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Service design for Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s CX Transformation

Using service design to lead an ambitious customer experience transformation programme

The challenge

When pricing came under pressure for Sainsbury’s and mobile technology-enabled wide-scale diversification of shopping habits, the super-grocer needed to shift the focus for customer experience design from tactical deployment to a strategic capability.

The outcomes

The Engine Service Design Team implemented multiple major projects alongside the Sainsbury’s CX Team, resulting in increased revenue, customer satisfaction and reduced costs. Today, customer experience design is well-deployed across all functions in Sainsbury’s, the digital team is fully-integrated, and Sainsbury’s now employs a team of service designers.

Client: 3 years Duration:

When Sainsbury’s pioneered the self-service supermarket in the UK in the 1950s, the shopper’s role changed forever. Over the last ten years, consumers’ expectations of shopping have changed dramatically, and Sainsbury’s have continued to lead the way to offer choice and exceed customer expectations.

Sainsbury’s service design development

Defining the future of grocery shopping
Supermarket shopping has become more complicated. As a trend, UK families no longer do one sizeable weekly shop and increasingly use supermarkets for food ‘on demand’ (although Covid-19 has pushed this trend back a little). Supermarkets sell much more than food, diversifying into non-foods, mobile phones and financial services. More and more shoppers are combining visits to physical stores with online click-and-collect and home delivery. The result? It’s now much more challenging than it used to be to segment shoppers. The Engine Service Design Team worked with data from extensive studies, customer feedback and qualitative research to define a new Customer Personas set. These became important in support of cross-functional working, enabling everybody to talk about customers in the same way.

Focusing senior leaders on the shift to services
Sainsbury’s saw these trends continuing and needed senior stakeholders to work together to imagine and anticipate how stores and technology should change in response. The Engine Service Design Team researched leading-edge retail and emerging retail technology. An important early step was to engage the Operating Board to define, on one page, a service proposition and principles for the supermarket. Engine’s “Future of Shopping” project in 2015 helped focus senior leaders on the strategic opportunity of designing new services and one customer experience.

Service design projects became a transformational programme
Engine started working with UK supermarket (Sainsbury’s) in 2014, to establish a cross-functional, collaborative role for service design. We helped make a case for using Engine’s Service Design System on five major projects within Sainsbury’s and evolved a comprehensive CX Design Toolkit. We delivered these projects as a customer experience programme emerged around them, triggering further work, facilitated by an expanded Customer Experience Team and using the tools we’d created.

The strategic programme was formalised with the objectives of improving customer satisfaction with Sainsbury’s overall customer transactions and consumers’ positive perception of Sainsbury’s, and work is ongoing.


  • Mission-led format for six supermarket pilots.
  • Redesign of in-store customer service.
  • In-store experience for a new shopping app.
  • Revamp of in-store cafés.
  • New store colleague development programme.

12% growth

20-point uplift

£4m in savings

Have a similar challenge? Get in touch with the Engine Team

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Here’s how we do it

Insight to vision

Identify the difference between what you do today and what your future customers don’t yet know they need. Reimagine the future.

Insight to vision

Design to pilot

Unlock new value by imagining, designing and piloting services and experiences your colleagues are inspired to deliver and your customers will love.

Design to pilot

Plan to mobilise

Mobilise your organisation with a plan to change, build or buy what’s needed to deliver new services and experiences.

Plan to mobilise

How we can help


It's working, but not well enough

When legacy issues and disjointed ways of working are impacting your customer experience and critical metrics, you need a trusted partner to guide you.

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Reimagine customer journey

Think differently to stay ahead

When you need to think differently to stay ahead, but you’re unsure how to differentiate your customer experience, you need a trusted partner to guide you.

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Innovate customer experience

Do something genuinely new

When you spot an opportunity to disrupt your industry with a new product or service, you need a trusted partner to guide you.

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Customer Driven Transformation

How design-led companies get more of the right services to market faster

engine book customer driven transformation

“For any who seek to improve their services, let this book be your design-led guide. It will enable you to truly transform your service, by staging engaging, personal, memorable and even beautiful experiences.

Download a free copy of the first two chapters of our book.

With this book, the authors show you how to instil an outside-in approach to strategy; moving away from management that’s technology, marketing or resource optimization-led, to one that is customer-inspired and experimental with innovation.