As you already know, having a thorough understanding of your customer is one of the keys to success. Although qualitative and  quantitative analysis like  surveys and focus groups are a great tool for providing important insights in regards to your target group; they are often not enough.

Why? Because people don’t always do what they say they do. They may answer ‘Yes’ when asked if they would buy a particular product, but they might actually never buy it when they come across it on the supermarket shelf. And after all – this is human nature. Hard to understand and difficult to predict.

But how can we minimize this uncertainty? This is where Business Ethnography comes into the game. Business Ethnography attempts to understand how people live their lives and how they behave during their daily routine. So, instead of asking the consumers survey questions or conducting focus groups in an irrelevant environment, Business Ethnography takes an alternative approach and encourages the researchers to visit consumers in their homes, office or other communal area. By observing consumers in an indirect way, we can gain a more thorough understanding of how consumers use a product, what value they assign to that product, and how they behave around the product. 

When should Business Ethnography be used?

  • For New Product Developments (NPDs)
  • To adjust your marketing strategy according to the current market trends
  • To enter a new market
  • To reveal and understanding new, emerging trends and to capture value out of them
  • To identify customer needs and wants that have not yet been met
  • To fine-tune your brand positioning and take over the competitive advantage.

What are the benefits of Business Ethnography?

  • Non-direct way of understanding consumer behavior
  • More accurate, realistic insights that correspond to actual consumer behavior.
  • Comprehensive understanding of the role of the product or service in the daily life of consumers.
  • Identification of patterns in consumer behavior and development of respective insights accordingly
  • Ability to test hypotheses on realistic and representative evidence
  • Applicable to various industries and different types of businesses.

What are the pitfalls of Business Ethnography?

  • An ethnographic study might take several months to be completed. The process starts from the moment you identify the problem to that needs to be solved until the moment you conclude on some hypotheses and outcomes.
  • If the sample size is too small, then your ethnographic study might be biased and results might not represent the majority.
  • The information to be analyzed within an ethnographic study will be a lot and it will require a significant amount of time, effort and money.

The Steps to Business Ethnography

1. Identify the problem and set out what you want to reveal.

2. Decide on the methods of data collection

3. Craft a framework for the questions to be asked in your ethnographic study.

4. Analyze the results and look out for patterns in consumer behavior.

5. Summarize everything and conclude on the most important key insights.

6. Craft an action plan based on the results and outcomes of the ethnographic study.