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Mobile ethnography provides real insight into the way customers interact with your brand


One of the things I love about qualitative research is the inspiration that comes from encounters with people I would otherwise never have met. Like most researchers, I REALLY miss that.

But after almost a year I’ve got used to making those connections happen online, and it has opened up new opportunities and benefits.


A key change is the opportunity for online ethnography, which is giving us valuable insights into the ways people are adapting to lockdown life.

A definition of ethnography is:

“descriptive study of a particular human society or the process of making such a study. Contemporary ethnography is based almost entirely on fieldwork and requires the complete immersion of the anthropologist in the culture and everyday life of the people who are the subject of his study.”

When it comes to market research, ethnographic projects, or consumer ethnography, have tended to be on a smaller scale than academic anthropology.

They involve practical observation of everyday life – researchers spending time with individuals or families, in their own environment, to understand their lived experience, and how they interact with a category or brand. Their value lies in the fact that we can observe the way consumers behave, rather than relying on people to remember and explain their behaviour.

But they are time-consuming, labour-intensive, and have tended to be expensive.

Mobile ethnography

An exciting development is that technology is allowing us to conduct consumer ethnography in new ways. Instead of physically visiting, and being a presence in the home, we are able to conduct less intrusive remote observation of consumer behaviour in their own environment, and (when regulations allow!) out and about

Participants simply use their mobile phone in a guided way to share their lives with us, allowing us to uncover brand touchpoints and to capture immediate real-life behaviour in a more effective and less costly way. And this can take place over a longer period of time than we could realistically hope to spend with them in their home.

Mobile ethnography enables us to understand:

  • When and where consumers encounter our brand and how it fits into their lives
  • How they navigate our category
  • The needs that are met by products and brands
  • The pain points and frustrations that could inspire product development or line extensions

It allows us to understand how people really behave, rather than what they say they do, and by doing so uncover hidden needs and opportunities and identify potential for innovation.

If you would like to chat about how mobile ethnography can help you, please get in touch using the button in the bottom right hand corner of this page, or email info@museresearch.co.uk