Ethnographic Observation: a powerful tool for insightful consumer behaviour

June 5, 2017

Ethnographic Observation part of the specialised research, is a systematic market study aimed at providing useful insights about a consumer’s behaviour towards a product/service, helping companies provide the right solutions.

Understanding a consumer’s perception towards their product/service is key to a company’s successful marketing strategy. Based on ‘consumer observation and a step beyond direct interviews, ’Ethnographic Observation’ provides a deeper insight into a consumer’s psyche, helping discover hidden attitudes which they might not have comprehended themselves leading to innovative products/services.

Traditionally, ethnography has been used in anthropology studies, observing human behaviour in different cultures and diverse populations for a long time. But, today Ethnographic observation is used by marketing research to test their products before the launch a new product line or website by observing people use their products/services in their own natural environment – be it their home, offices, online or outside. The research is helpful while devising new brand development, advertising or marketing and communication strategies for companies looking at launching in new markets.

Although in-depth, the Ethnographic observation is generally shorter in duration with an approach to understand how a product/service will be included or integrated and what would be its impact on a customer’s life – both directly and indirectly in real-life scenario. It also helps observers unearth issues like – why a consumer behaves in a certain way, the value of a given product /service in a consumer’s life and what changes they might need to make for a better product and avoid pitfalls.

Ethnographic observation studies have become more relevant compared to the traditional qualitative market research because it was felt that many a times the participants were not so forthcoming in direct interviews or group interviews in artificial settings, (which they might have in their natural environment), leading to a weaker data collection. Ethnographic Observation/market research entails collecting data from multiple sources – observation, videotaping and structured/unstructured interviews – of a consumer, analysing and comprehending the variances between what is spoken and their behaviour keeping their culture, lifestyle, social and background in context, thus providing a comprehensive view of a consumer’s attitude and behaviour. Compared to other methods, Ethnographic Observation requires more experienced, trained and academic oriented study methods, necessitating the need for anthropologists, trained ethnographers or social scientists.


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