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If you’re scratching your head, wondering what exactly “mobile ethnography” is, then head on over to this blog post, What is mobile ethnography?, for an overview of how you can make the most of mobile ethnography for market research.

Mobile ethnography is becoming more of a crowded marketplace than ever before, with many different approaches now available from different suppliers. We wanted to celebrate our differences so have created this rundown of four of the best mobile ethnography platforms of 2020, to help you decide which would work best for your individual needs.

Voxpopme

Voxpopme was founded in 2012 and have grown their video survey platform steadily year-on-year ever since. Similar to the other mobile ethnography suppliers in this article,Voxpopme is in no way affiliated with Vox Pops International.

Voxpopme is a subscription-based software platform. On the consumer end, Voxpopme is a mobile phone app which anybody can sign up to. Once subscribed, people have the opportunity to answer surveys with self-filmed video responses. For each video survey that respondents complete, there is a financial incentive, often ranging between 25p and £1, with some incentives going as high as £3.

On the corporate side, brands use the Voxpopme platform to send video surveys and collect market research data on all manner of topics. Not all respondents will be invited to respond to all surveys – you can choose which demographics get the opportunity to respond, and you can also set a limit on the number of people who can reply and claim the incentive. The Voxpopme platform collates these video responses into one place, and also includes features that help you analyse and thematically group the video insights.

A key strength of Voxpopme is that you can quickly and easily recruit targeted respondents through the app and get quick soundbites in short time frames. It enables you to get video responses from a large number of people, providing a wealth of data which can be analysed using the platform.

Voxpopme sits somewhere in the middle of qualitative and quantitative, referred to as scaled qual. So if you are looking to collect survey data with some qual detail provided in video form, Voxpopme is probably the tool for you.

Some limitations to be aware of include the fact you are unable to moderate, probe or guide respondents. Respondents complete the questionnaire, get paid, and move on. Demographic or audience targeting is also limited to filtering by the data entered by users when they sign up to the app. Bearing these points in mind, if you are wanting to conduct ethnographic research in a purer sense and intrinsically study a tightly recruited sample of people, another solution might work best for you.

Seenit

Founded in 2014, Seenit is a facilitator of user-generated-content (UGC) rather than a research platform, and is marketed towards internal comms teams. Having initially operated on a pay-as-you-go, project-to-project basis, their annual subscription model was in full swing by the end of 2016.

Largely, Seenit looks to empower employees of large companies to tell their story by sharing video diary-style responses to a range of questions.

Using an invite code, respondents sign up to the Seenit app where they receive a shot list to complete. Answers are filmed and uploaded in the ‘Seenit Capture’ app, which connects to the ‘Seenit Studio’, a one-stop shop to review and sort your footage. There’s then the option to edit the footage you’ve collected in the Studio, before adding music, simple graphics, and finally sharing your finished video.

So far, so slick!

Well… sort of. There are a few things to bear in mind with the Seenit platform.

It is a good idea to come up with comprehensive pre-visualisation of your desired end product, otherwise you may end up spending a lot of time in the edit studio to ‘find your story’. Bear in mind that while most comms teams don’t have their own in-house video editor, you’ll still need somebody with a flair for video to get you through the final stages of production. It is important that you have the time or resources internally to make this happen, otherwise, your colleagues will quickly get sick of submitting video responses that don’t end up being used.

If you do have the time and resources, Seenit is a fantastic platform that gives your employees the chance to be heard and be seen, creating a more involved and communal company culture. With a Seenit production, your own comms team become the producers, and your employees are both the film crew and stars of the show. What you end up with is content that looks and feels authentic, and is achievable with no input from external crews.

Living Lens

Geared towards insights teams, Living Lens was launched in 2014 to provide a solution to a common question: how do you prevent your insightful video from collecting digital dust, and put it to use in a meaningful way for years to come? The answer that Living Lens came up with is a searchable hub, where you can upload your video archives. As with the other companies listed here, Living Lens clients pay a subscription to access the platform.

The clever bit is that not only does this provide an easy way to access and share video content, but also turn that video into searchable data. Each clip is automatically transcribed and subtitled, making your footage searchable by keyword, meaning your insights teams can dust-off all your existing video clips and put them to work once again.

