April 2-3, 2019

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Bringing Up Baby in 5 Languages: Using Mobile and Ethnography to Understand Differences in Global ‘Mommy Culture’

Ethnographic research is the study of human behavior in the context of socio-cultural systems and everyday practices. In a business context, it has proven its worth as a uniquely rich methodology for deeply understanding consumer and shopper behavior in context, to answer a wide range of research questions, for example:

  • How do consumers use my product and how could we improve its design and usability (UX)?
  • What’s the customer decision journey in my category?
  • How can we design a better customer experience (CX)?
  • What does food culture and semiotics look like in different countries and how do we address that in branding, advertising and product innovation?
  • How do moms transport their kids to school and how can we address unmet needs in a design brief?

Mobile ethnography is a fairly recent innovation that addresses some of the limitations of in-person ethnographies. Mobile helps the ethnographic researcher observe and engage with participants longitudinally and asynchronously, capturing events as they occur. However, it has some serious limitations as a stand-alone methodology and unfortunately there is still a degree of confusion and over-claim around its appropriate use.

This presentation will explore a fascinating multi-method study of parenting culture and practices in three EU countries, India and China, offering conclusions and explaining how both in-person and mobile ethnography were used to explore culture, behavior, product usage, unmet needs and decision journey. It will recommend when and how to conduct mobile ethnography as a stand-alone method or as part of a multi-method study and cover executional dos and don’ts.

Presentation type:

  • Case Study Presentation

Subjects covered:

  • Mobile research
  • Global/international research
  • Ethnographic/observational research


  1. When and how to use mobile and multi-method ethnographic studies to answer business-critical questions.
  2. Critical watch-points when executing a global study in multiple languages.
  3. Fascinating insights into parenting culture, attitudes, behavior and decision journey in the EU and Asia.


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