Company: Walgreens Boots Alliance
Project: Research In A Box: Piloting a New Methodology
Team: Internal Pharmacy Software
Timeframe: One Year
My Role: User Experience Researcher
Background: As an employee working under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, there are many other research projects I conducted but am not allowed to share them here. More generally, I worked on the Supply Chain portion of a new internal software for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians within Walgreens stores. I planned and executed discovery, usability, and validation research with in-person and remote participants across mobile and desktop applications. However, I can talk about a new UX research methodology I helped develop for Walgreens and published an article about in UX Magazine adapted below.
Citation and link to full article: Dimpfl, S. (2018). Research In A Box: Piloting a New Methodology. User Experience Magazine, 18(4). Retrieved from: https://uxpamagazine.org/research-in-a-box/
Project Overview: Research In A Box
The Need: The demand for UX research among pharmacists and technicians in Walgreens pharmacies has steadily grown in tandem with our innovation advancements. This created a saturation of participants from around the Chicagoland area, meaning that eventually large-scale travel would be required to reach a more representative geographic sample.
So why not just use one of the many remote user testing software tools available in the market? Walgreens takes data security very seriously, and some of these third-party solutions use external sites that we block. These solutions would also require the participant to use the store’s office computer, which could interfere with the normal workflow of the store. In addition, the store computers are not equipped with video capabilities and thus don’t allow for face-to-face communication between participant and researcher.
Objective: In order to minimize cost and time, and still gather valuable insights from our extensive network of stores, Walgreens developed the research in a box (RIAB) initiative. We used the following problem statement to guide our efforts: How can we engage our diverse, geographically distributed talent pool by using an innovative, cost-conscious, and interactive solution that allows team members across the country to easily provide feedback on concepts and designs being considered by Walgreens?
Solution: Have all the equipment needed for a remote research session housed within a durable padded case and shipped directly to the stores. Once received, the pharmacy staff member unpacks the box, participates in the research session, repacks everything into the case, and ships it back to the corporate office.
As the true test would be if a pharmacy staff member could actually use this box to connect with a UX researcher on the other side of the country, we conducted several rounds of testing to smooth out any kinks in the process. The process would ideally look like this:
To ensure the smoothest user experience for the pharmacists and technicians and to decrease likelihood of errors and lost equipment, a checklist was included and the user required to sign after the session was complete.
The first step was to do a proof of concept test to gauge feasibility and witness how a participant would interact with the RIAB kit. I went to a store with another team member to deliver the box and set up video recording equipment to capture the session while a researcher in the corporate office was ready to interact with the participant. After the session was over, the participant was interviewed about his overall experience and a user journey was created documenting delights and pain points encountered in the process.
After uncovering the pain points from the pilot study two more rounds of research and RIAB program refinement were conducted to smooth out and remains kinks. Once the proof of concept was validated, RIAB scaled up to 8 kits that were sent to Walgreens stores across the country and utilized by the entire research team.
Next Steps and Future Implications
This is a unique solution to a combination of challenges presented by older hardware, security features, and physical distance between researches and pharmacists. This new methodology proved to be both cost effective and helped the research team successfully overcome this unique set of constrains.
The implementation of the research in a box initiative has been a welcome addition to the Walgreens UX research toolkit and has received broad support throughout the organization. From a financial standpoint, the cost savings are expected to be substantial. It currently costs an average of $2,200 to send two researchers to a store far enough away to require a flight. Now, they can conduct research at the same store using RIAB for just the price of round-trip shipping ($10 to $20 on average, after initial startup costs). Research in a box has allowed us to more effectively involve our users in the design process and achieve our ultimate goal of creating the best possible products for our team members and customers.