Due to the diversity of mobile internet users and potential users, a bricolage approach was required in order to take account of different perspectives and different needs. For our specific needs, a combination of three approaches proved the optimal solution
1. Accompanied shops – Rather than talk about the retail environment, we sought to experience it. We witnessed first-hand where it met people’s needs, but also where there was a disconnect
Three tips for accompanied shops
- Beware of the observer effect – intuit where the participant may not be acting completely naturally
- Make sure you have a good idea of the person’s personality in advance of the shop – are they talkative? Decisive? Cautious?
- Don’t intervene in any interactions between the participant and store assistants. The method is observation, not interview
2. Discussion groups – With the mobile such a social device, people are very eager to talk about their experiences and opinions. Groups are particularly useful in covering the commercial aspect – it moves beyond initial reticence to marketing to uncover people’s perceptions of the tone and message
Three tips for discussion groups
- As the mobile is a badge of identity, ensure recruits are of a similar type – but not so similar as to be homogeneous. Groups should encourage debate, not agreement or conflict
- Different types of people are more talkative. This isn’t necessarily good – the moderator should be adept at letting people speak freely, but keeping them on topic
- Given the personal nature of mobile, it is helpful to relate concepts back to individual examples or situations. They may not be relevant to everyone in the room, but a specific example helps to clarify potential benefits
3. Expert interviews – To complement the industry viewpoint and the consumer viewpoint, we sought the opinions of the “middle men/women” – those that balance the needs of consumers with the prerogatives of the corporation. Over time, in store assistants have built up an intuitive understanding of what people are looking for in a mobile phone – even if they don’t consciously know it. Getting their perspective on unmet needs and industry trends was very fruitful.
Three tips for expert interviews
- Be very clear about credentials and intentions – you are not there to check up on them
- A large amount of trust needs to be built up in a short space of time, in order to get experts “off message”
- Build in a great deal of flexibility with interview guides – some assistants will be happy to chat for an hour after work, but others may only be able to spare five minutes on a break