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Dominick’s Just for U Aimed at…1990s Web Users?

Though I rarely accept products for review on my blog, a recession has a way of making an offer of free food hard to say no to. A month ago, the PR firm supporting Dominick’s Just For U coupon-card campaign offered me $200 in gift certificates to try out the service. The nearest Dominick’s supermarket is a small hike from where I currently live in the Fulton River District, but, hey, $200 is what it is.

I accepted and was asked to share some of the gift cards around and to write a post within a week or two of receiving them. The PR firm asked me to do that sharing with my readers, but I chose to shift some of that free gift-card bounty on to the homeless, instead. I also let the PR firm know that a week was too short a time to ask anyone to offer an opinion on a lifestyle product. To really know how you feel about them, you have to live with them first, no?

So I lived with Just for U for a month. And as it turns out, a month is enough. Just For U works by linking your existing Dominick’s Fresh Values customer card to the web. Once linked, you sign onto the Just For U website and, in a page from Peapod, browse through online aisles of food, clicking on “special” coupon deals on products you’re interested in buying in the store. When you’re done, you print out or email yourself  copy of your deals list, then go shopping with it.

I’m a single man living in urban America. Admittedly I’m a home cook and strive to meal-plan. But, in general, do I have the time or the patience to sit down, sign-on, search for coupon deals, and then run to the supermarket that, in all likelihood, I’m actually headed towards in the early evening, running late from a client meeting/interview/argument at the post office?

Not really, no.

That extra, time-consuming step pretty much made Just For U more of a pain than a pleasure for me to use. It just didn’t feel convenient. Worse, once you get to the Just For U website, it’s needlessly clunky and not at all intuitive to find your way around. Using it reminded me a lot of navigating 1990s websites on Netscape: unclear navigation; inconsistent fonts; a relative lack of feedback for important mouse clicks; and an overall feeling that the importance of usability trials had not yet been discovered by the Columbuses of the web design world.

Unfortunately, you can’t escape that tepid website experience–or the need to waste time and paper by printing out a deals list–by using a JustForU mobile app to do your deal shopping from the convenience of your smart phone once you’re firmly inside an actual Dominick’s. No mobile app exists, and the Just For U FAQ page makes it clear that one isn’t forthcoming, either. Yes, I k,now I can email myself a deals list, but if you’re asking me to shop with my smart phone in my hand, it’s incumbent upon you to make that experience as easy and useful as possible.

I really wanted to like Just For U. The gift cards were put to good use, and I can see how it might work for a mom or dad sitting down to plan a biweekly grocery expedition for their family. Then again, I don’t know any busy moms or dads who have enough time or patience on a Saturday or Sunday with kids to actually do that. Instead, I was just left with the feeling that Dominick’s Just For U campaign didn’t receive nearly enough thoughtful strategy up front or thoughtful design in its architecture and features as it should have to make it actually, well, worth using. I hate to say that, because without Dominick’s, I wouldn’t be able to find my favorite highly non-pork chicken Andouille sausage.

But if I had to use the JustForU website every time I set out to buy that sausage, I might just go to Jewel, eat the pork, and talk it out with God on Friday night, instead.


UPDATE (11/10/10): According to the Dominick’s PR firm, parent company Safeway is in the process of creating an iPhone app. So, potentially more to come…

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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2 replies

  1. I think that you were overly nice to them! I think the whole thing is terrible. I’ve been trying to shop at my local Dominicks more and when I saw this program, I decided to try it! I usually hate coupons, but something new appealed to me. Wow–was I annoyed! A terribly organized website. I’m supposed to click 3 places to find my deals. Then for the “Club Deals,” they’ve identified my home Dominicks as one in Oak Park that I’ve been to twice, rather than the one a block from my home address (which they have).

    I didn’t even see the print/email list button–it’s hidden at the bottom of the lists of coupons. And they don’t remind you about it at the end. So I was convinced that I somehow had to write down my list. And I kept getting the grocery store thinking, “so which brand of granola bars did I have that coupon for” and no way to look it up (and with a toddler in tow, no time for cell phone web browsing)!

    But, one additional annoyance. Since I went to all the work to load the coupons, I wanted to get an additional card so that if my husband went shopping he could get the same deals. They replied that they don’t print duplicate cards, you have to get a new one at the store. And I’m guessing the data loading process/userid transfer would not be smooth, so pretty much I’ve given up. And since the Jewel next door has better service anyway, I’m just going there!

    1. I knew it couldn’t just be me–the experience of Just For U simply feeling kind of half-baked. It could be better (it should be better.) But it needs more time in beta and some healthy user testing first. I don’t think it’s a total failure. But it deserves work–if only because Dominick’s customers deserve better, I think.

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