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Mobile ethnography: a powerful tool for uncovering insights that drive product optimization

Mobile ethnography: a powerful tool for uncovering insights that drive product optimization

Consumers are inundated with choices today across categories, and they’re looking for brands or new product offerings that stand out to them in an authentic and compelling way. To truly speak to our consumers and cut through the noise in retail environments, we must first deeply immerse ourselves into their lives to understand their worldview and choices. Mobile ethnography is a powerful qualitative tool to help us get these insights and utilize them to create new or optimized products, positioning or communication strategies.

Understanding the context behind the choice
Mobile ethnography allows researchers to truly be in-the-pocket alongside consumers as they are making choices to understand what is driving their behaviors. This tool helps brands:

  • Understand the full context of a consumer decision beyond what they actually chose and why
  • Encompass what motivated the choice
  • Uncover what other options were available
  • Learn what else was happening around consumers to influence the decision
  • Discover in-the-moment perceptions of products, brands or experiences

By deeply exploring their needs and choices in context, we can better identify areas of passion or frustration to serve as spring boards for product optimization or development.

Capturing rich visuals that tell the consumer’s story
We can capture media rich qualitative insights through photo and video data streams that capture key consumer choices in the moment. These photo and video streams can act as powerful inspiration for our clients to visualize consumer needs, barriers and category gaps that we can execute against. Being able to visualize consumer decisions in-the-moment over time creates a rich narrative that that is uniquely observable through this tool.

Observing real-time interactions, authentic and unedited
By hiding the researcher behind a mobile device, we can better lean into consumer’s natural behaviors to observe them without constraints. Consumers are well trained today to multitask with their phones alongside other behaviors (think: shopping in a grocery store, making dinner at home, etc.). This familiarity with multitasking helps them respond to research questions as they are occurring in their lives and does not stop them from fully living in those moments.

We can use this practice as they interact with brands or products at home, in stores and anywhere else they might be in real time. This balance ensures that we are getting the real, unedited version of who they are, why they are making these choices and what barriers or frustrations our clients can help them solve.

Keeping it casual, encouraging open and honest participation
Consumers across age ranges and segments are comfortable and familiar using their phones to share their thoughts and feelings (e.g., through social media, video chatting, etc). This research methodology therefore helps to create a casual observational environment to encourage greater participation both in terms of passion and numbers of respondents across an engagement. If we make it easy for them to tell us about a product or brand experience in the moment, they are more likely to participate and participate with gusto. This methodology feels non-disruptive and creates a comfortable atmosphere for consumes to share honestly, empowering consumers to speak in their own language and style throughout the study.

By hearing from consumers in an open and honest way about their choices, we can help our clients develop deeper empathy for who their consumers are and what they are looking for. This level of empathy and understanding is crucial to product optimization and development, and the creation of communication strategies that speak authentically to consumers.

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