Ethnography-Based Marketing Research

On-Site Research is bestYour Best Bet For Effective Insights

If you ask most marketers if they actively conduct research, you will get a lot of head nods.  The questions is are they confusing activity with accomplishment?  Sure they “checked the box” and did some obligatory legwork before they spent valuable company resources on their initiative.  They likely chose surveys or perhaps made the extra effort (and expense) to conduct a focus group.  Better than nothing, but often not much better.  However, did they conduct the best possible research they could to enhance the chances of success?  The answer is “probably not” if they did not engage in some form of ethnography-based research.

At its core, ethnography is the study of human behavior. It helps you see not just what your customers do when they interact with your product or service, but why they act that way. It aims to answer the question, “How do people interact with my product or service?” and “How do they incorporate it into their lives?”.  Ultimately, “How can I make it better for them?”

What makes ethnography-based better than other types of marketing research?  First, it approaches your customers or clients on their own turf and on their own terms. Conversely, when you call in a group of customers for a focus group, they know they are in your environment – not theirs. Even worse, they often end up giving you answers that are not genuine.  Subconsciously they try to please you and anticipate the answer you want to hear.  Their best intentions actually corrupt the research altogether.

Ethnography-based research requires the researcher to observe participants actually using the product.  It is not just them looking back on how they use it.  In this approach, you meet with people on their terms, in their space. This gives you a much more authentic view of the in-setting usage characteristics.

Ethnography is often more in-depth and usually more expensive than other types of market research.  But you get what you pay for.  When done properly, it results in products and services that are much more tailored to the real needs of customers. You can see what they need—what they lack—and create the solution accordingly.

Here is an excellent article for you to learn more on ethnography-based research.