What is ethnographic research?

Ethnography or the study of living environments collects and looks at habits of use as well as needs and attitudes in a target group, and it helps to interpret them correctly within the context of the social environment. Consumers are accompanied in their daily and familiar environment (at home, in the car, etc.).

Compared to other forms of qualitative market research methods (e.g., focus groups or studio interviews), ethnographic research allows for a deep understanding of a target group, which in addition to opinions or behaviors also includes cultural backgrounds.

Spiegel Institut has been successfully carrying out ethnographic studies in the German-speaking regions, in Western and Eastern Europe, in the United States, in Asia, and the ASEAN countries for many years, and we therefore are able to draw on a high level of professional competence in dealing with respective cultural customs.

For what kind of questions is ethnographic research helpful?

Ethnographic research is particularly suitable when the researched product is close to the consumers’ everyday lives and there is a high degree of automatic interaction (as is the case for household appliances or one’s own car). 

Typical questions are:

  • How do consumers use a product in their everyday lives?
  • How do they experience a brand in daily life?
  • What roles do the product and brand play in the consumers’ environment?
  • What cultural differences are there in dealing with the product and brand?
  • Which individual values and attitudes are the product reviews based on?

Ethnographic research applies wherever points of view, habits of use and lifestyles are difficult to verbalize and thus cannot be easily recognized in a survey; instead additional observation of the consumer world may be necessary. 

How does EthnObserve® work?

EthnObserve® is a specially designed video-based ethnographic approach, which combines a script (incl. instructions for the interviewer and cameraman) with an ethnographic guideline. A professional cameraman ensures high-quality footage, while an experienced and empathic moderator directs the interview and systematically explores specific questions. 

The target group and their product behavior are thus intensively observed in their authentic environment. The focus is the consumers’ brand and product experience in their cultural context. 

EthnObserve® provides answers to how a product is used in everyday life and documents in clear manner which cultural peculiarities there are when dealing with the product and brand. 

What kind of results can be expected?

Results from EthnObserve® are obtained through an in-depth content analysis of the collected data and presented in the form of descriptive outcome charts. These are enhanced by photo collages and video clips from the consumers’ living environments. Professional audio-visual editing of the raw video footage is completed at the institute’s own sound studio and appropriately processed (e.g., as a cinematic report or in short thematic video sequences - depending on the individual requirements). 

Thanks to real-world observations, ethnographic research provides insights into the social environment and everyday lives of consumers and can therefore shed light on hidden needs and desires. It offers numerous approaches for marketing, product management, design, and R&D, which are consistently geared towards the needs of the target group – See for yourself!