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  • 00:00


  • 00:19

    MARISSA ORLOW: Hi, my name is Marissa Orlow,and I am a Research Associate here at Conifer Research.[Marissa Orlow, Research Associate]So unlike traditional ethnographic research,remote research is still in-context research,but it's mediated by digital tools.So whether that be a platform or a phone app,it's some way of interacting with the people youwant to know, but remotely.

  • 00:40

    SASHA MCCUNE: I'm Sasha McCune.I'm a Director here at Conifer Research.[Sasha McCune, Director] A lot of the work we do this dayand age is also done remotely, which is an interestingstruggle for us because we believe that in-context,in-person is the best way to do things.However, in the last 10 years, remote researchhas really just grown incredibly in its capabilities,

  • 01:03

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: and we've really maximized on that.With remote research now, you can get a bigger sample.You can get nationwide participants.You can get international participationand go a little bit broader with your initial reachto learn about the diverse points of view thatare out there on the subject.

  • 01:23

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: And it used to be that we had to mail cameras.We actually would put camcorders in the mail with the returnstamps and SD cards and instructionson how to frame the shot, instructions on how to changethe SD card, all of this stuff.That was what was required in order to empower participants

  • 01:45

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: to tell their story.Now, there are research platforms,and we can enable this.Within a day or two, we can turn this on and get people started.And they can show us their homes.They can take us on tours of their pantries.They can take us to the grocery store with themand show us what they buy.They can go on retail audits.Now, there are even features where

  • 02:06

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: we're able to get screen recordingsof their digital behavior.So they can take us shopping and talk us through the choicesthat they're making when they look at information online.So the amount of tools that are available to usto move quickly and gather really broad perspectivesto get insights for our clients has really

  • 02:26

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: just transformed our approach.This day and age, almost every single study we dohas some sort of remote component.And even some projects are entirely remote,when we are able to do that.When the question is really focusedand we're able to answer a specific questionand help our clients get moving quickly,

  • 02:47

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: that's when we will go to that method.

  • 02:49

    MARISSA ORLOW: So it's really about goingin with a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.So for unmoderated research, thatmeans going in with a strong protocol,knowing exactly the points that you want to get at,and being very concise in your language and very clearin your language.So writing instructions to participants

  • 03:12

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: is really important because what may be interpreted as somethingyou can understand for yourself, youneed to make sure that other people can understandwhat you're trying to ask.And so collaborating with team membersand going through the process as if you were the participantis really important when you are conducting remote research.

  • 03:34


  • 03:40

    SASHA MCCUNE: When we work on a problem,our staff is fully dedicated to it.We believe in really steeping in a problemand understanding the layers.So when you go into our project phasethere are living artifacts to the work we do.The walls change every day.Content goes up.Ideas go up on Post-Its.Ideas come down.

  • 04:01

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: Things get grouped.Pictures go up so that we can keep our users presentin our work and understand, remember their stories,and tell their stories.And that's what the stop motion video is.It brings to life what the arc of a project looks likeand how dynamic our teams are as they work through problems.

  • 04:20

    MARISSA ORLOW: I believe there are four research techniquesthat you can really get at with remote research.The first being just remote interviews, soconversations with people through either Zoom or Skype,things like that.And that's really for if your budget constraints and thingslike that, if it's just easier to talk to people remotely.

  • 04:41

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: The second technique being diary studies.So with diary studies, you have the abilityto get at peoples in-context, in-the-moment situations.So asking them to log every single time they watch TV.So you're getting that context and that spontaneous nature

  • 05:01

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: that you wouldn't necessarily observeif you were in the participant's home asking them to watch TV.So getting at that ritual behavior and those routinesand getting a window into somethingthat you may not see otherwise.Third is when we send our participantson a mission or activity.So we want you to go into the store,

  • 05:23

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: take a picture of this display, and compare itto the different things that you're seeing elsewhere.So having them go on like a targeted mission or activityand allowing them to be in spaces where we wouldn'tnecessarily be allowed in is another great advantageof remote research.And then lastly, the ability to do somewhat of a reflection.

