Mobile Ethnographies Capture Real World Customer Journeys

Posted by TrendSource on October 31, 2017

Background and Client Objectives

Before reconsidering their in-store marketing materials, a global consumer electronics manufacturer required in-depth knowledge about how consumers interacted with these materials. Specifically, they wanted to understand how the displays, aesthetics, and information within in-store marketing materials influenced purchase decisions for people interested in their products. What caught the eye, what was helpful and informative, what was interesting and appealing, and most importantly, how could they use this information to influence customer decisions? They came to TrendSource with these questions in mind.

Program Development and Methodology

Leveraging its market research savvy and industry expertise, TrendSource made several key determinations in the planning stages that would directly impact this programs success, by making it as analogous to a real-life customer journey as possible.

First it was determined that mobile self-guided ethnographies were uniquely suited for this client’s needs: they provide the complexity and nuances the client required in reevaluating their materials, but also the flexibility and practicality to rollout in an efficient and lean national program.

TrendSource thus designed a mobile ethnography market research program in which customers already interested in purchase were recruited to browse in-store displays and then immediately record their perceptions and reactions in real time via their mobile device. This removed the middle man (moderator), providing the client unfiltered access to actual customers’ real-world perceptions of their marketing materials.

Second, in developing the national ethnography sample, the TrendSource team determined the study should be 100% blind, meaning the client’s name and the program’s purpose were intentionally kept from all participants. This obviously reduced biases inherent within many market research methodologies. Furthermore, it ensured that participants were genuinely interested and had purchase intentions within the consumer electronics market, not merely intentionally qualifying themselves. Thus, the only requirements for participation in the ethnography were age (18+) and the intent to purchase one of three consumer electronics products manufactured by the client within the next four weeks. Additionally at least some portion of the path-to-purchase—whether research or purchase—was to be conducted in-store.

Finally, the TrendSource team determined that the retail sample plan should reflect natural distribution among the client’s retail partners. This meant that participants were free to execute the project at any of the client’s preapproved retail partners at any location, as opposed to sending them to predetermined stores to meet a minimum per location shop threshold. This decision helped ensure the ethnographies mirrored the real-world purchase decisions customers make when in the market for consumer electronics, instead of force feeding them into purchase funnels.

Results and Analysis

Oftentimes, market research firms turn to shopalongs to understand how marketing materials influence customer journeys, and shopalongs are certainly a valid methodology in specific instances. Yet in this case, with such a low incidence rate (people already in the market for particular consumer electronics products), assembling shopalongs could prove costly and inefficient. By casting a wider, more efficient net, mobile ethnographies achieve a harmonious balance between the quantity of respondents and the quality and breadth of the data.

In mobile ethnographies, it is paramount to the program’s integrity that it mirror customers’ real world brand interactions and purchase decisions as much as possible. Otherwise, the market researcher is merely creating an artificial environment that will produce artificial results. By developing and executing a program that authentically matched actual customer journeys, TrendSource provided the client with two tangible, actionable conclusions that would go on to shape future marketing strategies.

First, the client armed themselves with (proprietary) information that gives them leverage in future negotiations with their retail partners. Having the data to push back against an unfavorable layout concept or push for display combinations they now know appeal to their customers has already proven invaluable to the client. This is important when considering the fragile but sustaining relationships between manufacturers and retailers—both sides must be ready with the market research intelligence necessary to arrive at agreements favorable to each.

Second, the client gained untold competitive intelligence. As this study was run blind, participants provided just as much information about competitors’ marketing materials as they did the client’s. A complete, real world evaluation of how this manufacturer’s in-store marketing materials stack up against their competitors is, obviously, worth its weight in gold.

By developing a mobile ethnography market research program that mirrored actual customer journeys, TrendSource provided the actionable intelligence to help the client optimize their in-store marketing materials.

Topics: Shopalong, Mobile Ethnographies\