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Mobile Ethnography: The New ‘Organic’ Market Research Tool to Try in 2014

mobile ethnographyWhat’s the most promising aspect of mobility in market research? Mobile ethnographynot pushing surveys to mobile devices.

Mobile Ethnography: Innovation in Progress

While there are only a few tools available so far, this area is developing quickly.  Imagine being able to ask people to basically research themselves. They can opt-in to a research experience using their mobile phones, take pictures and videos of where they are, capture sound bites as they’re happening, scan barcodes or QR codes of interest, and so forth. Cool? Yes.

So what’s the downside? This market research technique isn’t perfectly controllable. Participants will vary in their adherence to instructions, volume of contributions, and time spent.  There will be inconsistencies, and surprises.

So like anything else, it’s a trade-off. Yes, there are inconsistencies—but for some research needs, mobile ethnography offers superior speed, respondent engagement and ultimately insights.  It’s not as structured as a “conventional” survey, but that’s ok.

Healthier Market Research?

I like organic produce. But it tends to be more inconsistent in appearance than “conventional” options. Similarly, some new ‘organic’ market research tools (like mobile ethnography), are a bit more inconsistent—but perhaps more nutritious. We researchers need to raise awareness with our clients, be they internal or external, that the flaws of some new methods are really cosmetic; that at the heart of new methods, we’re getting something that’s potentially a lot tastier.

Next steps?

Check out some of the early products. Three are below and, when you check them out, you will see they are very different from one another.

  • QualMeetings from 20/20 Research
  • EthOS from EthOS App, a UK-based firm
  • And the folks at MyServiceFellow are offering a free demo (as of January 2014—this may change at any time).


[Want to read more about organic market research options? Download our white paper here.]



Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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2 thoughts on “Mobile Ethnography: The New ‘Organic’ Market Research Tool to Try in 2014”

  1. Hi Kathryn.
    I came across this article several weeks back when googling for mobile ethnography tools and wanted to update you on progress since. It seems like my service fellow is no longer available(?) and I looked up ethos and 20:20 there are other tools out there now like revelation and over the shoulder also. I ended up choosing a tool called Indeemo. Really simple ux and the respondents actually loved doing the journal! The insights we got were really rich and the dashboard is great for collating and tagging responses. I’m sure there are other tools out there but wanted to keep your readers updated. Nora.
    Their website is Thanks.

  2. We used the EthOS platform. In terms of making sense of the data, nothing comes close and we have tried most platforms out there. I would add that it lacks features such as scheduling of tasks, but it makes up for it many times over with an fun to use app and excellent moderation tools. Easy and reasonably priced.

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