What are Ethnographies?

Simply put, ethnography is the study of people in their own environment using various methods like face-to-face interviewing and participant observation. This qualitative research method was popularized by anthropologists but is today used in a wide range of social sciences. Ethnography documents cultural similarities and differences through empirical fieldwork and helps with the generalization of human behavior as well as the operation of cultural and social systems. 

Since the study looks at the past, present and future of a target group, it offers a more detailed account of a given audience and a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances of the group being studied. This is what makes it one of the most effective methods you can use in product and market research. 

Advantages of ethnography

The main benefit of using ethnographies in product and market research is that the method offers direct access to the culture and practices of target consumers. It is a reliable research method when you want to gain first-hand information about the behaviors and interactions of your target consumers. 

Moreover, being immersed in the social environment of a target group offers authentic details. It further helps you spontaneously observe the dynamics that would otherwise not have been found by simply asking questions. 

Another advantage of ethnography is that it is both flexible and open. The study aims not just to verify one theory or test a hypothesis but rather to provide a rich narrative account of a specific culture. This enables the researcher to explore the various aspects of the group and its settings. 

Disadvantages of ethnography

While ethnography is one of the best ways to gain more insight into a product, market, and target group, it has several drawbacks. The main disadvantage is the time-consuming nature of the research method. To embed yourself in a setting and gather unbiased data, you have to spend weeks or even months with the target group. The long-term immersion requires lots of planning, and it can be challenging. 

Another drawback is the observer bias. An objective interpretation is needed when writing an ethnography. It is often hard to remain impartial when analyzing a target group you have been embedded in for months. 

Thirdly, there is an ethical consideration. You have to disclose your role with the target group. It can also be hard to get yourself involved when observing and recording sensitive information. All this makes it hard to collect unbiased data.

Considering how demanding it can be to use ethnographies, it is imperative that you consider working with an experienced researcher. The researcher should be well versed with ethnographies and must also understand your objectives. An expert will conduct library and other archival research before engaging in an ethnographic study. This helps gain insight into what is already known about the people and the place. The researcher will then spend time with the target group to understand how they live and interact with certain products and services. Traditional ethnographic research may require up to a year in the field or even longer to better understand consumer behavior. 

At Product Insights, we are experts in market research. For any questions or to get started with your research, contact us today.