Is mobile ethnography a useful insights tool for business-to-business (B2B) researchers? Daniel Mullins of B2B International says “yes” in his July piece for RW Connect, “5 Ways B2B Research Can Benefit from Mobile Ethnography.”
“To ensure research findings ultimately drive action, effective communication of the insights is important. Storytelling is one of the best ways to achieve this, and the outputs of mobile ethnography lend itself perfectly to this.” — Daniel Mullins, B2B International
Mullins begins his article by defining what B2B mobile ethnography is: “Customer research, decision-making and needs research, and product research.” The advantages of mobile ethnographic research (vs. traditional, on-site ethnography) include:
- Versatility: Mobile ethnographic research can be part of a comprehensive study or it can stand on its own.
- 360-Degree View: Researchers ask participants to use their mobile devices to record video, photos, and audio of what’s happening around them. This data collection can be supplemented by real-time, instant message chatting between researchers and respondents.
- Cost-effectiveness: B2B researchers can connect with respondents from remote, eliminating the need to travel on-site to collect data.
Mullins also lists what he sees as the five biggest benefits of this approach when used for B2B research studies:
- In-the-moment insights. Mobile ethnography relies on participants to capture video, audio, photos, and immediate responses to researcher questions. These in-the-moment captures eliminate inaccuracy due to lack of recall.
- Contextual data. In focus groups and interviews, B2B respondents may discount or ignore the context surrounding them when they make decisions or carry out business activities. “It [context] may seem too obvious or irrelevant to participants,” Mullins says. However, these factors may reveal valuable insights that can spur product or service innovation. With mobile ethnography, the respondents capture their context for researchers to analyze later.
- Real-life stories. Storytelling is one of the most effective forms of communication, making data real—especially for B2B audiences who have no direct experience with then business situation (such as job role or task) being studied. “The use of photos, videos and sound bites helps bring the data to life, resulting in research findings that are engaging and memorable,” Mullins says.
- Flexible data collection. “The wide range of data collection techniques available to the researcher allows a more complete, holistic view of the participant to be captured,” Mullins says. He lists photos, video, short polls, push notifications, instant messaging, and video diaries (showing the work environment and the typical work day) as examples of tools researchers can use to gather data from study participants.
- Method efficiency. Mobile ethnography is more efficient than traditional ethnography, Mullins points out. Digital tools cut down on researcher prep time and face-time with participants. Because the mobile device can travel throughout the organization with the employee, this form of ethnography may reduce complications and slowdowns related to legal, safety, and security issues associated with a site visitor. The upshot: mobile ethnographic research saves B2B researchers a lot of time and red tape.
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