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Qualitative research has evolved with the times: Instead of just the standard in-person focus groups or telephone in-depth interviews, we now have some pretty fabulous tools at our disposal to help our field research collection process. Mobile ethnography tools are certainly nothing new (in terms of the last decade as a qualifier for “new”), but they’re becoming more agile, intuitive, and inexpensive to set up and operate, and more and more qualitative researchers are using them as a supplement to or as a replacement to traditional field research.

At InterQ, we’re a fan of mobile ethnography research, but we always use it as a supplement to traditional methods. People have become so comfortable with their cell phones, that asking them to snap a photo or quick video as they’re walking around their homes or in a store is no big deal. The mobile ethnography apps that we use include diary functions, so people can record in real-time their impressions as they’re shopping or trying out a new product.

Along with new technology comes a new set of terms to use. If you’re curious about mobile ethnographic methods, we’ve got a few essential terms to know.

Alert trigger: If a respondent is taking a survey while out shopping, an alert trigger can be deployed. It triggers a survey when a respondent enters or leaves a geofenced area.

Barcode scan: When using a smartphone camera, participants can scan and process the UPC barcode data on an item. It is then stored and coded and can be analyzed in the future.

Check-in: Similar to how people use a “check in” function when using apps such as Facebook or Foursquare, mobile ethnographic apps use check-ins when participants need to be at a specific location. When the person checks-in, they can be sent a survey notification. This functionality is especially great for mystery shopping!

Diary study: In a diary study, research respondents record specific behaviors over a set period of time. They can do this directly on an app or online.

Geofencing: With Geofencing, you can create a “virtual fence” around a geographic location. On a smartphone, when someone enters the geofencing area, the location-enabled detection can trigger an action (such as prompting someone to make a diary entry or snap a picture). Geofencing locations can be as large as a city block or as small as a retail store.

Intercept Survey: With an intercept survey, a researcher can survey respondents in their natural environments with a short, structured survey. Particularly useful for mobile ethnography research.

Mixed-mode study: Mixing different methods in qualitative research. May include mobile ethnography, in-person research, or quantitative surveys.

Out-of-Home Mobile Effectiveness: Out-of-home ads (billboards, ads in an airport, etc.) can be geofenced. Participants are triggered through mobile surveys when they’re near a geofenced advertisement, and they can leave feedback through a mobile diary.

Photo capture: A mobile ethnography tool that participants can use to record impressions, a product, or a moment. While using a mobile survey, participants will be given instructions to take a photo, which is uploaded through the mobile ethnography app.

Radius: When using geofencing or geolocation capabilities for mobile ethnographic research, users can define a radius that will trigger the survey.

Video Capture: Video capture is similar to photo capture: participants are given a trigger through a mobile survey to record a short video. They may be capturing a product, location, or their impression. Great tool for mobile ethnography research in the field or in a participant’s home.

Mobile ethnographic research is a super useful tool for field research

If your company has released a new product, or if you want to study how and what products people currently use in their homes, combining mobile ethnographic research with traditional qualitative research methods is a fantastic way to capture real-time impressions and feedback. At InterQ, we employ the latest technology for mobile ethnography research, so whether you’re contemplating releasing a new product and want to know how consumers use current products, or if you want to see how your product is perceived in the field, we can design a mobile ethnographic study for you that captures key moments and delivers game-changing insights.

Contact us for a proposal today for your next mobile ethnography project >