How many ways is mobile being used in Qual?

As mentioned before (here and here), Navin William, Reg Baker, and I are producing a mobile marketing research module for the University of Georgia’s Principles of Marketing Research course. I have bounced some ideas off the readers of this blog, and here is another topic where I’d love to hear your views.

Some of the most interesting work, to date, in terms of MMR (mobile market research) has been in the area of qualitative research and this is a key point for students of MMR to be aware of.

The key areas of qualitative MMR:
My feeling is that the key uses of mobile in qualitative research are:

  1. Smartphone Ethnography, recruiting participants to capture slices of the own lives and the lives of people around them to produce ethnographic data and in some cases to engage citizens in mass or auto ethnography.
  2. Mobile blogging, where participants use their mobile device (which can be as basic as SMS) to record or comment on some aspect of their lives. This can also include asking the participants to record their own vox pops.
  3. Mobile focus groups, where participants can use a mobile device to take part in focus groups. At one extreme this means voice only, at the other end it can mean using a web-enabled tablet to show all the participants on the screen, with full audio-visual connectivity.
  4. Discussions, allowing participants to take part in asynchronous discussions from their mobile devices, typically via internet access.
  5. Homework, where the participant is sent tasks via their mobile device, often in advance of a discussion, and often including the participants using their mobile devices to capture artefacts (e.g. pictures of your pantry).
  6. Tracking, where a small number of participants agree to be tracked for a period of time, for example 24 hours or a week, and the researcher uses the participant’s mobile device (typically a smartphone) to record some or all of: location, internet usage, voice calls, when and how the phone used (e.g. to check time of day), who the phone contacted (e.g. Bluetooth and WiFi), and much more. Qualitative tracking is based on looking in-depth at traces, often in conjunction with the participant themselves to gain insight into what is revealed by the data.
  7. As a tool in a qualitative session, for example tablets can be used in focus groups or in a one-on-one interviews, to show images and video, and to allow the participant to access materials and respond, for example by sorting items or creating pictures.

In addition, mobile devices are used to organise and coordinate qualitative activities, ensuring people receive instructions, helping them find locations, and generally communicating with participants. Also, mobile devices are often used with insight communities as part of the overall method of communication with members, for qual, quant, and administrative purposes.

What do you think? Have I missed some important areas? Are some of my items marginal?

2 thoughts on “How many ways is mobile being used in Qual?

  1. The key thing to remember is that many quallies are using mobile as a portion of a larger study, with multiple qual methods. We think of mobile as another tool in our ever-expanding toolbox, thanks to some amazing suppliers who continue to push the boundaries.

    Your #5, Homework, is the only one that seems mis-named. Most of the others (1, 2, 6 & 7, specifically) could be used as a ‘part’ of a mixed-method study as well, and thus they are far more than just homework, but an important component of the study.

    Otherwise, I think your list is great, Ray. I’m so glad the MMR program (masters of marketing research, which conveniently shares the acronym with mobile market research!) will include your perspective on it!


  2. Ray, I suggested a distinction between “push” and “pull” (qual) mobile market research methods, eg. push: kids get every 2 hours a reminder (SMS,etc.) on their smartphone to take a picture of what they are currently doing (aim: to get information of a “normal” day of a child) and send to blog vs. “pull”: a prerecruited group is instructed to complete a specific task within a time-frame (e.g. capture every “trend” respondends experience within a week) but are free to choose when and where.
    Probably this might be of interest for you:
    Kind regards, Emanuel

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