Empowering mom and pop shops

Corporate Supports Small Businesses
experience design



How can big corporations help small businesses not get left behind?


Too often, small businesses feel as if they are being left behind by the suppliers of goods they sell in favor of big-box retailers. However this sector, referred to as Traditional Trade, makes up the majority of sales, most commonly in developing countries.

Innovation is often looked at through the lens of new technologies, however much of the global population does not have access to these resources, nor do they dialogue with the existing consumer behavior.

AB InBev challenged us to investigate their distribution ecosystem – from corporate to brewers to wholesalers to corner store to consumer – to understand the needs, pains, and desires at every point of the product journey.



We conducted field research in Mexico and China, working out of mom and pop shops to understand their journeys, interviewing 80+ owners, delivery people, and customers along the way.

The result of our research was an immersive workshop in New York where representatives from 10 countries interacted with product and experience prototypes directly informed by the needs of these consumers.

Leveraging technologies such as AR and VR, we used empathy as a key tool to contextualize and inspire AB throughout the workshop. By the end of the three days, we tailored specific concepts to suit their individual markets and developed pilot plans for each.



By Day 3, one of the prototypes was already being produced for pilot in China.


Simple concepts, big impact

Projects of international scale challenge the limits of consumer-driven thinking. We shadowed people at every part of the product journey in dramatically different markets to understand their experiences, and while there are certainly key differences, there were also universal characteristics, needs, and concerns we identified. This led to early-stage concepts aimed at alleviating these tensions using a tailored innovation methodology.

To contextualize the outcomes of the design research, we created 6 different zones of the Mom and Pop Shop, recreating them for our client, and invited owners of these stores to participate and co-create in pivoting concepts to suit individual markets.

Sometimes the most simple solutions have the biggest impact. As innovators, it is our responsibility to put users at the center to create experiences that will actually provide a positive outcome. Too often the little guys are forgotten – but they are the majority and have a strong voice that deserves to be heard.