Our smartphone app turns five: 5 mobile qualitative research use cases to mark the occasion

This year our smartphone app celebrates its fifth anniversary.

By now, the app has been a temporary companion for many qual project participants in their everyday lives: Truck drivers at rest areas across Europe, scooter riders in Thailand and owners of premium motorcycles in China, to name a few. Not to forget testers of all kinds of products – from smart home systems and robotic lawnmowers to food and beverage innovations.

We initially created the smartphone app to simplify the collection of audio, photos and videos on the go. This still is an important use case today.

Over time, the app worked its way from the streets into the gardens, houses and apartments of our project participants. Today, the app has many exciting use cases. Not all of them are based on its original purpose. Here are five selected use cases as inspiration for future projects:

1. Activate & reactivate participants via push notification

Actually, this was not even an initial core feature of the app. But the ability to send push notifications to participants’ phones via our mobile app has proven to be a really handy feature. 

Being able to reach out to and activate participants on their mobile devices anytime in a project is a great advantage, especially for long-term online qualitative communities, multi-wave studies and projects with longer engagement breaks. In fact, when communicating with participants via push, we observe a much higher response speed and activation rate compared to email.

Push notifications can also be tailored to specific groups and segments across the project user base – right down to individual members. This also makes it very easy to check the availability and willingness to participate in a subproject, a spontaneous webcam interview or an online focus group.

digital-ethnography-app

2. Outsourcing routine and documentation tasks

A big plus of the smartphone app is that a set of tasks and topics can be outsourced to it. The app then extends the web platform, where users continue to participate in the other project activities.

Activities in the mobile app are always just a click away. This lowers participation barriers and helps to emphasise their importance for the project. Especially when participants are to document routines, everyday situations or touchpoints over the course of days and weeks, outsourcing these tasks into the app can help derive higher outcomes.

3. Mobile ethnography with multimedia

Outsourcing tasks and activities into the app has also proven to be very beneficial for projects where participants are supposed to contribute user-generated audio, videos, or images. Examples include ethnographic documentation routines (vehicle or garden photos, daily breakfast videos, media & advertising touchpoints, etc.) and thematic safaris (such as structured documented store visits, shopping experiences, product unboxings, installation processes, etc.).

The low usage barriers of the app are a huge advantage for acceptance and accessibility: The workflow for creating and posting photos, videos and audio files is the same as in WhatsApp or other mobile-first social interaction platforms. This leads to higher participation and also reminds and encourages users to contribute in the moment of truth. In addition, probands often describe the mobile app as a particular highlight of their project participation. 

4. Document key moments in long-term projects

The mobile app is also great for projects that have a focus on key moments and in-the-moment experiences. Participants are provided with one or a set of recurring tasks in the app to complete whenever something notable about a topic of interest strikes them, or whenever a relevant situation occurs.

For example, in a long-term UX diary project, the aim was to document technical experiences in the everyday use of a heating system. When working with end-users on user experience and usability, a visual demonstration is often more insightful than a text description. The participants were therefore asked to record a video of the system and to explain what happened whenever a notable situation occurred – anytime over the course of six months. Using the app, participants know exactly what to do to document a key experience when it occurs – even if such a situation arises very rarely.

5 Agile mobile-first feedback

The mobile app is particularly well-suited to gather spontaneous qual-/quant-feedback in a long-term community or diary. Participants receive a push notification, access the question with a single click and can answer it directly in the app. Typically, one can expect a sufficient amount of responses to a topic to work with within the first hours. The response speed to moderator comments and probing questions is also very high. Such an agile feedback model can also be implemented app-first or app-only.

We hope these use cases demonstrate the potential of our mobile app for digital qualitative research. After five years, we are still huge fans of the app and always very happy when it is used in a project. We are very much looking forward to more innovative application areas and use cases for the app to come.


by Zacharias de Groote

Managing Partner


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