Target Smart Cart

A new product to improve the shopping experience at Target Stores.


In August 2017, Amazon bought one of the biggest grocery chains: Whole Foods for a whopping $13.4 billion. ​Further, Amazon Go already gave a glimpse into what the future of shopping at the retail stores could look like.

 With this semester-long project, we proposed a "Smart Cart" product where a tablet gets attached to a shopping cart and leverages augmented reality technology to simplify the end-to-end shopping experience for a Target customer.

We are hoping that this product will give Target a competitive edge over Amazon and other retail stores.


Sept - Dec, 2018 (3 months)


User Research

Data Analysis

Product Design


Jashan Gupta

Modassir Iqbal

Varsha Kori

Xueyin Liu


Design a solution to improve the shopping experience at Target Stores.


Understanding opportunities and pain points around retail shopping.

We wanted to understand how people act in the context of shopping and wanted to capture both observational and inquiry data, thus,  we decided to use contextual inquiry as to our primary research method.

We interviewed 9 participants representing diverse demography across age, sex, marital status, and occupation.  


A part of the affinity diagram

We used affinity analysis to generate themes out of the gathered user data. Further, we created several communicative models: Identity Model, Sequence Model, and Day-in-the-life Model.

We discovered a number of opportunities and pain points but eventually, decided to focus on 5 major problems because of the higher frequency of occurrence and possibility of a solution to lie in the product design realm rather than service design.


Five major opportunities and pain points in the Target shopping experience.


1. Ineffective shopping list

Everyone has a shopping list either written or mental and it is highly collaborative in nature. Even though the Target mobile app has the functionality to create shopping lists, it is incomplete:  it does not support collaboration and creation of multiple lists for different occasions.


2. Finding a product takes too much time

We saw our participants running down different aisles to find a product because of undescriptive signs. Even being in the correct aisle does not ensure easy product discovery as our participants often missed their desired product among numerous other products.  This led to a frustrating user experience and lost sales.


5. Opportunity for a quicker checkout

Self-checkout counters were introduced as a solution for quicker checkout but it wasn't long before queues became common even outside these counters.

Thus, an opportunity for a quicker way of checkout still exists.


4. It is difficult to compare products

Unlike online shopping, retail shopping lacks user reviews thus making it difficult to decide which product is better. Further, comparing nutritional information and price is a big hassle.


3. Finding key product information is cumbersome

Expiry Date, Calories, Protein Content, Allergens, etc. Every person looks for different product information that helps in making buying decisions but all this information is finely printed and located in different areas on different items. This cumbersome interaction negatively impacts the shopping experience.


Lo-fi design and testing

After spending numerous hours ideating several solutions, we decided to go ahead with the idea of a mobile app with AR navigation and checkout functionality inside it. 

Lo-fi Design


CRISIS!!! Time to go back to the drawing board...
After creating the low-fidelity designs, we realized that even though the designs accommodated for many things, it did not consider two major instances:

1. People come to Target for high volume shopping and blocking one hand with a mobile phone would lead to a cumbersome experience.
2. The above solution did not accommodate the need for putting items in a bag after purchase.

We went back to the drawing board with the above concerns and came up with the concept of Smart Cart. 


The Target Smart Cart concept


How the Target Smart Cart works

1. Create shopping lists collaboratively

Use the Target mobile app to collaborate on shopping lists. Now, even create shopping lists for multiple occasions.


2. Import your shopping list by scanning the QR code on Smart Cart

Once in the target store, simply scan the QR code to import the shopping list. The system will then pick the quickest route and will guide the user in an intuitive way using AR technology.

Smart Cart login process


Smart Cart home screen for login


Home screen after login with shopping list and AR navigation

3. Scan barcode and add items to the cart

This provides a simplified shopping process. Original process: Put items in the cart -> Take out when checking out -> Scan item -> Put items in the shopping bag.
Current process: Scan item -> put items in the shopping bag.

Add to cart process


Scanning item screen


Item added to cart screen

4. Check relevant product information easily

GIF: Item added to cart screen


Product info card

5. Checkout directly from the cart

Checkout process


Home screen after all the items has been added to the cart


Cart screen


Select payment method screen


Transaction complete and receipt screen


What I learned from the project

  • Conducting a lengthy, full-fledged user research study & presenting design insights and product concepts.
  • How to conduct contextual inquiries and use that data to drive design directly.
  • How to communicate with major stakeholders as a user researcher.
  • Why certain components of user research such as immersion of teams in user data and making deliverables highly communicative are instrumental.

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