Loblaw Digital

Building empathy with Canadian shoppers through qualitative research.


Sept. 2019 – Dec. 2019


Design Research Intern


Jessica Baratta, Michelle Robb, Tammy Le


Research plans, concept testing, usability testing, semi-structured interviews, research synthesis, desk research, research database maintenance


Bridging together research and design

In 2019, I had the opportunity to complete a 4-month internship as a Design Research Intern on the research team at Loblaw Digital. Our team acted as a central research hub by providing support to designers and stakeholders across all Loblaw Digital banners (PC Optimum, Shoppers Drug Mart, Grocery, Joe Fresh, etc.)

I was fortunate to be in a position where I could work with designers across various parts of a large corporation to understand the unique research needs at different business life cycles.

Due to the nature of the work, I won't be disclosing any details about the projects I've worked on. However, I will provide an overview on how certain research methods were applied in unique contexts.

Here's how it went

Research plans

Planning research projects

At Loblaw Digital, I was able to create research plans as well as work from research plans created by others. Research plans set goals, scoped requirements, and even acted as checklists. They were also often collaborative artifacts that encouraged stakeholders to align on project goals. Plans were prepared for all research projects including concept testing, usability testing, and semi-structured interviews.


Recruiting the right people

Depending on the project scope and requirements, we used different ways to recruit people. For larger research projects, we generally relied on usertesting.com to access a wider range of candidates as well as our company's own database of existing customers. For research sprints, we used a combination of guerilla recruitment and usertesting.com to access candidates.

Concept testing

Evaluating concepts with target audiences

I facilitated concept testing sessions for one-week research sprints as well as provided support for long-term projects. We used concept testing in scenarios where we needed to validate business ideas such as new services or partnerships with our target audiences.

Usability testing

Putting things into practice

I provided support for designers during moderated and unmoderated usability tests. After the sessions, we would collaborate to synthesize our findings to discover actionable insights. These sessions often uncovered design flaws, areas to improve, and information about user perception and behaviour.

Semi-structured interviews

Building a deeper understanding of our target audiences

I provided support during semi-structured interviews for research projects later in the business life cycle. Semi-structured interviews provided us qualitative insights which could not be seen from quantitative data alone. These sessions allowed us to look into customers' mental models, lifestyles, behavioural patterns, and values. We used these qualitative insights alongside quantitative insights to paint a rich understanding of our target audiences. We found these to be the most impactful in generating empathy amongst team members and other stakeholders.

Research synthesis

Synthesizing research to generate actionable insights

We would begin the process of synthesizing our findings after we conducted the last test of each research plan. Our process involved a lot of sticky notes, whether it was in-person or on Miro. We would throw our findings onto a board and affinity map similar findings. We also leaned on the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to transform findings into key actionable insights. To ensure our research was digestible, we generally identified 6–8 key insights to bring back to the team. Reporting on our findings was crucial in creating buy-in from stakeholders and building empathy across the entire team.

Desk research

Scoping for existing ideas, trends, and tools

Sometimes we would need to conduct some desk research to stay up to date with trends and competitors. It was necessary that we were conducting research across our direct competitors as well as adjacent industries. This provided us an overall outlook into the climate of our industry and its external influences.

Research database maintenance

Maintaining the research database

As our research practice expanded, we also had an increasing amount of research findings. We wanted to ensure our work was accessible to everyone across the team, so our insights lived on Aurelius, our research repository. As designers and researchers, we were all in charge of updating our repository and following its established taxonomy.

Impact & reflection

The research projects I've conducted and supported have informed decisions across the business including the design of an online marketplace and the viability of certain partnerships.

My internship at Loblaw Digital has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my design career. I've fostered my knowledge of how research methods vary across business life cycles and how to bring research back into the design process. I was fortunate to work alongside and be mentored by Jessica Baratta, Michelle Robb, and Tammy Le, who are three incredible leaders in design research. They led by example and showed me the importance of advocating for people through qualitative insights.

A screenshot of our whole research team in their mini cartoon versions.