Mobile Ethnography and B2B Market Research

By the Editors

On February 6, Quirks published an article by Caroline Stovold of B2B International, entitled “Why Mobile Ethnography Belongs in B2B Research.” Stovold’s piece looks at how business-to-business market researchers can make use of mobile ethnography — respondent-captured photos, videos, and comments — to gain qualitative insights for clients. She breaks her argument into three sections:

  • Why use mobile ethnography?
  • Possible pitfalls of the method
  • When to use it as a tool

“Threading together videos, photos and sound bites can produce a more engaging report, making it easier for the audience to empathize, resulting in more memorable results. This ultimately leads to research findings that drive action.” — Caroline Stovold, B2B International

Stovold posits five advantages to using mobile ethnography in B2B MRX:

  1. Multiple methods of data collection provide market researchers more opportunities to gather data. Video diaries, photos, push notifications, and short opinion polls help create a holistic understanding of workplace events and decisions. Also, “this flexibility makes data collection versatile and engaging for the respondent,” Stovold says.
  2. In-the-moment insights. Respondents’ memory recall can be inaccurate during polls and surveys. By gathering data in the moment, B2B researchers have a “permanent record” to check — and they can ask questions as events unfold.
  3. Mobile ethnography can capture contextual data that respondents may not notice, remember, or think important enough to mention to researchers. Sometimes this data can reveal insights that spark innovation.
  4. Case studies. Real-life stories are gold to marketers. Mobile ethnography allows respondents to report their own personal stories. These ready-made case studies can be used to bring situations to life. “This is particularly important in B2B research as the audience may have little experience of a respondent’s job or workplace,” Stovold explains.
  5. Traditional ethnography presents many challenges and hurdles, including coordination, limited access, and expense. Mobile ethnography is a more efficient use of a researcher’s time. It gets around administrative difficulties and it scales better to a larger group.

No method is without pitfalls, of course. Some respondents will require an incentive to participate. Consistency of participation may vary, and some people will be more comfortable with technology than others. Privacy may also be a concern, either among individuals or within the company as a whole. In some sectors, researchers may not be able to gather photo or video due to company policy.

For the right B2B project, however, mobile ethnography can be a handy tool, Stovold says. “It’s a great way to collect data before conducting a focus group and build a rapport with your attendees. It can also be helpful as an initial exploratory phase for research before a larger quantitative study that supplies robust figures.”

For B2B specifically, she suggests that mobile ethnography may be particularly useful for product research and testing, observing decision makers in real time, and researching the customer’s journey.

To read the article in full, click here.