Leading the way in UX research: “This role was completely mine to shape”

“I love that I get to help bridge the gap between bol and our customers. Understanding their needs, frustrations and wishes helps us approach our work with more empathy and consideration.” We’re talking to Elisa, bol’s very first UX Research Lead. With us, she shares stories about her journey, her future goals, ánd Continuous Interviewing – a successfully implemented program that now empowers several of bol’s product teams to regularly connect with their shoppers.


A transition to product-led

Elisa moved from Italy to The Netherlands 12 years ago, pursuing her PhD in consumer research. “I’ve always been passionate about research, and mixing my academic background with the corporate world suits me really well. After about five years in a B2B setting, I felt drawn back to B2C as researching consumers and users is what I love most. That’s how I ended up at bol.”

She continues, “Even though moving from B2B to B2C might seem like a big change, I kind of fit right in at bol. My previous job involved setting up a foundation for a research-focused craft that was new to the company. This is essentially what I’m doing here too. Since bol has been transitioning to a product-led way of working, I was asked to establish UX research as a craft. By scaling up discovery efforts, my job is to help our product teams engage in research activities more easily and without barriers.”

Understanding bol’s customers

So, how do you shape a role that doesn’t exist yet? Elisa didn’t seem too fazed by the challenge: “Besides bringing my previous experience along, I was given lots of freedom and trust here at bol. I then quickly noticed that many of my colleagues were very enthusiastic about UX research, which inspired me to start trying things out. I would say that this is also really typical of bol’s culture; experimenting, making mistakes and then learning from them is encouraged here, and that takes off the pressure of fearing to fail.”

Just three months into her time at bol, Elisa ran her first pilot in Continuous Interviewing. “When you set out to become a product-led organisation, you want to focus on providing real value through your product. But to do that, you need to understand your customers first. And while our product teams wanted to get in touch with bol’s shoppers, they struggled with the logistics and practicalities of it all. So, with Continuous Interviewing we set up bi-weekly interviewing sessions between them and our customers.”

She continues: “These types of interviews are usually less structured, more conversational and quicker than typical research interviews – making it easier to collect insights rapidly and continuously. We also encourage our product teams to use story-based interviewing, asking respondents to share specific experiences from the recent past such as, “Could you please tell me about a time…” or “Could you please tell me about the last time you…”. Asking about past experiences helps in gaining more reliable answers.”

Experimenting, making mistakes and then learning from them is encouraged here at bol, and that takes off the pressure of fearing to fail

- Elisa Maira, UX Research Lead

Significant growth

Elisa started on her own, but soon her team of one expanded: “After just five months, I got to add my first FTE to the team, and now I’m recruiting the second. More colleagues mean more opportunities to support our product teams with discovery and UX research, so that is super exciting. With Continous Interviewing, for example, my colleague Jos now takes care of all practicalities, like scheduling participants and booking interview rooms. All our teams need to do is show up and interview. After more than a year, I can now happily say that almost 120 colleagues have participated in Continous Interviewing as observers, note takers or interviewers, and the process has become a regular habit within bol.”

Teamwork all the way

Recently, Elisa dove into another project that’s particularly close to her heart. Her eyes light up when she shares: “Last year we started research on accessibility for visually impaired users. We’re exploring their shopping experience and are looking for ways to improve it. What’s really great, is that a recent accessibility report showed that we are one of the few webshops in The Netherlands to have already made significant progress in the last year. It feels amazing to be able to contribute to this, and I’m really proud to see where we are heading.”

“There is still a lot to be done, but I feel that there is a good momentum for research right now and that makes all the difference in the world. At bol, I’m part of an environment where there’s no sense of competition; we all share the same goal, and we’re reaching it together. No matter what project you’re tackling, there’s always someone ready to lend a hand, bounce ideas around, or pitch in. It’s all about teamwork, and that’s the kind of work I love being a part of.”