Does ethnography really influence consumer behaviour?

June 23, 2017

Ethnography as a strategic marketing research tool was primarily used by social science evaluators but now marketing experts are also adapting it into their research methodology. It helps them understand their customers – both existing and potential. The idea is to get an insight on consumer behaviour by asking them right practical questions and get a comprehensive understanding of how ethnography makes consumers behave in a certain fashion.

The brain decides how to respond to information and decide what is relevant or not and use the selective information according to their own perception. Some people are more insightful, observational and receptive to information around them in comparison to others. Most of our perception base is automatic which comes from our surroundings and environment. This includes past experiences of own and others as well. Also there is a lot of information available around but a person forms their perception depending on their state of mind at that moment.

More often than not, a consumer’s thinking gets impacted by their families, friends and social influences – both in a positive as well as a negative manner. At the same time, the pattern of decision making or consumption primarily comes from family and social status. A research indicates that in affluent families usually the decision making authority lies with the male head of the family and in low income families it’s the woman of the house. In the case of middle class families these decisions are taken by individuals in their own right. Though the trend seems to be changing because of the increase in education levels.

Purchasing items food and clothing are strongly driven by culture and geography rather than being influenced by personal preferences. Family beliefs and practices add on as well. People in certain areas like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu tend to prefer vegetarian food and cotton as fabric for daily use in comparison to people in north east where more non vegetarian food is consumed and woollens are required throughout the year.

Social class also acts as a major factor in determining the consumer behaviour which constitute of various factors like what they do, how educated they are, how much they earn, how they like to spend and how much on what, budget allocation etc. It also changes with social as well as personal circumstances. People belonging to similar social class behave similarly which does change with change in their social status. Fashion, trends and fads tend to waver consumer behaviour at times but they are either short lived or constantly changing.

Legal codes of a state or country also enforce consumer behaviour changes as the consumers are obliged to obey certain rules like minors cannot buy alcohol or tobacco in many countries.

Ethnographical research is stimulated by all these factors and today strategic marketing relies majorly on it, in addition to the traditional marketing methodologies. Consumer behaviour is driven majorly by ethnicity and now the researchers have started to include ethnography in their research tools and it has changed the way people evaluated consumer behaviour.

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