner and look younger. Shoving them into a list like we do baked beans hardly does them justice!

From what I've told you so far, it's not a surprise to learn that we sometimes under-sell beauty brands online compared to in-store shopping. The in-store merchanding teams have done a sensational job with the look of the beauty department in Tesco stores, creating the right ambiance to match the beauty brands being displayed. So we've been inspired to do the same. Would you like to take a look at what we're prototyping?

Imagine that you've arrived in the 'beauty' area of our website - either by navigating through the department - aisle - shelf hierarchy or because you typed a beauty brand into the search box.
The first thing you would see is what you get today - a list of products. However imagine that above this list would appear a link to something called 'Beauty Room'.

If you follow this link in a moment -
- you will achieve the same end; a new window will open marking the entrance to the 'Beauty Room' application.

The application is written in Microsoft's Silverlight technology so if you haven't installed Silverlight 2.0 you will be invited to do so (as a one-off, just like Flash player). The application will work on any computer that can install Silverlight (Windows XP and later, and Apple OS X on Intel Macs). I do confess a love for Silverlight given my own background with .Net/C# programming - it's so easy to create compelling apps - more at http://silverlight.net

Now 'Beauty Room' is very much a work in progress - work that starts with overcoming the 30 to 60 seconds it takes currently to login using your Tesco.com grocery email and password and download the product range - please be patient!.

Just for the benefit of personal data and privacy, your login data is used to call the Tesco.com Grocery API and download the beauty product range. Your details are not stored or logged on the www.techfortesco.com server I use for R&D. Indeed all that server does is serve you the 'Beauty Room' application and a couple of web pages.

I won't say any more here - go play and see how we have left the list-based world behind and entered the aspirational world of a beauty room....


  1. Nick, cant seem to make it work : i get a "Error with store catalog"

    Can you help me on that, really like to see this !

  2. Hi Benjamin

    I've just used the application again now and it seems OK with my own account - delivery from Tesco Brent Cross (Hendon), and with a test account delivering from our Dotcom-only store in Aylesford, Kent.

    I think your delivery branch may have a problem - do you know which branch of Tesco delivers to you? If so let me know and I'll use a test account to login in case that store has a problem.

    Does the error happen when logging-in, before the full Beauty Room is displayed, or after the room is displayed?

    If you wish to 'play' you can change your own home store by adding a new address on the Tesco.com web site. Try an Aylesford, Kent address (look for one using Google) and set that as your home store. Don't forget to put it back before you really order though!

    Otherwise email me and I'll send you details of a test account for you to login.

    I don't publish my Tesco email address account on the web but my own is fine: nick@lansley.com



As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: