Your guide to mobile diaries for qualitative market research

Qualitative market research professionals are increasingly moving away from traditional paper-based diaries towards mobile diaries – and with good reason. Traditional diaries take time and effort to prepare, and let’s not forget the cost associated with the layout, design, printing, and distribution. The drawbacks of traditional diaries, coupled with the digital explosion, has led to mobile diaries becoming practically universal.

Mobile diaries are a way to gather user-specific information. You can use them to capture participants’ reflections of their daily routines, on-site. You may not be able to access this type of uninterrupted, deeper information through traditional research methods like interviews and observations due to the presence of a moderator/observer.

And with the many user-friendly apps and blog tools available on mobile phones – this information is available in real-time – you can easily gather unique insights to support your qualitative market research efforts.

But what are the uses of mobile diaries? What benefits do they offer? And how exactly can you use them to delve deeper into a participant's life to gather unique insights?

Mobile diary uses

You can use mobile diaries in a variety of ways to support your qualitative market research. These include:

  1. As a pre-work task.
  2. To assess actions.
  3. To monitor activity.
  4. To understand how subjects perceive events.
  5. To monitor shopping habits.
  6. To monitor buying behaviours.
  7. To understand emotions behind advertisements and behaviours.

Mobile diaries also offer an array of distinct benefits to both you and your participants.

Qualitative Market Research

Benefits of mobile diaries

Mobile diaries enable participants to:

  • Create and share key points and important events in their lives.
  • Capture moments in real time on their mobile phones.
  • Document actions, behaviours, and emotions as they happen, making it more interactive.
  • Research becomes an activity, not a series of questions.

Mobile diaries enable you (the researcher) to:

  • Track aspects of a person's life that are inaccessible through interviews and traditional ethnography.
  • Gather more emotional responses to moments and experiences in real time.
  • Identify unmet research needs.
  • Tell a story through qualitative data, as the mobility of mobile diaries makes it easy for you to document and track information, thereby creating a timeline.
  • Gather deep insights into how a person uses specific products and services.

But how exactly are you able to gather such deep insights? How does it work?

How it works

Each participant – via their smartphone – posts to a private platform or app. Your qualitative market research needs should dictate which free platform you use, like WhatsApp, Tumblr, or a more comprehensive, paid for platform or Shoal Mates.

Participants can post text, imagery, video, and audio to this online community, and the community manager interacts with participants through questions, comments, and reminders. Where the community manager finds certain posts interesting and worthy of further exploration, they can dig deeper to gather insights and/or engage with participants for further exploration.

In the case of Shoal Mates, participants have access to the online community via desktop and mobile, with their mobile device serving as a mobile diary to track experiences as they happen.

Tumblr, on the other hand, is a superb blogging tool for participants, as it allows you to create unique email addresses for each participant. This allows participants to upload text and images via SMS, email, or the user-friendly app interface.

Whether you use a free or paid for version, mobile diaries are ideal for gathering qualitative market research data. They offer a host of benefits for both you and your participants and, given the drawbacks of traditional diaries and the rapid evolution of digital, their adoption is set to continue at a rapid rate.

If you’re considering using mobile diaries for the first time, but aren’t sure how to successfully set up a mobile research community, why not download our free guide to help.

Market Research Online Community