  • 05:46

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: So oftentimes, it's not one techniquethat we're using because people's behaviors arecomplicated.And we want to understand both the hows and the whys.So usually we do this in the last partof our remote research is we'll have people do a reflection.So oftentimes when we're asking people about their behaviors,

  • 06:10

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: it gives them an opportunity to thinkabout what they are doing where they may notthink about that normally.So the ability to reflect and think backon what they experienced or how this may change the way theythink about their routines and patterns.The process of preparing for remote research

  • 06:31

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: is extremely important because, especiallywith unmoderated research, when you are setting outinstructions for participants, it'sreally important that those instructions are clearand the language is really careful.So the process of preparing that is first,recruiting the people that you want to talk to

  • 06:51

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: and setting up a really strong protocolfor what you want to get at.And like I was saying, that's usuallya combination of things like diary studies,where we're having them log every single time theydo a particular thing or give us the first overviewglance of what you typically do and see how that behavior

  • 07:14

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: changes if we insert something.

  • 07:16

    SASHA MCCUNE: So we're doing that right nowwith a project here, where we actuallysent a bunch of products to people's homes to try.So again, with the gift, we created a presence for themand we sent it, and it was full of different candy productsfor them to try.So they got to try them at their leisureover the course of the week.

  • 07:37

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: And each time they tried something,they turned on the camera and recorded and shared with usso that allowed us to get constant datastreaming in over the course of a week.And at the end of the week, we had really nice, structureddata.We have automatic transcripts that come from that.It's fully searchable.And it allows us to move really quickly

  • 07:57

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: to give our clients that early read on whatpeople are thinking about a certain product attribute.

  • 08:02

    MARISSA ORLOW: Currently, I am workingon a project that had to do with sending peopledifferent candies.And so a really great opportunitywe had through remote research was this unboxing moment.So we gave participants several candy types,and we got to see their candid reactionsas they opened the box and had that first impression

  • 08:24

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: of the brand or the product and things like that.Other remote research in action has been concept testing.So giving people something to react to,whether that's photos or videos, and explaining your conceptand getting a large amount of peopleor a wide variety of people to react to what

  • 08:48

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: the client is wanting to know.For the candy project, we're justin the process of writing the deliverable.So we've collected all the data.We've synthesized that.And now, we're packaging it up for the clients.But in terms of something that I've seen start-to-finish,was a concept test for an audio company.

  • 09:09

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: And so, they were interested in a spacethat they haven't ventured in before.And through remote research, we have the abilityto test different features of a concept that they hadand see what was sticking with people, what people wereinterested in and not interested in,and even test different things like form factor preference

  • 09:33

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: and things like that.So the ability to just get a quickread on something before they invest a lot in somethingthat may not be of interest to the market at that time.[MUSIC PLAYING]

  • 09:54

    MARISSA ORLOW: So the benefits of doingremote research is A, I think the ability to geta wide variety, whether that be in the people that you talk toor the demographics or the location.So for the people, if you are limited to one location,you're going to be constrained to talking to maybe one

  • 10:18

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: particular type of person.But with remote research, you have the abilityto talk to a wider audience.And even for the retail audits, whereas an in-person,we may have only visited one store,we had people all throughout the countrygoing into different retail locations

  • 10:38

    MARISSA ORLOW [continued]: and being able to compare those was really interesting.

  • 10:41

    SASHA MCCUNE: It's really about the behaviorthat we're trying to learn.We look at what people's real lives are likeand where the action is happening.Where is the context?So if the context is happening, if those decisionsare happening at the grocery store and then,them coming to the pantry, and then comingto a consumption occasion on-the-go,

  • 11:02

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: then we know we want to hit all of those pointsin some way to learn how a product isbeing moved through space and time in their lives.When is it reportioned?When is it repackaged?Those things have big implicationson product packaging the next packaging linethat our client might do.We also look at things like, if we're studying a journey

  • 11:26

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: and a large portion of the journey is digital,we want to understand what digital components areinfluencing them.How are they making that choice?How are they managing the vast amount of informationthat they're being thrown at when they do a Google search?How do they choose which resourcethey're going to trust?How do they save information and go back to it,

  • 11:48

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: or do they save information?Those sorts of things, for certain topics,are really complicated.For example, car shopping.We've studied car shopping before.You don't just decide to buy a car in a day.It's a really, really complicated process.And for some people, it can take months,six months for some people.

