Field Research Report: Henning’s Market

The space I went to conduct my field research was Henning’s Market in Harleysville. Aside from being my place of employment it is also a major hub in the Harleysville area to kill time and do grocery shopping. Due to the high volume of shoppers and my existing knowledge of the area I thought this would be the best place to study. The market itself is a fairly large building about the size of a regular Wal-Mart or Acme. Outside of being a place to do grocery shopping it also contains a buffet, a coffee shop, an in house pizzeria, and two levels of seating for those who want to eat-in.

Some ways Henning’s encourages mobile use is by being well equipped for mobile use thanks to having Wi-Fi all throughout the store so customers won’t have to use up data. Also like most shopping area there is a heavy dose of advertisements and almost all the items have QR labels. On a usually work day the customer demographics change considerably in age but is ethnically white dominated. In the morning is when your early risers and (work people) like to shop. These people are usually the older folks who come in for very specific things since they probably aren’t buying for a family anymore. Around noon is the next age group usually baby boomer’s who are still buying for their families. The time I went to do my study was at 6 pm. This demographic was mixed in age, and the most cell phone use I saw was from the 20-35 year olds. It was a very busy night on buffet as a lot of families were not only shopping together but eating together as well. I was seated near where all these families were eating and was quite surprised by the lack of mobile use by younger kids. It seems cliché to see kids with their cell phones out at the table, but there was relatively little use and it was a packed house. I did notice however that some of these kids when they left the table to grab more food would immediately bring out the cell phone and would not head back to their families until they were done using it.

Since this was right around the time people would be having dinner I noticed that most cell phone use were calls from home to pick up pre-cooked meals to bring back home. I noticed that people with carts usually has kids or a friend with them and were taking their time while they shopped. The majority of the shoppers I saw came in without a cart and were shopping for very specific things, such as food for dinner. I noticed in a few instances that the men would circle around pre-cooked items to see what was for sale and call their significant other to make the final judgment call.

There were a few instances of social neglect that I noticed but two events were most memorable. The first was a mom maybe in her 40s with her two pre-teen kids shopping. The mom was on her phone chatting with someone while her two boys pushed the shopping cart and overlooked the inventory. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but by her mannerisms and the few words I could make out it was a fairly important call.  I noticed that while she was on the phone she mostly moseyed around and seemed to ignore her kid’s requests for what they were asking. After about 10 minutes on the phone she hung up and almost immediately took control shopping and was showing much more interaction with her kids than before. The second event of reclusion I saw was by a cashier. I studied the checkout line intently because this can be a long wait time for customers so with that in mind, I thought I would see some mobile use. What I discovered was there was more mobile use by employees than I saw from any customer. In this instance there was lull in the amount of traffic coming through the store (this is usually a time where cashiers and baggers like to use their phones to use the web or text since the supervisors overlook it) and the cashier here took out his cell while the other employees around him gathered around socially to chat. He was zoned in on his cell giving no heed to what was going on around him or the conversation his co-workers were having. It does seem to me from my observations that people zone out of the physical space while they use their cell phones.

My app is related to this space because my idea is based around grocery shopping. With the phasing out of paper articles like newspapers and magazines it would seem fitting that paper ads would meet their demise in the same way. Yet they are still the focal point during shopping. This app would change that spectrum. My app allows people to compare every grocery store in their area to see what is on sale and who has the lowest price on their inventory. From by observations the paper list still reigns as the medium for keeping track of what to buy, but as the younger generation continues to adapt to moving to paperless, we could see an uptick in mobile phone usage during shopping and thus more grocery apps to accommodate this shift. The goal of my app is to make it easier for medium to low-income families the ability to survey all the stores around them for the best prices on food. Also If they are on a gluten free diet or require specific foods, they can find who has them and what it cost without driving or researching every store. I believe in this economy an app like this can be a great benefit for families on a tight budget.


One thought on “Field Research Report: Henning’s Market”

  1. As we spoke on email, I’ve already given a bit of feedback on this plan. Again research on food justice and food deserts will be key to providing empirical and theoretical background. It’s also work thinking through whether you foresee the app being a “preshopping” experience or an in-the-moment app. Some of the utility of the app will be based on how close locations are to each other. If the app can turn somehow calculate the cost of gas/time in choosing between items it would be helpful. If I know I can walk fifteen minutes to the farmer’s market and get 80% of my grocery list for less than or the same cost as Super Fresh, I might be willing to put off getting that last 20% for another day.

    It would also be helpful to calculate the total bill, to help make those loss/gain comparisons easier for the average user. If I can get corn for $.05 less at the store in one direction, but milk is $1 cheaper at a different store, it might make more sense to do all of my shopping in one go at one store.

    I also wonder if an app that highlights gluten free and other allergy choices could, in the long term, encourage stores to carry those options. There is a transformation of store ordering that is a possible outcome of the app that it would be worth talking about.

    Moreover, given the number of people buying “ready made meals” one thing the app could do is show people a recipe, the ingredients in the store they are in, cost and time of making the meal themselves. People might still choose the pre-made option, but in light of a lot of discussion about the importance of cooking and the links between eating pre-made meals an obesity it is worth thinking about the impact of showing them how much cheaper and easier home cooking would be.

    Finally, given the fact that workers in the store have phones at the ready, is there a way they could more easily tell customers if they have specific items? Undoubtedly they wouldn’t help customers comparison shop, but in larger markets it’s hard for employees to know every product on offer (and at least in my experience there was no easy way to access that information).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s