The Recreational Factor of Online Shopping

Adityo Pratomo
4 min readJul 5, 2020
Photo by Jacques Bopp on Unsplash

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, my family decided to go out as minimum as possible, I think we haven’t gone out for more than 3 months now and the last we went out was because we have to visit a doctor. Grocery supply wise, we rely on online shopping apps, specifically designed to do just that, so not just your regular e-commerce app.

However, I realize that for my wife, that grocery shopping is a stressful experience. She’s never happy doing that, but she has to do that so we can have something to eat or munch. So, yesterday, I asked her what happened she told her feelings and I came with a new discovery: the mental model of buying groceries from an online app is very different with what she has in mind.

For her, shopping groceries is an experience that combines functional activity (getting supplies) and recreational one (exploring the aisle, grabbing stuff that she impulsively feels to buy and enjoys the sensory overload of items on the shelves). That might feels small, but that last aspect is the one that makes her enjoys grocery shopping. Sadly, that’s the missing aspect that I observe in the app that we use (probably even in many similar apps).

Here’s the thing, many apps are designed with a functional mission on the makers’ mind. When designing the customer journey, this one might be familiar:

  • Before using the app: research what are the needs that I need to fulfill, looking for available solution
  • While using the app: executes the available feature that will answer my needs
  • After using the app: observe the result, evaluate and repeat as necessary

The most straightforward way to create a product is by focusing on that 2nd step. In the context of a shopping journey, we assume that the user has a clear image of what to buy before opening the app. With that assumption on the way, a shopping app can focus on providing the best experience to search and pick item to buy. Hence, I think that’s the common pattern of a shopping app, you search for an item, pick one (or more) from the list of search results, add them to basket, checkout, and pay.

Problem is, for my wife (and probably many other housewives), real-world shopping isn’t something like that. She arrives at a supermarket…

Adityo Pratomo

Currently working as product manager for cloud infra product. Cyclist + Gamer + Metalhead. Also, proud dad and husband.