  • 12:08

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: That idea first plants in their head a year,two years before the actual purchase.So we're trying to understand that whole timelineof influence, and when something goes from a fuzzy ideato something you begin to act on through Google searches.And when does that translate to, I'm actually

  • 12:29

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: looking at inventory?And when does that translate to, I'mbrave enough to go in and face the sales associate?Those steps are concrete parts of the process,but each person handles them and navigates them differently.And when we dive into a problem, we'renot just trying to have a quick answerfor how do you shop for a car?

  • 12:50

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: Or are there four different ways you shop for a car?We're looking at the whole lifecycle of that journeyand trying to understand the components, the motivators,the barriers, what gives people a sense of progress?What holds them back?What anxieties do they have?What tools are they using to help them calculate and makedecisions and decide what their budget is or vet their options?

  • 13:15

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: Even as something as simple as the way someonecleans their car can be one of the most incredibly complexbehaviors, if you choose to zoom in on itand ask the right questions.Daniel is such a great example of that.He said, oh, I just dust my car.He's very cavalier about some of the thingsthat he chooses to do.

  • 13:35

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: Why he's cavalier about it is because it'sso deeply ingrained in his routine, it's habit.It's almost like brushing your teeth in the morning.You don't think about it.Once you've established that routine and habit,you reach for things.You reach for your coffee, and you don't eventhink about how many times you take sips.When he was showing us how he went

  • 13:57

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: about dusting his car, what he showedus was, in that video, one very small part of a very, veryelaborate process that, if you had asked him,was his process that elaborate, he would not have agreed.He would probably like no, I just do it from time to time.But the process was so elaborate that there

  • 14:19

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: were specialized tools, that theywere placed in a certain way, that they were storedin a certain way, that he even had gloveson during part of that video.I don't know if you noticed, but he had a sense of ritualthat he had established, and all of thatwas built out of some need, some user need, some product need.And even by understanding extreme use cases like Daniel,

  • 14:42

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: you can look at, what are the things he's doing?And if I'm going to make a product for peopleto use in a special environment like a car,how can I learn from what he's doingand what he's built in his workaround systemto create a better product?You're not necessarily going to replicate everythingthat he's doing, but you're trying

  • 15:03

    SASHA MCCUNE [continued]: to pull the bits and pieces from his behavior and say, yeah.Is there any opportunity here to make a better productor to make a better experience?[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Episode: 5

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2020

Video Type:In Practice

Methods: Ethnography, Marketing research, Qualitative data collection, Video research

Keywords: activity data; consumer behavior; data analysis; diary methods; digital media; ethnographic research; large-scale research; marketing research; problem solving; qualitative interview; remote working services; video interview; video research ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Marisa Orlow and Sasha McCune of Conifer Research discuss using digital tools for remote ethnographic marketing research.

Video Info

Publication Info

SAGE Publications Ltd.
Publication Year:
SAGE Research Methods Video: Market Research
Publication Place:
United Kingdom
SAGE Original Production Type:
SAGE In Practice
Copyright Statement:
(c) SAGE Publications Ltd., 2020


Sasha McCune
Marisa Orlow

Segment Info


Segment Num: 1


Segment Start Time:

Segment End Time:


Things Discussed

Organizations Discussed:

Events Discussed:

Places Discussed:

Persons Discussed:

Methods Map


Ethnography involves the production of highly detailed accounts of how people in a social setting lead their lives, based on systematic and long-term observation of, and discussion with, those within the setting.
Digital Tools for Remote Ethnographic Research: Conifer Research

Marisa Orlow and Sasha McCune of Conifer Research discuss using digital tools for remote ethnographic marketing research.

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