The key to designing innovative products and communications campaigns is understanding how consumers behave when it comes to your product or your category. Uncovering how consumers behave is however not as straight forward as it is may seem.
Asking consumers to tell us directly how they behave can often prove to be ineffective. People may not always be willing to share what they did, or even recall what they did. And often, even if they are willing to, they may not remember perfectly or even inflate certain behaviours or deflate others to fit into norms of society. Sometimes the behaviours researchers are interested in studying may even be hard for the respondent to report. For instance, acknowledging the number of drinks people have or the number of cigarettes they smoke could be an acknowledgement of a problem.
An ethnographic approach can be applied wherever an understanding of consumer behaviour is required. This could include:
- Understanding how consumers actually use a product.
- How they shop an aisle.
- How much they consume.
- How they interact with different technology.
Ethnographic research can help you decide how your product should be packaged by observing how people shop, where they use them, or even how people stack their pantries. It can help with designing new products by exploring how consumers use them and the features or functionality they rely upon. Ethnography can also be used when researching sensitive topics where consumers are likely to provide a response they think is socially acceptable. For example, when studying how and when people consume unhealthy foods.