Webethnography: towards a typology for quality in research design

Daniel D. Prior

University of New South Wales

Lucy M. Miller

Macquarie University

Introduction

Internet-based research is a relatively new approach to market research and to empirical social science more broadly. Advantages include timely and inexpensive access to data, particularly from internet-savvy consumers, as well as access to a broad range of potential research participants. Disadvantages include potentially inaccurate representations of user thoughts and feelings, and difficulty in interpreting non-contextualised data (Kozinets 2002). Despite the identified drawbacks of this approach, there is at present an overwhelming trend in favour of internet-based market research.

The methods used to capture marketing data via the internet resemble those found prior to its advent. Ethnographic techniques are one such example. Common offline uses for these techniques include the identification of, and reaction to, consumer stimuli such as advertising/branding (Hackley 2006; Ishmael & Thomas 2006), retail store design (McGrath 1989; Healy et al. 2007), consumer experiences (McMillan & Ng 2007), consumer subcultures (Schouten & McAlexander 1995; Hackley 2006) and new product development (Rosenthal & Capper 2006). Webethnographic studies are largely interested in similar areas.