Market Researchers Resources The 2018 Guide to Qualitative Research Methods

What is Ethnographic Market Research?

Ethnographic Market ResearchEthnographic market research is the study of human behavior in context. It’s a window into the world of consumers who interact with your products or services in the environments where this usage behavior naturally occurs. So, this type of research can take place in homes, at stores, in cars, on beaches, at theme parks…anywhere. In these studies, DRA’s highly experienced researchers immerse themselves in the consumers’ environments, and through observation and discussion explore the consumers’ rituals, routines, attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and the values that shape behavior. So for example, rather than simply asking someone to self-report their purchase behaviors, DRA’s skilled qualitative research consultants will visit a consumer’s home and observe what’s in the pantry/closet/vanity/garage, accompany the subject on a shopalong interview to observe actual purchase behaviors and question the consumer about the products after the purchase decision has been made. Ethnographic market research helps uncover latent behaviors and attitudes as sometimes people are unaware of what they are doing and why

What Are the Benefits of Ethnographic Market Research?

Immersing yourself in your consumers’ world helps you to better understand both the rational and emotional triggers, and the motivations that impact product purchases and usage, so that you can better connect with and engage your consumers. Ethnographic market research is particularly useful in informing marketers’ and product developers’ understanding of the small, often unstated details that will help them increase the probability of new product success and/or reduce the probability of failure.

Ethnographic market research helps you to…

  • Better understand not only the environment in which your product is used, but how your product fits in with the overall usage occasion.
  • Form qualitative profiles of your consumer based on this more in-depth understanding of the world and beliefs.

For example, by better understanding consumers’ morning routines, food manufacturers can create new product varieties, develop more user friendly packaging, promote new benefits in their marketing and advertising campaigns, etc.

When Should You Consider Ethnographic Market Research?

  • To profile or better understand your consumer as a person in terms of aspiration, attitudes, beliefs and how your product complements their routines and goals
  • To uncover new product or packaging opportunities
  • To shape advertising or communication strategy
  • To supplement other qualitative (or quantitative) research

Before You Jump In…

Remember that because the team must travel to various locations to conduct this research, it tends to be more time-consuming and costly than traditional qualitative market research. For greater efficiency, consider using ethnographic market research as one piece of a mixed-method approach.

We can conduct ethnographic market research anywhere…


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