Consumer Ethnography: A Case Study Focused on Personal Mobility Technology
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People like to move around and internet economically and socially. Today, more than half of the world's population does this in cities. With growing concerns about traffic congestion, air pollution, energy consumption, roadway safety and parking availability, automobiles may not be sustainable as a mode of personal mobility in cities. In response, General Motors and Segway teamed to develop an innovative personal mobility system called PUMA (Personal Mobility and Accessibility). While PUMA offers compelling individual and societal benefits, consumers must aspire to own and use PUMA to realize these benefits. This paper applies consumer ethnography methods to assess PUMA's market potential on college campuses, where PUMA may initially be marketed. Ethnography involves understanding groups of people and documenting what is learned. Corporations began using this anthropology method in the 1980's to gain a deeper understanding of their customers. This was in line with an emerging shift in market power from producers to consumers. In contrast to quantitative consumer research methods, consumer ethnography helps companies uncover why consumers behave as they do. This leads to innovative products and market campaigns aimed at enhancing the overall consumer experience as a means to improve company success. Fifteen college students from large- and medium-sized cities were interviewed using pictures to gain insights about how they move around and interact on campus and how PUMA might change their experiences. Five 'personas' were created from the responses to reflect the diversity of college students and to better describe how PUMA might fit into the every-days lives of students. These results suggest that getting to class, time restraints, and interacting socially and conveniently are well integrated within the lives of college students. The students reacted positively towards the idea of PUMA and its ability to meet their mobility, time, and convenient social interaction needs and desires. PUMA holds promise as a way to enhance the freedom of people to move around and internet while eliminating the negative side effects of automobiles, especially in cities. For this potential to be realized, PUMA's safety must be demonstrated in a real world context. Ethnographic methods are important in uncovering what motivates mobility consumers and in identifying ways to develop and market innovative products.