Research conducted as part of product development efforts can be particularly challenging in the world of consumer insights. When evaluating a new product or service, researchers may not know exactly what they are looking for from participants and what questions need to be asked. Agile research is needed to help examine white space and understand consumer need states. Ethnography is a solution uniquely fit to meet these research and insights needs. 

Ethnography is an observational research technique that shows us what consumers say and what they do in the context of their everyday lives in their natural habitat. For example, researchers may observe how consumers interact with a new streaming device in their homes or observe how a family shops for a new insurance policy. Participants lead ethnographic research. The participant’s schedule and agenda drive how research time is spent with the participant.

This type of research is used to explore cultural practices, consumer behavior, routines and social norms across industries from healthcare to financial to CPG and auto – and it is so adaptable because of the dedication shown to interpreting human behavior.

Ethnographic research is one of the oldest fieldwork techniques but is often characterized as being new and innovative. This type of research takes many of the principles of anthropological investigation and combines them with more modern approaches to data collection like photos, video and app-based recording.

Mobile ethnography is an emerging technique in the market research industry where ethnographic research is captured via mobile device rather than in-person field researchers. Roughly 35 percent of researchers currently use this technique as part of their research plans and it is under consideration with an additional  26 percent of researchers, according to the Q3/Q4 2017 GRIT Study.

At Branded, our internal research tells us that many of our users are comfortable interacting with researchers outside of traditional quantitative surveys. Approximately 58 percent of our users are comfortable sharing photos with researchers as part of a study. And 54 percent of users are comfortable interacting with researchers via webcams as part of a study.

Recruiting participants for ethnographic research can be uniquely challenging.  The success of ethnographic research is dependent on finding the right participants who are willing to open up their lives to researchers. Upfront work to target and reach the best participants is a critical investment as ethnographic research uses a very small sample- often only a dozen participants. Branded helps our clients zero in on the participants that will ultimately provide researchers with the greatest insight.