Zebra the advisor

Have you ever been in a supermarket in a foreign country and had no idea what to buy?

Chinese product

You are not the only one!

Travellers and exchange students are often faced with puzzling situations when they go grocery shopping. They don’t understand the product descriptions written in a foreign language, they don’t have knowledge of the local brands and they don’t know where to find the supermarket offering the products they want, at the best price.

The results are: more stress when choosing a product, more time spent in the supermarket, less value for money and the risk of buying the wrong product. In other words, the customer has a much worse shopping experience than when shopping in his home country.

As always when facing a difficult and stressful situation, you can rely on your smartphone!

Zebra is a mobile application designed to make shopping in a foreign country easier. Zebra enables you to read a product’s barcode using the camera of your smartphone. Once the product is identified, you access a broad range of information:

  •        A product description in the language of your choice
  •        Ratings and reviews from other customers
  •        Product recommendations
  •        Prices of the scanned item in all supermarkets close to your current location

Bar code

As a result the customer knows what he’s buying. He also knows how popular is a product and has an idea on its objective quality thanks to the “wisdom of crowd” phenomenon (Paulo, 2014). He knows what products are adapted to the scanned item and are usually bought with it. Finally, he knows where to shop for the desired product, in order to find the best deal. In order to enable users to plan their shopping in advance, products can also be found using the search engine instead of scanning the product’s barcode.

As mentioned by Chen (2011), the two most important attributes for a meaningful word-of-mouth are valence and volume. Users are thus encouraged to rate and review products frequently. Every time the Zebra application is opened, one of the products previously scanned pops up with a brief question asking the user to rate one aspect of the product on a 5-point scale. The rating is kept simple and effortless to ensure the participation of a large number of users. To favor active participation of the users, top reviewers are rewarded with vouchers, while less frequent reviewers might win one of the minor vouchers in the weekly lottery.

However, Zebra is not only useful to customers. Supermarkets and consumer goods manufacturers benefit from the application because it gives them access to real-time data on search patterns, which is a meaningful indicator of consumer demand. In addition, consumer goods companies have the opportunity to advertise on the platform in exchange for a fee, following the logic of two-sided markets (Eisenmann, 2006). Finally, discounts are automatically registered by the application thereby helping retailers in communicating them to customers.


So next time you are lost in the supermarket jungle… follow the Zebra!

Team 5: Peter, Colin, Marcel, Said and Ylann


Chen, Y., Qi, W. and Xien, J. (2011) “Online Social Interactions: A Natural Experiment on Word of Mouth Versus Observational Learning.” Journal of marketing research, ISSN 0022-2437, 2011, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp. 238 – 254

Eisenmann, T., Parker, G., and Van Alstyne , M.W. (2006) “Strategies for Two Sided Markets.” Harvard Business Review, Vol. October, 2006.

Paulo Goes, Mingfeng, L., Ching-man, A.Y. (2014) ““Popularity Effect” in User-Generated Content: Evidence from Online Product Reviews.” Information Systems Research

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