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Day in Life Customer Ethnography

 

 

Day in the Life customer ethnographies provide brand and product development teams with a more intimate feel for how their customers perceive and experience the world in their everyday lives.

For this reason, Day in the Life customer ethnographic studies often occur as an early phase in the brand and product development lifecycle, but the studies are useful when the brand teams opt to expand their customer targeting to a new or less familiar consumer segment.

Findings from Day in the Life customer ethnographies can have far-reaching influence—providing brand and product team members with an intuitive gauge of what approaches would likely resonate with their customers and those that would not.

In these studies, our methodological and analytic focus on consumers’ unmet needs also leads to the discovery of specific tactical opportunities—areas of innovation and enhancement—for a product or brand.

The ethnographer spends an extended time interval—a full day—with each participating customer.

The research primarily occurs in the context of customers’ homes. The ethnographer accompanies the customer through their daily routines and rituals. Depending on the project this may include meal preparation, eating, shopping, taking and administering medicine, exercise and recreation, cleaning and hygiene, social visits, doctors’ visits, and the use of technology and media.

However, it is critical that the customer ethnography collect focused insights on those customer activities, events, and settings that have more direct relevance to the client’s product. Thus, careful planning in project design, and ongoing guidance during the customer ethnographic interviews, identifies those key areas for inclusion.

Throughout the day and as the customer is immersed in his or her activities, the ethnographer both observes and interviews the customers.

These studies, as well as an ethnographic research approach more generally, offer several distinctive benefits over traditional qualitative research methods.

One of these advantages is the ability to identify the implicit criteria of consumer decision-making, as well as to uncover deeper consumer conceptual models and emotional orientations.

Much of peoples’ everyday cognition has an operational orientation of which they are not fully conscious or aware. However, when people are asked questions while they are engaged in activities and making decisions, it enhances their ability to reflect on and explicate their implicit reasoning and feelings.

In other words, a central value of ethnographic research is in using more familiar and authentic customer situations, activities, and settings as powerful stimuli to aid in the discovery and understanding of how customers think and behave.

Another benefit of consumer ethnography over traditional qualitative methods relates to the amount of time our researchers spend with consumers.

The longer duration of the ethnographic interviews and observations allows a more detailed examination of key study topics. Additionally, the extended time intervals, along with consumers being in a familiar setting (vs. in a mirrored research facility), cultivates greater consumer comfort and candor.

In acquiring an even broader view of consumers’ everyday experiences and perspectives, we also routinely involve consumer self-documentation exercises in our Day in the Life customer ethnographies.

This, for instance, includes having consumers use a small video camera to record themselves as they are engaged in and discussing different activities. For a few reasons, we have consumers begin these self-documentation exercises several days before and several days after the day-long ethnographic research event.

As with our other projects, only PhD-level anthropologists are involved in all project phases. We believe that the analysis of findings begins and builds in the field, which requires the presence and interpretive sophistication of a senior-level researcher.