Ethnographic research essentially turns research inside out: instead of bringing the subject to the researcher, it involves researchers embedding themselves in the respondent's environment so they can observe their experiences first hand. It’s a great research methodology because it allows you to get right to the heart of customer behaviour and sometimes learn things about your consumers that they haven’t even consciously recognised about themselves.
Thanks to the technological advances of the last few decades, ethnography can now fit into participants’ lives more easily than ever before. From video diaries to respondents taking photos of their experiences as and when they’re happening, mobile ethnography is adding an unrivalled depth and detail to research.
Not only that, but because people are always connected and so comfortable using mobiles and smartphones, mobile ethnography provides a natural way to capture consumers thoughts, feelings and behaviours - making it the perfect tool for researchers. Read on to discover some of the benefits…
Generate more natural responses
One of the biggest benefits of using mobile ethnography is that it makes it easier to gather insights organically, with respondents providing natural in-the-moment feedback rather than a distorted recollection a few hours later. Because participants can respond to things instantly, researchers don’t have to worry about respondents forgetting critical details that are limited to memory. Not only that, but because this instant approach to research also allows you to capture respondents in their natural environment, it delivers additional insights into customers behaviour that reveal contextual insights about location, background and even other people who might shape a participant's overall experience.
And because your respondents can record and upload footage themselves, they can talk about their experiences in their own environment, in their own words and in their own time - so you can access unrivalled, genuine insights and get to the bottom of what your respondents really think and why.
Reach out to more people
Another positive of using mobile ethnography is that the logistical and financial burden of research is greatly reduced. You don’t have to worry about agreeing on a location on a certain day or time that appeals to everyone, or even think about the costs of hiring a venue either. That means you have the flexibility to greatly expand the scope of your research so you can take on more respondents in geographically varied locations - which is great news if you are conducting research in niche areas. Additionally, because you aren’t limited by time constraints, you can also cover a wide array of research questions and manage your time more accurately, resulting in more engaged respondents and deeper insights. And let’s face it, the more valuable feedback you receive from a greater group of engaged respondents, the better you’ll understand customer behaviour!
Empower your participants
Ethnographic research has its roots in anthropology, whereby researchers go into a particular cultural environment and learn first-hand how people live and behave. However, although traditional ethnographers make a great effort to be unobtrusive and observe the participants authentically in a natural setting, no matter how hard you try, there’s bound to be some effect of having the researcher there. That’s why ‘self-ethnography’ using mobile is such a great methodology, because it takes away the potential distraction of having a researcher there and empowers participants to share their thoughts and opinions on their own terms. This is a real advantage, because they won’t be self conscious about being questioned by researchers or feel under pressure to remember their previous thoughts and feelings. By removing these distances and barriers, participants are empowered to take control and capture their feelings in the moment, resulting in unbeatable insights.
Enrich your research with qual answers
Mobile ethnography also enriches research by allowing researchers to access the reasons behind the results generated from quant research. Firstly, mobile ethnography allows deeper investigation into things that have been identified during a quant study so you can discover the reason behind the statistics, add more weight to your research and tell the real customer story behind your quantitative results. Not only that, but taking a step back it can also be used to enrich your study before research even takes place by using mobile ethnography to perform exploratory work such as pre-tasks. This can help to warm your participants up and break the ice before your study begins, which will not only encourage them to communicate with each other but also boost overall engagement and encourage them to really open up when the research kicks off.
With a strong plan in place and your goals clearly set, mobile ethnography is a great way to bring deeper insights to your research project. If you're thinking about using mobile ethnography as part of your next qualitative market research project, download our beginner’s guide to mobile ethnography here.