Utilizing Mobile Ethnography to Gain Substantial Qualitative Data

Dani Garan
Aug 14, 2019

Utilizing Mobile Ethnography to Gain Substantial Qualitative Data...

Ethnography is the study of people and their culture. It is a method dedicated to a lot of fieldwork where researchers aim to observe and explain consumers’ behavioral patterns, beliefs, and values that are shared across people in a natural environment. While ethnography can yield extremely valuable data, this type of research is confronted with limiting factors such as cost and duration. It is in-depth in nature and can span for long periods of time which requires a stable budget as well. Fortunately, the continuous growth of technology has allowed researchers to fully utilize the use of smartphones to conduct ethnography projects. Smart devices with photo and recording capabilities have enabled consumers to be accustomed to posting and sharing their thoughts online - a welcomed advantage for researchers - which also paved the way for mobile ethnography. Since then, a number of mobile applications have been developed for data generation in qualitative research projects.

While it may seem second nature to most researchers to document consumers’ daily routine or for respondents to finish tasks through their smart devices, mobile ethnography must go beyond simply asking a respondent to answer a series of questions, upload a photo or take a video. Sure, dedicated mobile applications can help collate data real-time, but researchers should also consider a few factors that can help bring forth relevant data.

Useful Tips to Consider When Conducting Mobile Ethnography:

  • Set Expectations

Mobile ethnography is a type of research that requires a bit more commitment in the part of the respondents compared to other methods so make sure you give your respondents complete instructions for a list of assignments with an allotted deadline for each.

  • Secure Respondents' Confidential Information

Because of the personal nature of the data being collected through this method, it is important to assure your respondents that you have a highly secured platform where their personally identifiable information is safe. This reassurance will allow them to post information about their lifestyle with more confidence.

  • Design Activities and Questionnaire

While you definitely want to make things seamless for participants, you also have to really consider the structure and format of your questionnaire in such a way that will allow you to understand pre- and post-purchase activities.  Build your questionnaire or activity around one core topic or behavior that you want to explore and allow your respondents to express their experience through open-ended text questions, audio recordings, or video capture.

  • Integrate location-based services

A service that provides location tracking and data mapping will show you where your respondent has finished particular activities, therefore adding context to your research. You can also opt for a geo-fencing service that prompts your respondents to accomplish a task upon entering a specific location.

  • Monitor Respondent Engagement

You have to check in with your respondents from time to time to see if they are engaged enough or if they are encountering any challenges accomplishing the activities.

  • Incorporate Other Techniques

You can also incorporate other techniques to further enrich your research study. One option is to register your respondents in market research online communities where they can openly discuss their thoughts and experiences on specific activities. Another one is by conducting face to face interviews.  These techniques give you additional insight into the activities you are designing and the experiences your respondents are going through.

  • Allow Connectivity Independence

It would be beneficial if the activities are not solely dependent on data connectivity. Look for services that allow respondents to still record their thoughts offline to be automatically uploaded online as soon as a connection is established.

If you are not entirely sure about some of the activities you’re creating, the best thing to do is to try it yourself before delivering it to the consumers. Put yourself in the shoes of your respondents and see if you honestly feel like the activities you prepared are doable and easy to understand. You might want to look for a platform that will utilize mobile ethnography and best cater to your qualitative research needs.

Remember to maximize the advancements in mobile device technology and the widespread usage of mobile phones for online access to your research study’s advantage.

Choose Civicom's Mobile Insights App ThoughtLight® for Your Next Ethnographic Study

Get in-the-moment insights from your respondents through audio, video, photo, and text responses to further your qualitative research. Have the power to gather various respondent feedback that contains a great deal of sentiment through ThoughtLight®. Learn more about our mobile insights app and how it can help you gather rich ethnographic data from your participants.

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