In-person, immersive research is ideal in many situations. However, sometimes we want to understand consumers across a longer time period, or in categories where consumers are more apt to share thoughts and feelings in a less face-to-face way. Plus, in-person approaches aren’t always a viable option due to time constraints and the resources needed for recruitment, traveling and extensive interviews.
A digital approach to ethnography can be much more efficient and, in many cases, just as (or even more) effective for quickly gleaning insights, especially when it’s part of a robust, multi-method approach. We find it gives our team and clients the depth of in-person ethnography with a myriad of additional benefits along the way, cultivating consumer empathy and a deeper understanding of desires, unmet needs and pain points. Here’s a quick primer:
What is Digital Ethnography?
Digital Ethnography is a type of online research used to mine deeply personal and relevant consumer insights. We typically use it along with a number of approaches like leveraging existing data and research, social media ethnography, and landscape assessments to build context, understand consumer needs and identify Jobs to be Done we can solve for.
How Do We Conduct Digital Ethnography?
Consumers meeting our target criteria (anywhere from general population to early adopters to extreme users) go online when it’s convenient for them, over the course of 3 or more days. They complete 3-4 different activities each day on a Pinterest-like, asynchronous research platform. They submit stimuli via mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer, including photos and videos of in-the-moment occasions (usage, social, consumption, etc.). The researcher can probe deeper into comments, as needed. These activities are customized based on the project’s specific objectives and hone in on having participants show (not just tell) us about their lives. For example, we asked kids to record a video message to the CEO of a well known brand to help us understand opportunities for improvement; we’ve asked consumers to create “amazon-like” reviews of products or brands to help us tap into benefits and pain points; and we’ve had consumers take pictures with their phone as they are shopping in specific sections of the store to help us understand products they buy vs. products they pass up (and why!).
What Are Business Challenges for Digital Ethnography?
We’ve used Digital Ethnography with BigCos and SmallCos alike; on products, brands, and categories ranging from automotive fluids to snacks. We apply these learnings to help identify consumer need areas or Jobs to be Done to focus product or commercial innovation, or to fuel development of consumer personas for brand and product development. Digital Ethnography is extremely flexible in its application, though, and is a great vehicle for understanding the consumer at any stage of the innovation process.
Traditional v. Digital Ethnography: In-Depth Comparison
Curious to learn more about Digital Ethnography or how we might apply it against your objectives? Drop us a line; we’d love to take a look at your objectives and roll up our sleeves to see if it’s part of the right solution.