Traditional ethnography can easily become an extremely time-intensive process. Smartphones provide an opportunity for researchers to gather opinions or thoughts without the need to observe people in person. The consumer becomes the researcher. Consumers are asked to record their thoughts, feelings, and decisions on a regular basis through guided journaling, shooting video from their mobile, responding to prompts, and other research methods.
Using web apps and smartphones, it’s much easier to both observe but also ask questions over a longer period of time. This adds color to the picture you’re painting and saves time and money.
Mobile ethnography offers superior speed. If a consumer has an interaction with your brand or another experience that you’d like documented, it’s going to be to your advantage to find out about it right away. The longer you wait, the more likely your consumer is to forget that experience.
Collecting data via a smartphone means that your subjects can give you information any time. They can record a video and tell you about a billboard they saw on their commute to work. Or they can tell you how they felt about a particular advert on TV. These things can be done milliseconds after the event or experience, before your subject forgets any details.
No matter how your participants like to communicate, you can find a way for them to engage. You could have your participants send their data via emails, blogs, social media, or even by leaving a voicemail. You could ask for reflections, send short surveys, have a standard set of multiple-choice questions, use numerical rating scales . . . the possibilities are almost endless.
When you collect ethnographic data, you’ll get a lot of information like context, geographic location data etc. While it takes time to sift through all of the data you’ve collected, you’ll almost certainly end up more contextual information that any other research technique can deliver.
One of the advantages is that you often get answers to questions that you weren’t even asking or looking for; using relatively open-ended questions or allowing participants to leave comments means you can get information on issues that you weren’t aware of when you started.