Sainsbury’s Authentics

How can we transform the daily task of shopping into a true experience? Sainsbury’s Authentics is a new retail store concept that focuses on fresh food and aims to engage all senses.


Project Partner: Sainsbury’s
Team:  Ayako Fujiwara, JooHyun Ryu, Mandana Dilmaghani,Mariana Pedrosa and Qin Hu.
Date: October- December 2014, 6 weeks – full time


To reimagine, redefine and reconfigure the everyday retail experience in a Sainsbury’s store for 2020 according to socio-cultural, economic and technological trends.

By 2020, Sainsbury’s customers will have changing needs based on their  conditions. They will increasingly demand precise, as well as accessible information, on ingredients and nutrition values, as a healthy lifestyle will become a priority for many people. As one of the most important retailers in the UK, Sainsbury’s has a social responsibility to act upon this and to respond by educating their customers and helping them to make informed and healthy choices.

As a nation, the UK is becoming older and ethnically more diverse. There are currently three million people aged over 80 years and this is projected to almost double by 2030, reaching eight million by 2050. While one-in-six of the UK population is currently aged 65 and over, by 2050 one-in-four will be. For Sainsbury’s, this means that their customer base is changing and they will therefore have different demands and requirements.


To kick off the project, after the release of the brief and a first meeting with the clients, we started to investigate the trends regarding the future of shopping and the future demographics of the UK. We also performed a brand analysis of the Sainsbury’s brand to understand it’s essence and value.

The research phase was incorporated different tools and ethnographic techniques, from interviews, workshops to a service safari. In parallel with the desk research, we went to one of the Sainsbury’s shop in Brixton, UK, to immerse ourselves in the environment that we are designing for. Whilst there we conducted in depth interviews with clients and staff.

Undertaking this service safari made us empathise with the customers’ experiences and to understand in reality issues that were noted during the interviews. It also highlighted some issues with the physical environment, which enriched our final proposition. Different insights also came from visiting different competitors and observing how people were shopping there, the layout of the shop, and which products and services were offered.

The first workshop was structured in order to gain more in depth insights into shopping habits and impressions of different supermarkets. It consisted of a series of discussions and different exercises, e.g ‘Create your ideal supermarket’ – where a blank floor plan was provided and participants were asked to add different features reflecting what they expect to be an ideal shopping experience.
Create your "ideal supermarket" exercise
The insights and impressions were confirmed in the first of two workshops which were held for different age groups (young and elderly)
As a continuation of the workshop, we issued an exercise for them to take home which asked them to tell us about a recent shopping trip.

The key insights were:

1. The brand message is not communicated; Sainsbury’s was not seen as healthy or fresh, and people didn’t know about their responsible sourcing guidelines;

2. A preference for human interactions and the feeling of markets and small local shops was expressed;

3. There is a huge gap between what customers expect and what they actually experience when shopping. For most, the act of shopping is stressful; although they still like to experience, feel and touch the products.

With those issues in mind, we created the following design direction for the project: How might we create a shopping destination that transforms the activity from being a task, to being an experience, which is not only inspiring but tailored to a customer’s personal needs and preferences and enables them to lead a healthy life?


We used these sessions to test our ideas and to record insights and impressions that customers shared with us. The two groups, young and elderly, showed different reactions to the ideas presented and these were taken into account when refining the final idea.


Sainsbury’s Authentics is a new retail store concept that focuses on fresh food and aims to engage all the senses: everything around the customers will invite their five senses to take part in the shopping process.

It is a new concept of experience stores, where you only have fresh food on display and frozen and non-food products are bought via a screen. With this service every customer has a personal food identity, which stores all information about favourite products and special requirements. Screens in store recognise an individual’s food ID when approached and provide personalised information about items you’re interested in.

Sainsbury's Authentics floorplan - you only have fresh food on display in front of the store and frozen and non-food products are bought via a screen in the back of the store
Throughout a store there are scanners on the shelves which allow people to scan items and receive personalised information about a product.

An OLED screen allows customer to buy frozen, dried, and preserved items, as well as non-food items. When a customer approaches a screen, it will recognise them and show their frequent and recently bought items, as well an option to obtain personalised nutrition information or to read reviews by other customers.

In summary, how does the service work?

1. Register – sign up to Sainsbury’s Authentics by completing an online form and providing information about special dietary requirements, favourite products, special health conditions, lifestyle and activities, as well as home address and credit card information. When a costumer enters the store, scanners will automatically know their favourite products and particular health conditions.

2. Scanners on the shelves allow people to scan items and receive personalised information about a product.

3. People will have the option to pick an item up and buy it in-store, have it delivered to home or added to their subscription. This reduces the task factor of the shopping experience and leaves only the part people enjoy, which is looking and being inspired, touching, trying and choosing.


Through this concept Sainsbury’s will transform the grocery market by offering a seamless omnichannel experience.

To see in more detail all of our design process, please check our project report.


In April 2015 as part of the service design exhibition ‘Here today, gone tomorrow’, we presented our concept. A simulation of how the shopping experience could integrate different elements of the service was presented, including the store layout where fresh food is displayed and can be handled, and the display of non-food elements via OLED screens; we also quickly prototyped how the scanners would work. This provided a great opportunity to test the concept at a bigger scale and to receive general public insights and comments.

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