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Uncovering In-the-Moment Experiences of Transit Users Through Mobile Ethnography

mobile ethnography - pivotal research

What do you get when you combine traditional market research techniques with the capabilities of a smartphone? Pivotal Research answered this question through the application of a cutting- edge mobile ethnography tool for a multi-year customer satisfaction study with transit riders. 

Ethnography unlocks the undisturbed, authentic experiences of target groups.  For years, researchers have observed subjects in their natural environments to understand how they behave and interact with people, products, and services. 

What mobile ethnography does is add a pinch of innovation to a traditional research method by gathering feedback on daily encounters in real time by asking participants to use their mobile phones to document their journeys and share their thoughts and opinions as they experience services or make purchases.  

Instead of the researcher directly observing subjects, they can receive the same insights through the transmission of mobile phone data. In this sense, invaluable information about participants’ in-the-moment perceptions and experiences are at our fingertips, literally. 

mobile ethnography covid 19 pivotal research

Mobile Ethnography…

  • Captures immediate feedback, eliminating risk of participants misremembering aspects of their experience and improving accuracy of information collected. 
  • Provides significantly more context and detail than traditional survey research through real-time, participant-generated photos and videos.
  • Is more engaging than a traditional survey or focus group for both research participants and clients, due to its multimedia and client backroom capabilities, discussion boards, and advanced question types.

Mobile Ethnography as a Response to COVID

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and impacted the trajectory of several research projects meant for in-person research techniques, Pivotal Research went on the hunt for innovative, online-based technologies that could collect the critical information clients needed about their target audiences without sacrificing participant engagement. 

The Indeemo platform fit the bill for a user-friendly, high-engagement, technologically-advanced integrated solution that would allow participants to easily upload photos and videos, attach captions, and provide satisfaction scores for various aspects of their client experience as they are interacting with products and services.

Research In Action

As part of a multi-year customer experience program with the Edmonton Transit Services (ETS), Pivotal Research leveraged the Indeemo platform to collect in-the-moment behaviours and experiences of transit riders, specifically throughout the new ETS bus routes. 

Pivotal Research identified key touchpoints or steps in the ETS rider journey and asked a sample of riders to document and explain their experience with each step using their mobile phones.

Research participants downloaded the mobile application to their smartphones and captured experiences and perspectives at different stages in their trips, which they communicated through screen recordings, photos, and videos, or by writing detailed feedback. 

In-the-moment customer journey data was consolidated and analyzed, including elements of satisfaction and pain points throughout the journey, and reported to ETS in a dynamic presentation.

ETS is using this in-depth feedback to provide context to large-scale survey data with the goal of understanding and improving user experience across the service.  

public transit

Let’s Start a Conversation...

We successfully leveraged mobile ethnography in the transportation sector, but  the technology we utilize is compatible across various settings. Pivotal Research continues to find innovative ways to enable organizations to increase their insights into their customers’ experiences and actively engage them in the development of service delivery solutions to retain them as loyal customers. 

Contact Doha Melhem, Director of Consulting at dmelhem@pivotalresearch.ca to explore research solutions that will meet your strategic priorities.

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