Why Mobile Ethnography works.

Category : Mobile Ethnography

We’re experiencing consistent growth in the number of client briefs looking for more innovative, agile ways to get a richer understanding of in-the-moment consumer behaviors. This is particularly urgent for brands hoping to connect with Millennial and Gen Z consumers or looking to expand geographically.

Hence we’re seeing a growing diversity of customers investing in Mobile Ethnography to evolve their research. We now support customers ranging from Freelancers to Research Consultancies to Designers to Agencies and client-side Insight and Customer Experience teams.

Although our clients may be diverse, their feedback on Mobile Ethnography is consistent:

  • They consistently remark on the authenticity of the behaviours it captures.

  • They’re consistently surprised at the richness of context they experience.

  • They consistently marvel at how Mobile Ethnography brings customers to life in a way that instantly resonates with both colleagues and clients.

Remote Ethnographic Research using mobile is moving the needle for both agencies and brands when it comes to truly understanding consumer behaviours. If you’re new to this research methodology, you’re probably wondering why that is.

Why does Mobile Ethnography work?

First, some background.


What is Mobile Ethnography?

Ethnography is a research methodology that originated in anthropology and was employed for gathering empirical data on societies and cultures. Data collection was done through in-field participant observation and the recording of field notes.

Traditional Ethnographic Research aimed to describe the culture of those who were studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing.

Ethnography has evolved from its original roots and is a methodology employed by brands who want to truly immerse themselves in the lives of their customers.

However, because traditional Ethnography requires a researcher to be physically present with participants, it requires a lot of travel, is time consuming, expensive, difficult to scale and, consequently, beyond the budget of all but the wealthiest brands, until now.

Ethnographic Research goes Mobile

With the explosion of affordable smartphones, 4G networks and multimedia social sharing, Ethnographic Research has become truly mobile.

Mobile Ethnography now makes it possible for Researchers to connect with Respondents in any location, at any time, without ever leaving their desks.

‘Mobile’ has made Ethnography affordable to every brand.

As a result, more and more Researchers and Designers are using Mobile Ethnography as a cost effective, scalable solution to carry out remote field research.

Compound this with the fact that people have become so comfortable with, and addicted to, their smartphones, asking them to snap a photo or record a quick video is no longer a big deal. It’s second nature.

The Power Of Mobile.

In reality, our mobile phone has become the “can’t live without” utility in our everyday lives.

We wake up to it. We check our feeds on it. We share our every moment on it. We shop on it. We bank on it. We listen to music, watch films and play games on it. We go to sleep with it right next to us. It’s within arms reach every moment of the day.

Think about it! What do you never leave the house without? Keys, wallet, phone!

Leveraging the fact that our mobile phones are a digital extension of our very selves, Mobile Ethnography gives researchers unparalleled visibility into people’s everyday lives.

Mobile Ethnography’s superpower is its ability to place you at the intersection of your customer, their context and the moments where they experience your product of service.
— Eugene Murphy, Founder & CEO, Indeemo

This has a unique advantage over in-person Qualitative Research methodologies. All in-person methodologies require a researcher to be physically present and hence tend to be invasive and interruptive in nature. In some shape or form they suffer from the ‘researcher effect’. No matter the technique, the presence of a researcher is likely to skew or bias the results by the very fact that they are altering or interrupting the normal behaviours of your participants.

Instead of interrupting their normal behaviours, Mobile Ethnography enables you to align with them.

Mobile Ethnography gets you closer

No other research methodology has the capacity to get you closer to the people you need to understand, in their everyday context, in such a frictionless and non-invasive way.

In the words on one of our clients:

We’ve never gotten closer by being remote.

Mobile Ethnography transports you right into the context of your customers and enables you to directly experience the real life moments that matter to them.

It enables you to walk in their shoes.

It helps to experience what they experience. It empowers you, your clients and your stakeholders to truly empathise with their needs.

Leveraging social networking style comments and push notifications, a modern Mobile Ethnography platform will enable you to converse with your research participants, in context and in-the-moment.


You can now engage your customer no matter where they are.

Experiencing the customer like this has never been possible before.

Don’t alter what you currently do, augment it!

In our experience, Mobile Ethnography is best used as a complimentary methodology to augment and enrich your existing methodologies, data or tool sets.

It is not a standalone, silver bullet. It is unlikely to give you all of the answers. However, in our experience, it will give you answers you were previously unable to get.

It will immerse you in the everyday context of your customers at the moments that matter in a way that has never been possible before.

Think of Mobile Ethnography as the thin end of the research wedge that can crack open previously unobserved behaviours.

It can be longitudinal or short term. It can be passive and observational or it can be engaging and conversational. It has impactful value in terms of helping you reach respondents in multiple markets at a fraction of traditional budgets.

It’s cost effective, scalable and non-invasive.

It’s versatile.

Our clients use Mobile ethnography for discovery / week-in-the-life mobile diary studies, for bringing surveys and segmentations to life, for user experience research, for concept and product testing, for path to purchase studies, for in-store shopper insights, for customer experience and customer journey research. It can even be used in Advertising and Marketing.


Transitioning to Mobile Ethnography.

When leveraging Mobile Ethnography, you need a completely new approach.

Shoehorning what used to work for you on other methodologies or outdated technologies will not deliver the results you need.

You need to get comfortable with asking for less in order to understand more.

Our data consistently proves that engagement increases when what you task for decreases. Shifting to a conversational approach yields impactful results.

This is where our Concierge approach kicks in.

Whether you are a Freelancer, a boutique Consultancy or you work for a Fortune 500 brand, we support you, your clients and your respondents at every step of your Mobile Ethnography journey.

Get in touch now, share your requirements with us and, over a quick call, we will show you why Mobile Ethnography will work for you.

Tag : Mobile Qualitative Research

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Mobile Ethnography White Paper

Learn how Mobile Ethnography can supplement your research projects and generate richer contextual insights for your brands.

indeemo white paper