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Listening with your eyes - telling the human story and inspiring innovation

Growing use of social media has increased client appetite to deepen and enrich customer understanding - to reveal the ‘human story’ when it comes to brand, product and service touchpoints experiences and interaction.

Certainly the art of ethnography - the practice of observation, to explore and better understand culture, interactions, behaviours, and thoughts - has had a bit of a renaissance in recent times, to meet an increasing appetite for visual storytelling. At its best, such research can help to engage new audiences and inspire innovation and NPD by surfacing and revealing latent and unmet needs.


The human story - online and mobile ethnography

‘Pure’ face to face ethnography is often considered a costly, time-intensive research practice, hence the modern practice of autoethnography or self-ethnography has increasingly been adopted to capture ‘in the moment’ feedback. This online approach offers a considerable range of benefits including increased participant comfort (no researcher present at home), less fatigue (participants can share over long term periods), and access to environments, that without online ethnographic market research software, might otherwise have proved difficult to gain access to.

Shopper tasks, missions, journals, diaries and blogs can all be used to great effect, but on the downside, there is greater reliance on participants to serve as the eyes and ears of the researcher. For this reason it is crucial to carefully consider task instructions and prompts to enhance the prospect of revealing unique insights capable of enhancing innovation.

On this basis here are the key questions that we recommend taking into consideration to aid task planning and undertaking analyses:  

  • What is prompting behaviours: How are members engaging with the product / service / category in question? What are the problems / needs being addressed?
  • Patterns and the unexpected: What are the routines and behaviours? How do these routines map out and vary amongst different consumers (e.g. when taking life-stage and household composition into consideration)?  
  • Latent and unmet needs: What are the limits / frustrations in relation to the existing experiences? What are the gaps between the current and ideal experience? Does potential exist for the brand to better engage on this basis?
  • More highly engaged / extreme users: How are more extreme users engaging with the product / service / category in question (e.g. frequent users, or early adopters)? How does their behaviour compare to the mainstream?
  • Adaptations: Are there any examples of any users adapting or tailoring their own solutions to address needs that are as-of-yet unresolved by the product / service?

For further tips and advice about running successful mobile or online auto-ethnography projects, check out our latest guide to online mobile ethnography...


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