Traditionally, this platform was perfect when coupled with Voxpopme, as it got extra value from video survey responses. Today, Voxpopme have their own platform for housing video archives. Similarly, Living Lens has introduced a way to integrate their platform with your existing surveys to capture video content via the front-facing camera and webcams.

On the surface, there is much crossover between Voxpopme and Living Lens, but there are also a number of distinctions between the two, including features that are unique to each. Make sure to consider what is most important to you, collecting video research or making your video research more usable. Voxpopme is traditionally a video survey platform, Living Lens a video hosting and analysis platform. Whilst both now offer features bridge the gap, both started from a different place, so have more experience of facilitating their unique specialisms.

In general, Living Lens is a fantastic option if you conduct video research on a regular basis and have a large video archive. Similar to Voxpopme, limitations come back to the method of video capture. Video survey questionnaires are just that, a questionnaire. There is no scope for probing, guiding or digging deeper than the surface level. If you really want to get to the heart of your customers’ experiences and dive into their worlds, keep reading.

Vox Pops International

OK… Hopefully we have done justice to the fantastic platforms mentioned so far, now let’s take a look at our own offering.

Whilst our name may be similar to some, Vox Pops International takes an entirely different approach to mobile ethnography than all of the platforms above. For a start, we cost on a project by project basis, rather than offering a software subscription. We’re also a specialist video (insight) production agency, rather than a tech platform.

We’re not here to tell you that our approach is better, because it isn’t. All of the platforms above are leaders in their own unique space in the market. The purpose of this article is to point out the differences between each supplier so that you can make an informed decision on what would suit best.

With that in mind, a mobile ethnography project with Vox Pops International is more closely aligned to the traditional definition: With pre-recruited, representative samples, we ask participants to film their answers to open-ended questions in their own environment. Professional recruitment means you can target extremely niche customer groups, for example, ‘young people in China who invest in gold’, ‘millennials who love mayonnaise’ or ‘women drivers in Saudi Arabia’. This allows us to identify participants by information outside of what can be included in a sign-up form.

With the oversight of a project manager/producer, respondents are moderated to keep them on topic and ensure high-quality insights. We maintain an open channel of communication with all respondents throughout any mobile ethnography project, and can go back to explore things further at any stage. Our video diaries are qualitative, with sample sizes of recent projects being anywhere between 6 and 40. 

The key strengths to our methodology are in tight recruitment, active moderation and quality of insights. Put simply, we research a select group of people, in detail, over a duration of time, rather than collecting video survey responses from a wide pool of people.

VPI also functions as a video production agency. Brands seeking to engage their stakeholders or drive action from video insights often entrust us to create summary edits from their video diary entries. These are used in presentations, pitches, L&D workshops and so on. Final outputs can be either internal or public-facing (or both!), with respondents coached to film in a consistent way which results in a cohesive final video. You can also include name straps, added graphics, subtitles, and branding, elevating the raw material from pure insights to usable content.

Things to be aware of before getting in touch with VPI for a mobile ethnography platform are as follows. Firstly, as we cost on a project by project basis, you don’t have open access to a platform. This means you won’t be able to send video surveys as-and-when on a regular basis. Secondly, due to the fact we recruit according to tight screeners, sample sizes are limited and cannot match the scale of a panel. If volume is what you are looking for, Voxpopme or Living Lens would likely be a better fit.

In summary

So there you have it: Four different platforms, and four rather different solutions! Ultimately it comes down to which platform serves you the best, and that will be different for each and every team, and for every aim and objective, be it tracking customer journeys or visualising consumer insight.

As a general rule of thumb, this would be our advice:

If you want a software subscription to help you capture a large volume of quick and easy video soundbites via survey questionnaires, Voxpopme would be a good place to start.

If you want to empower your employees to share their voice around your business and create an inclusive culture, Seenit would be a good choice.

If you want to get more value from your existing video insights or incorporate video into your existing surveys, take a look at what Living Lens subscriptions can offer you.

If you want to understand and visualise a specific customer group, customer experience or customer journey, get in touch to find out how we can help.

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