Context Chats @ Air Miles

Discovering key insights using a unique contextual research method


As part of my internship, I had the opportunity to work with the lead user researcher to perform research studies for the mobile app. This project documents one of the research studies I was heavily involved with before my departure.


In Summer 2017, I was a UX Design Intern at LoyaltyOne on the AIR MILES UX Team. My day-to-day included supporting the various departments of the company through UX and graphic design work. I worked with the lead designer and lead researchers on many projects pertaining to the AIR MILES brand.


Results gathered from 12 participants over a 3 week period were printed out and analyzed. An experience map was created based on our research, which helped us discover the app's next steps.


In June 2017, the new redesigned 3.0 version of the AIR MILES Rewards Program mobile app was released on both iOS and Android devices. The release was met with lukewarm feedback as seen on many App Store and Play Store reviews.

The AIR MILES UX Research Team decided to create an experience map to analyse ways to improve the app in future releases. To gather information, we used a research method known as context chats.


A context chat is a qualitative research method for performing contextual user research. This is done through the use of mobile chatting platforms (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, anything you want, really!)

Some Advantages of Context Chats

  • Low Threshold (all the user needs is their messaging app)
  • Can be done anytime, anywhere
  • Flexible, adaptable questions
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Close proximity to end user

Context chats can help researchers engage with their end users easily and discover important moments and milestones in their journey.


First, we needed to find AIR MILES collectors who would like to participate in our study. First, an email was sent out to a large list of users who have previously opted-in to invitations to research studies. In the email, a form with general chat-messaging and app usage-pattern questions like the following was sent out:

  • What type of phone do you have?
  • What messaging apps do you use?
  • How often do you use the AIR MILES mobile app?
  • What are your favourite features in any loyalty apps

To choose the collectors for this study, we analyzed the results from the form. We tried to obtain a sample that had an equal number of males and females, had users from each tier (blue, gold, onyx) and had both Android and Apple users. Users with detailed responses to questions were given priority as these users would likely engage with us the most in the study.

After choosing our 12 participants, we came up with a research plan, identifying questions we wanted to solve and topics we wanted to cover (ex. What motivates collectors to open up the app?). We decided to have 3 questions per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and run the study for 3 weeks, giving a total of 9 questions asked.


We contacted our participants and sent a welcome message to them along with a casual introduction. The tone of this conversation was to casual and relaxed in order to make the user more comfortable and therefore more willing to share their experiences.

After answering our initial question of the day, we asked follow up questions tailored to each collector to gain more valuable insights. This allowed us to discover unique journeys and motivations.


All collectors in the study were excited and engaged throughout the duration of the study. Many willingly shared valuable insights and personal motivations they had when using the app and program. All chat transcripts were printed out and analysed to create the experience map?



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