Richer consumer insights via ethnography & anthropology

In today’s hyper competitive consumer goods, healthcare and service industries, achieving meaningful product differentiation has become quite difficult.  Part of the challenge is in gaining a thorough understanding of a consumer’s functional and emotional needs.  Too often, overt response-based qualitative research tools like focus groups and 1:1 interviews don’t go deep enough in uncovering unmet needs and purchase drivers.  That’s when savvy marketers turn to consumer ethnography and anthropology for help.

Ethnography uses qualitative techniques to better understand what consumer want and how they purchase through researching their behaviors, attitudes and external influences. Some common tools include: voice of the customer studies through the product awareness/evaluation/purchase and service continuum;  observational research at evaluation and point-of-purchase moments, and (secret and overt) day-in-the-life interviews around product usage. In other situations, marketers can use anthropology to better understand the key role culture, values and religion plays in motivating consumer behavior.  For example, I have used anthropological research in the hospitality sector to help design a customer experience that takes into account the subconscious drivers of body image, socio-economic aspirations and wellness. 

A detailed review of observations, respondent feedback and societal norms is often synthesized to reveal hidden consumer needs, habits, influencers and barriers which are then used to better design, position and promote products & services. Ethnography and anthropology are superior qualitative research tools because they focus on what consumers do and how they act, in addition to what they say.

Many marketing and product design challenges could benefit from an ethnographic and anthropologic lens, including:

  • Uncovering unmet consumer needs and segments;
  • Launching new products and new geographies;
  • Rebranding products with little or no functional superiority;
  • Designing the optimal consumer experience including stores, service channels and marketing aesthetics.

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4 comments so far

  1. […] A combination of quantitative modeling, product rationalization and qualitative techniques such as ethnography can be used to design the right product […]

  2. […] A combination of quantitative modeling, product rationalization and qualitative techniques such as ethnography can be used to design the right product […]

  3. […] complement traditional quantitative and qualitative research with specialized research tools like ethnography, anthropology and conjoint analysis.  Another approach is to bring the customer directly into the innovation process.  All of these […]

  4. […] they make oblige managers to go beyond basic research techniques to include analytical tools such as ethnography and choice […]

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