Mobile ethnography is an ethnographic market research methodology that breaks the boundaries of traditional ethnographic studies. Using mobile technology, researchers can get data on hundreds of people’s behaviors at the same time by asking them to take photos or record videos of themselves, which are then uploaded on suitable platforms for researchers to analyze. These snippets give a glimpse into what is happening in people’s lives in a way that provides powerful insights that used to only be achievable using exhaustive research projects and techniques.
The Benefits of Mobile Ethnography
The real cincher behind this vital research method is the ability to storyboard your data to help you derive insights that you can in turn use to determine actionable items to improve your brand or business. Mobile ethnography allows you to go broad and deep simultaneously by capturing multiple points of behavior from the same respondent while amassing hundreds of different examples across several respondents, all within a single study. This repetition allows you to dissect whether sets of behaviors are outliers to the grand scheme of things or integral influencers that shape the reason those are done.
Because mobile ethnography can run over several days or weeks, respondents eventually get used to being part of the study and start showing you behavior that would normally occur beyond the lens of a camera. By allowing these behaviors to unfold naturally over time, you end up with benefits that affect the overall consensus and quality of your market research. Some of these benefits include:
- Deeper context around behavioral triggers and cues
- Historical preference drivers and deep emotional drivers
- Parallel and tangential needs that fall outside of the existing process, but influence decision-making & satisfaction
- Evidence of conscious/subconscious denials — the things people don’t think happen a lot but are relatively predictable
- Insight into perceived anomalies — the outliers that people think don’t happen frequently but occur predictably
We discuss the advantages of mobile ethnography more in-depth if you’d like to check it out.
The Focus of Mobile Ethnography
Mobile ethnography directs the microscope to customers or employees who are asked to either document their daily routines or follow a specific research task that correlates to a given research question or topic. A dedicated app like Civicom’s Thoughtlight® allows participants to share their experience along their customer journey through text, photos, videos, and qualitative evaluations. ThoughtLight® can also collect answers to location-specific activities that can eventually be used to visualize data as journey maps or even as geographic maps.
Mobile ethnography follows a self-structured approach which can motivate respondents to report on anything that they perceive as important. It works well for longer research as well as for rather intimate research that may otherwise cause hesitant responses in a live interview setup.
Curious about mobile ethnography and the tools to help you get started? Read through our Market Researcher’s Guide to Mobile Research. If you’d rather just step right in and work with a reliable market research partner that can advise you on your project needs, book a project with Civicom® Marketing Research Services today!