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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Theodre Levitt said “ The purpose of business is to create & keep a customer”

So how can a company Create & Keep a customer. One way to do is to understand the people its is catering to, inorder to draw insights which can be converted into Business ideas leading to growth & creation of markets.

Now Understanding & capturing insight is done using Quantitative Studies like Focus Group Interviews. Although these methods are fruitful to some extent, some of the limitations of these methods are that they provide limited insights from the user, their inadequacy to provide any information about user’s behavior, emotions, feelings, pain points etc. The tools acted as evaluation tools rather than insight capture tools.

Qualitative Studies like Ethnography are being increasing used to capture Insights from Customers/Users/Staff inorder to understand their satisfactions, limitations, pain points, etc which can be used to determine the next big Idea.

In the last post I had mentioned about the book Ethnography for Marketers. I have been reading on this subject .Through this post, I would like to demystify the Ethnography – what is it, why & where it is Used, How it is used, when it is used

So what is Ethnography

Ethnography is observing customers/ Users in their natural environment to find their frustrations, limitations, satisfactions, pain points etc with the objective to acquire insights into the users needs & wants. The field is drawn from anthropology & sociology.

Why & Where it is Used

Ethnography is used to complement Focus Groups Interviews inorder to gain insights. The main objective of Ethnographic studies is to understand customers in their natural context (home/office/retail store, etc). It is mainly used when little is known about the target market or when fresh insights are desired from a segment. In the present scenario when customer’s taste & preferences are constantly changing, it help companies to maintain an understanding of their customers & keep a track of their constant changing needs, issues & wants. Ethnographic studies can be used to understand the interaction of customer with product /service (for eg: ATM, website, retail). It can be used to assess the corporate cultures. It can also be used to understand how the user interacts with the processes of a product/ service (using a remote/operating a machine). The tools are used for discovering latent needs of customer for new product discovery, new service discovery, etc.

How It is Used

There are various Ethnographic tools which are available. They are used in the natural context of a user/customer/employee. Some of the tools are:

a. Observing the Product/Service Usage

b. Day In life

c. Mystery Shopping

d. Guerrilla Ethnography: Researcher not disclosing that he is researching

How is it Different from Market Research

Ethnography seeks to understand the behavior of people in their natural environment & their interaction with the product/service. The study seek to draw out emotions, perceptions, pain points, aspirations & beliefs that users may have with respect to products/services. It complements Market Research.

Guidelines for Ethnographers

a. Being in the Users Context: The main Objective is to be in the user’s context inorder to view & understand how the product is being used. What are the pain points, limitations of products, what workaround the customer has created, what is the role of product in the life of customer, etc.

b. Being Subject Oriented: The ethnographer has to be subject/user oriented suspending his own assumptions. The focus should be on learning & observing rather than evaluation of concepts.

c. Flexible: The other objective is to be flexible & not restrict to a pre planned questionnaire.

Here is a Video I found on Vimeo explaining what is Ethnography.

What is Ethnography? from Steve Inskeep on Vimeo.

Now ,Jan Chip Chase is a Principal researcher from Nokia who travels around the world and inside our pockets in search of behavioral patterns that will inform the design of products we don't even know. Here is a presentation he made at TED. Following the video is the Slideshow featuring some of the techniques being used.

But the question remains How we can organise observations to draw insights patterns.

Lets see...will be exploring this week.



Sources: Article Inspiration: Ehtnography For Marketers, Hy Mariampolski

Video & Slide Source: ,