Ethnographic research allows consumers to use products in their comfortable surroundings, unlike traditional market research, where consumers talk about or try products in a controlled environment. Researchers observe the customers while they use the products in their homes, resulting in more honest reviews and feedback. Applying the research method means not having to wait for an explanation after use; you get the first experience of how they work. In-home ethnographic research is the most popular, but there are other options, such as:

Peer parties – This ethnography type is similar to focus groups, with the main difference being that participants conduct the research in familiar territory. A group of people who know each other can use one person’s house for the study. A moderator can either guide the process by asking questions or watching in the background as the group discusses.

Cross-cultural – Well-established businesses operating across borders or those thinking of expanding to other regions can use cross-cultural ethnographic research. It is a better method of understanding different corporate cultures in foreign countries to increase the chances of productivity.

Virtual – Ethnographic research duration usually extends to a month or more, and you cannot monitor consumer reactions from their homes or places of work. That is where virtual ethnographic research comes in. Customers can film themselves using the product, take pictures, or write about their experiences.

On-site research – On-site research option applies when products are used in other locations like stores, offices, or restaurants. Researchers can observe and ask follow-up questions when necessary.

Ethnographic market research

Ethnography has many advantages, the main one being the ability to understand why people act in specific ways when using products instead of focusing on what they say only. However, it also has challenges worth considering. 

Budget requirements

Ethnography is usually more expensive than other traditional methods like focus groups. Completing an in-depth ethnography study requires a significant budget allowance. However, with the best research team, you can utilize modern technology to improve the accessibility of the information that consumers share.

Overload of information

Analyzing the data may not be simple, even if you use a small sample group. You may have to go through videos running several hours or assess numerous pictures that can be difficult to handle. Nevertheless, market research agencies have experts that can make the ethnography process seamless.


One-on-one follow-ups may be impossible. You may not follow the consumer to their home, workstation, or anywhere else you want to test the product. The same can be a problem for research agencies – they may have experts for home visits, but when clients insist on coming along, consumers may be uncomfortable with too many people in their homes.

Ethnography takes time. You cannot rush results, meaning you cannot use shortcuts. You must note contradictions between what consumers say and what they do. That is the only way to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior to enable real breakthroughs. You must also pay attention to the subtle consumer needs because they can contribute to your findings and subsequent improvements. Product Insights is available if you need trained and experienced professionals to handle ethnographic research for your company.