5 Ways B2B Research Can Benefit From Mobile Ethnography

By Daniel Mullins

The emergence of mobile ethnography started in B2C research circles. However, the technique has now spread and is now being adopted by their B2B counterparts. The ability to use smartphones to capture insights is leading to much richer data, and B2B researchers are ready to take advantage.

Typical applications of B2B mobile ethnographic research include customer research, decision-making and needs research, and product research. It can be used as a single, stand-alone research technique or used as part of a more comprehensive study.

Mobile ethnography works by asking participants to capture photos and videos on everything that is happening around them. They can also provide commentary and engage in discussions with instant messaging. The researcher isn’t required to be ‘on-site’ as the participant is responsible for sharing their experiences and contributing to the study.

While the use of mobile ethnography has many benefits in B2B research, here we look at 5 of the main benefits:

In-the-Moment Insights

Relying on participants to remember details on what they did and how they felt has always been a challenge for researchers. Considerable time may have passed which brings question marks over the accuracy of the data and also whether there have been omissions through lack of recall. For example, a tradesperson installing a heating system may recall experiencing no problems, but a video of the process may show a different story.

Contextual Data

In addition to in-the-moment insights, mobile ethnography can also capture contextual data. This is events and situations that may seem insignificant to the participant yet are important to the researcher. Contextual data can be difficult to capture in focus groups and interviews as it may seem too obvious or irrelevant to participants. It can however lead to the uncovering of crucial insights. Using the tradesperson as an example, a recording of an installation may reveal it was carried out in a different order than was originally intended by the manufacturer. Contextual data such as this can often lead to innovation.

Real-life Stories

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. The use of photos, videos and sound bites helps bring the data to life, resulting in research findings that are engaging and memorable. This is especially important in B2B research as it’s not uncommon for the audience to have little or no experience of a particular participant, job role or place of work.

Flexible Data Collection

Mobile ethnography offers a lot of flexibility to the researcher. Data can be captured in photos and videos, as well as asking questions directly to participants. The wide range of data collection techniques available to the researcher allows a more complete, holistic view of the participant to be captured. They can show off their work environment and document what they go through during a typical work day using a video diary. Participants can also take part in group discussions and answer short polls, as well as answer questions using instant messaging and push notifications. This means mobile ethnography offers versatile and engaging data collection opportunities.

Method Efficiencies

Traditional ethnography has several limitations which mean its use in B2B markets is rare. Lots of time needs to be spent preparing for a visit in addition to the several hours the researcher spends with each participant. There are also concerns surrounding legal, health and safety and security issues. For example, visits to potentially dangerous construction sites or asking permission to capture video from within an organisation. These concerns are erased with mobile ethnography. It has the potential to access all areas of a business and requires much less time from the researcher.

About B2B International

B2B International is the largest specialist business to business market research agency in the world. It has offices covering Europe, North America and Asia and specializes in developing bespoke market research solutions for global clients, including 600 of the world’s largest 1,500 companies among its client base.

Contact: Daniel Mullins 0161 440 6000 danielm@b2binternational.com