Ethnography is the branch of anthropology that involves trying to understand how people live their lives. Unlike traditional market researchers, who ask specific, highly practical questions, anthropological researchers visit consumers in their homes or offices to observe and listen in a non directed way.
In the HBR article, Ethnographic Research: A Key to Strategy, Ken Anderson shares:
“The goal is to see people’s behavior on their terms, not ours. While this observational method may appear inefficient, it enlightens us about the context in which customers would use a new product or service and the meaning that it might hold in their lives.”
“one of my biggest goals is to design products that create a compelling user experience. One strategy that I’ve found vital to achieve this goal, to which I directly attribute my company’s success, is the use of ethnographic research.” How to Use Ethnographic Research to Help Your Business, Scott Stiner, Forbes Technology Council.
By viewing your customers’ interactions with your product or service in real time, their actual needs can surface — not just their wants. Sometimes, too much energy is placed on customers’ wants instead of what product or services their customers actually need.
Wants are usually addressed during conferences or internal meetings — this could be the idea of improving the product. To find the real needs of your customers, observe how they react to your solution — The real needs of your customer, and consequently the solution, will emerge.
Businesses spend a lot of energy trying to understand what they perceive are the optimal clients. Although you can learn from objective data, nothing pushes along the client discovery process more than observing a customers’ interactions with your products and services. With ethnographic research, insights are absorbed more quickly than time-consuming, data-based studies.
The most important takeaway of ethnographic research is its ability to predict future design elements of your product or services model, or the entire solution itself. As you observe the reaction of your customer in real time, you’ll also observe trends that are naturally developing within the industry. If you can recognize these movements quickly, it will help you freshen your product or services and give you a jump on the competition.
The most successful and sustainable businesses have deep thinkers throughout their organization, ones who master both long-term strategy and everyday tactics. Using ethnographic research as part of this can help you stay ahead of the competition and create a truly valuable products and services.