Shadowing is a method of qualitative research that is sometimes incorporated into Accompanied Shopping Trips (ASTs) and involves tracking someone in his or her role to experience the situations of his or her daily life or work in parallel with him or her, collecting insights through the detailed nuance of first hand, real-time exposure. Where possible, shadowing observations should be extremely well documented, with photographs, detailed notes and sketches or audio.
What is shadowing?
Shadowing is contextualized information about how, when and why people act is needed to generate an understanding of the human need and to develop meaningful insights for innovation. Traditional observations or diary studies do not provide the same depth of contextual information or detail about the purpose that is achieved through the shadowing method.
This methodology is used when exploring a research domain to gain a rich understanding of the customer, such as; cooking, cleaning a car, booking a holiday or regular weekly shopping. Shadowing can also be used in a business context such as employee research and to capture what people actually do, not just what they say they do. Once the researcher is given access, the researcher must then create a healthy rapport with the person being followed. This method involved a great deal of trust. The researcher then closely follows the individual over a set period while writing an almost continuous set of field notes. The researcher asks frequent questions for clarification and prompts the participants to give a running commentary on their actions and choices.
Best practices include video recording the observation because there are plenty of impressions and small details which cannot be fully reconstructed later just through with notes. The main advantage of shadowing is that all observations are made in the natural context of the observed person and the study is open-ended.
Shadowing can also take shape on an Online basis. With the ability to ScreenShare and record, participants can be shadowed and observed whilst performing tasks such as exploring a website, which is especially good when trying to understand a user's journey. We like to do this in the form of an In-Depth Interview.