Ford: Retail on Wheels App

#prototyping #IA #systemsthinking #visualizations

Discover exciting pop-up shops that combine the convenience of e-shopping with the immersive experience of in-person shopping.

Ford's prompt: "design an experience for the retail sector that incorporates our autonomous vehicle technology."

Solution: Autonomous vehicle pop-up shops and supplementary app that help businesses increase brand awareness and test new products.

Role: Design consultant for Ford Motors and worked with other consultants on the research, testing, and vehicle design portion but completed the actual app design on my own. This case study primarily focuses on the app portion.


  • Presented retail concepts to executives at Ford's Greenfield Labs office which was met with strong praise

  • Unlocked new insights about the market opportunity for Ford

  • Validated designs through user research and testing


Selected Screens

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The Map

Discover exciting pop-ups with exclusive products

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Store Pages

Check out details about the pop-up experience 

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View Products

Look through available products before arriving


User Research

Surveys and Interviews

First, we conducted surveys and interviews to understand more about online v. offline shopping habits and to assess competitors

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Personas + Journey Maps

Based on research insights, two general categories of shoppers emerged, efficiency shoppers and casual browsers. (Click images to expand)

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with these two in mind, we wanted to create an experience that was both a delightful, tactile experience while also being efficient and pragmatic.

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Brainstorming Different Domains

Next we began brainstorming a wide range of ideas with those goals in mind. Ideas included kitchenware, first aid, and daily necessity stores.

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Narrowing down: Autonomous Popup Shops + App

We decided to move forward with the idea of creating autonomous pop-up stores that could be rented by business and a supplementary app to help potential customers find them.


Popup shops are temporary sales spaces that have been gaining traction since the 2010s retail apocalypse and are used to interact with current and potential customers in a physical environment with low overhead costs and resources.

Concept Testing

Business Interviews 

We conducted interviews and ran concept tests with 15 different businesses and several shoppers. Based on our findings, there was enough interests and value for both business and shopper to move forward with the idea. We would specifically target:

1. Companies without physical locations that want to drive customer awareness and marketing with low overhead spend.


 2. Small local businesses or artists trying to increase their customer base with little marketing resources or time.

Competitor Analysis

Autonomous Competitors: A handful of car companies were also looking into retail vehicle concepts but primarily for delivery.
Non-autonomous Alternative: The alternative for companies would be to drive and operate pop-ups themselves.

Pop-up Apps: We could only find one pop-up shop-specific app (pop-up shop) which has high reviews but very minimal functionality.


Features + Flow

Based on our ideation, I created a flow chart to map the different elements of the app and the relationship between them

🏪 Store

🗺 Map

🛍 Product
🛒 Cart
😀 Feed
💮 Loyalty Stamps

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🏪 Pop-up Store Page

Based on our initial research, I then listed out what people said they needed to see in order to decide whether they would consider a store. 

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Then I identified common patterns within location-based apps and incorporated them to match users' preexisting mental models.

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Social Media / Media buzz

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Pop-ups are largely driven by online buzz, but building a social network is out of scope for a car company. Instead, I included a section that dynamically embeds existing social media posts with a given hashtag. The creation of a pop-up-specific hashtag can also help the business track viral marketing performance


🗺 The Map

The map needs to make discovery and comparison efficient while communicating convenience factors (such as distance).


The information hierarchy for the bottom sheet reflects these needs:

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However, I realized that the time the pop-up store vehicle has left should be prioritized higher than the distance since the pop-up experience is all about feeling limited and exclusive. Plus walking all the way to the pop-up and it not being there would be a terrible experience.

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Initially, I made this bottom sheet under a bar of categories to convey the relationship between the two. However, several pages would require a full page to view, so I converted the bar to a bottom nav bar

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I decided to represent the pop-up shops as cars and then use color to match the brand color.

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A Supreme store pop-up reflecting its red brand color and car shape

But the color of these trucks wouldn't communicate meaningful info if users are not already familiar with the brand. Instead, I changed it to represent the type of pop-up experience.

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Supreme's color now representing the purple color of "1 Day only" pop-up events

Additionally, since the car attributes only matter if its in transit, I changed the default state to a pin unless the car is en route.

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🛍 Product Details

Based on my user research insights, the image, price, name, size, and quantity were the most important features to determine interest

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More details and options are viewable below the fold. The banner element can be used to indicate inicing item qualities.

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💮 Post-Order Modals

The main goal of pop-up shops is to have a multi-channel marketing option and to increse their customer base. I designed modals that seek to improve business' customer awareness, retention, and loyalty

Awareness (c2c)


Retention (email)

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Loyalty (stamp cards)

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I made it easy to opt-out and paid attention to language to avoid dark design patterns like "confirmashaming

Final User-Testing + Reiteration

Testing feedback was relatively positive throughout the project and I made many of the changes throughout the process based on them. The biggest surprise was the negative reaction against what we thought was users would love the most, in part because they explicitly told us it would during research.

Personal + Emotional Design

The autonomous nature of the vehicles posed an interesting challenge: How might we design a personal experience without a person? Our idea was to use a fun virtual assistant to aid the shopping experience and onboarding. In early concept testing, users loved it, so we mocked up all sorts of ideas

But when they saw concepts in the context of the app, they said it would be annoying, so we instead focused on creating the personal feel by directing our attention to personal copywriting, illustrations, and stories about the pop-up shop business.

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Reflecting on the Personal Assistant

In his book Designing for Emotion, Aarron Walter mentions a key difference between an enjoyable assistant design v. an annoying one, whether it distracts your flow.


MailChimp's Freddie

- Universally loved

- Funny but noninterruptive

- Improved Brand Image


Microsoft's Clippy

- So loathed he became a meme

- Pops up sometimes at random

- Removed by Microsoft

I believe the change in our user testing participants' opinions was due to the diference in hearing about the assistant in theory v. seeing it in context with the fairly straightforward flow. This made the assistant look more distracting than useful and I'm happy we pivoted.

Overall Reflection

Overall, it was an equally challenging and interesting project given the vague prompt and short time constraints. I'm really thankful for my consultant team and the Ford team for such a neat opportunity.

"If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own" – Henry Ford

Below: pics from presentation day at Ford's Greenfield Labs

Ford Retail on Wheels App   Pulse Secure Dashboard