Friday, 6 August 2010

Who are Ribot, and why did we make them our mobile partner?

Our grocery home shopping application for Nokia phones (and soon, iPhone) was designed and built for us by a Brighton-based company called Ribot. But who are they?

Brothers Antony and Jerome Ribot (that's a French surname) came to our attention when we sent out a tender invitation to the world of mobile development companies. Many companies responded and we interviewed representatives of the most compelling responses to our invitation. All the companies we interviewed were professional, engaging, and thoughtful when it came to the ideas they had to help us deliver a great mobile shopping application.

Most of the representatives were dressed in suits and came across as ‘sober professionals’ who would deliver a ‘sober professional’ product. We saw plans, gantt charts and basic designs for home shopping.

The Ribot brothers didn’t come across that way at all.

Both Antony and Jerome arrived at HQ in ‘smart casual’. It’s not a look we are particularly used to when we are being visited by people who are aiming to impress us. We got over it: To look at them and listen to them made us feel we were onto something special; they had an energy about them; they fizzed with a professional creativity mixed with skill and experience from years of developing mobile apps.

The Ribot brothers listened to our requirements, made notes and sketches as we talked, and walked us through some basic concepts that might help improve the customer’s grocery journey.

However when Antony and Jerome returned a couple of weeks later with a detailed walkthrough of the application, we couldn’t quite believe it: They had designed the application quite deliberately such that the customer could use it for grocery home shopping in either a Tesco store or that of competitor.

The design was crafted as an easy to use generic grocery shopping list into which you could write anything - “carrots”, “potatoes”, “rice-crispies”, “chocolate cake”. If you wanted to take the phone and use it in any supermarket, you could. Read the list and tap a tick-box to confirm you had added it to your basket as you walked the store. A Tesco store. An ASDA store. A Sainsbury’s store.

We pointed this out to Ribot. They smiled. You see, the power of this design enabled to us to help take the customer on a journey into Tesco:

Sure you can use this in any store, says the design, but if you register at Tesco and give me your registration details, I can give you Tesco prices for your list - complete with special offers”.

Then, .. “Sure I can show you Tesco prices, but if you add this product to your basket, I could have it conveniently delivered to your home”.

In other words, anyone can use this app for their grocery lists, shopping anywhere - and if that’s they way they want it to stay, fine. Nevertheless, the app might convince its user to see if Tesco might sell their shopping list for a cheaper price, perhaps with special offers. When customers see the prices and offers, the app might persuade its user to see if they could save time by having their shopping list delivered.

It was the sort of thinking that had never occurred to us; the sort of thinking that would make our application one that lots of people - not just Tesco customers - would find useful; the sort of thinking that could take a willing user on a journey into Tesco grocery home shopping.

Ribot were awarded the contract and their development team in Brighton have delivered a grocery home shopping application for Nokia - and soon for iPhone - with functionality we are proud of.

When I think back to our original meeting and maybe a passing puzzlement why the Ribot brothers didn’t dress to impress, the answer is obvious now: Their level of design thinking for mobile devices impresses all on its own.

I have no business lean or contractual obligation to promote Ribot. I can’t even buy shares in them. But credit where credit is due: If a person or organisation deeply impresses me, then I won't hesitate to promote them in this blog. It's my reputation on the line here, so I'll use it as I wish.

For more about Ribot go to their website:


  1. The Ribot folks know a few things about mobile web design too. Hopefully at some point it won't be limited to being a downloadable app for just this or that platform...

  2. I'm an Android user so this isn't going to get to me for a while, but here's one feature I'd like:

    I'd like a generic grocery list app, but where I can flag particular items for a particular supermarket. Walk into Tescos, and I can see all my standard items on the list, plus those I want to buy from Tescos. Walk into Sainsburys, and I can see all the standard items plus those I want to buy from Sainsburys.

    No supermarket stocks every item I want (especially when it gets to particular brands) and some things I prefer from one supermarket (e.g. jars of olives from Waitrose). I eat a restricted diet too and know which supermarkets have foods that are 'free from' certain things (and which don't), and it'd be far easier to do this than to have to stop and think every time "Can I buy this from XYZ" (or have to read the ingredients).

    No idea if anyone else would find it useful, but I would!

  3. I'm surprised you chose the Symbian platform to launch this app (at least for now), but not surprised that your next move will be to the iPhone. It seems the only UK supermarket progressive enough to recognise the growing Android market is Ocado, which is a great shame - lots of people I know are moving to them for that very reason, and I fear you may have missed out Tesco.

  4. Anonymous,

    hear hear.. I don't understand the decision to launch on Nokia/Ovi.... Especially with the massive, massive growth Android is experiencing in handsets and, in 2010-2011... tablets.

  5. Nokia probably paid Ribot to build the Tesco app on Symbian meaning Tesco's did not have to pay. That's why its on dying platform.


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:

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