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Julia Shao, Tirdad Kiamanesh






Ben Jacobson



Overview of the project



We focussed our research on understanding grocery shopping as an international student in the U.S. Grocery shopping as an international student in the U.S. can be challenging and we took a look at where, how and why international students at ID shop in Chicago. Ultimately, we aimed to understand how to best accommodate this diverse group of customers in the form of a store that fully meets their needs.






Shadowing, observation, conversation/interview, written documentation + photography. We shadowed and observed our research participants on their journey from home (pre-shopping process) to the grocery store, shopping at the grocery store, and then back home (post-shopping process). We visited both standard American grocery stores and ‘ethnic’ stores (Japanese, Korean, and Indian) with our participants.

Name: Yang

From: Taiwan

Shops at: Treasure Island (American)

Shops with girlfriend on weekends

Name: Jiyea

From: Korea

Shops at: Treasure Island (American)

Shops during the week by herself


Name: Emily

From: China

Shops at: Walmart (American)

Shops for herself when she has time

Name: Asmina

From: India

Shops at: Metro Spice Mart (India store)

Shops for herself when she has time

Name: Kohzo


From: Japan

Shops at: Mitsuwa (Japanese store)

Shops for family (wife + baby) on weekends

Name: Yujue


From: China

Shops at: Joong Boo (Korean store)

Shops for herself when she has time

Understandable: Decision-making process can be tedious/inefficient/confusing. Language/knowledge barriers. Lack of clear instructions for parts of the shopping process that might be unfamiliar to international students.

Social: Grocery shopping can be a social and very enjoyable experience.

Convenient: Inconvenient location of ethnic stores discourages regular visits. Students shop at multiple stores to fulfill their needs.

Reliable: Inconsistent product offering (stock) and quality.

Fresh: Fresh produce and meat are particularly important to international students.


Add ease, comfortability, and dignity to entire shopping process by recreating the strengths of the international (student) community in a retail environment. Reimagine the shopping experience in order to accommodate for diversity and support the international student community. Stores will be located close to universities/student housing for maximum convenience.

cart rental

Customers can rent carts to easily transport their products home with them.



ingredient box

Customers can buy boxes of fresh ingredients with recipes to cook at home.


Host food festivals, special holiday events (i.e. Chinese New Year), and cooking classes in partnership with schools.

stock update

Customers are notified of new product arrivals. They can also check if the items they want are in stock.

smart label

Customers can retrieve complete product information in the language of their choice.

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