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The adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies perfectly to how data are collected for market research. Market researchers rely on focus groups, interviews, surveys and a number of other means to gather information and insights which can then be distilled and analyzed. The data generated from this type of market research is invaluable to companies as they work to launch or improve upon a product, idea, or concept. Because the stakes can be high for companies, it’s important to ensure that the feedback they are receiving is accurate, which is why we incorporate mobile ethnographies into our research.

What the heck is mobile ethnography?

Simply put, mobile ethnography is when subjects are asked to record their observations and how they interact with an app or product in real-time. This technique allows us to capture immediate feedback so we’re not relying on the user’s memory of how they used an app or product.

If researchers aren’t careful with how they collect feedback from subjects, then it’s possible that their data are corrupted by false memories. No, this isn’t some sci-fi paranoia. More and more we are learning about the fallibility of memory and this can taint a lot of market research if not handled appropriately.

In a recent blog on Scientific American, the author Julia Shaw spoke with a number of leading authorities in the field of false memories research and summarized that, “our brains only bother to remember a tiny piece of what we actually experience, and every time we remember something we have the potential to change the memory we are accessing.” With this developing understanding of how imperfect our memories are, it is imperative that market researchers adjust their methodologies for capturing feedback, otherwise they are at risk of collecting “garbage.”

There are a few reasons why mobile ethnography stands out as a great way to collect market research data: it’s fast, we can observe and probe in real time, it’s customizable, and it’s contextual. Traditional ethnographic studies are designed to allow researchers to observe a participant in his/her “natural” environment. While this technique allows for more accurate insight into a person’s behavior and habits, it is rare for a researcher to probe with questions or prompts during the study. The post-appraisal of the intricacies of why a person behaved or reacted a certain way is vulnerable to how it is thought of in the present, rather than how it actually occurred at the time. Mobile ethnographies allow for the best of both worlds. We can observe someone in their natural environment, and we can gather information and feedback in real-time, thus minimizing the risk of something being falsely remembered.

Accounting departments love quantitative research. Marketing departments love qualitative research. Product developers love mobile ethnographic research. At InterQ, we first seek to understand what your objective is and then we develop our research strategies to provide your company with the most precise insight into your target market or audience. While we often employ a variety of research techniques, more and more, we’re finding that departments and teams get really excited by what we discover through mobile ethnographic research.

If you’re interested to see how you can improve upon your concept or product through research that gets results, we invite you to request a proposal today.