In Rome, an ethnographic research on chocolate soft cakes involved 15 families who were observed in their daily life in order to discover the dynamics that drive them in their choice, purchase and consumption. But what is an ethnographic research and how is it carried out? Discover it with us!

A very close meeting… with the consumer

Does the manager of a large company really have any idea about who their typical consumer is? By sitting behind a desk and examining sales figures, can you have a correct idea of who your end user is, where they live, what they do, what they deal with and what make them choose your product or that of a competitor? Would it not be useful from time to time to leave the offices and discover who are the consumers and what drives them to buy?

This is exactly what has been done recently in Rome in an interesting market research carried out by Test Point. 15 families who routinely consume chocolate soft cakes from a well-known brand have been selected. The interviewer / observer went to their houses and carefully observed the context, the house, the kitchen, the shelves where the products are stored, studied the family at breakfast time in the morning, followed the mother while she was preparing the snack children bring to school

Then the observer followed the landlady in her normal morning activities and accompanied her to the store for shopping, observing the mode of choice and purchase behavior. Basically, it was about following the daily routine of the family to understand how the environment can influence purchase decisions.

In short, in this type of market research – known as ethnographic research with a term borrowed from cultural anthropology – the researcher becomes a kind of “living camera” with the aim of observing and recording the behaviors that lead to the purchase, focusing attention on the influence that the environment can have on consumers.

During their visit, the observers followed families in their day, at home, on the street, in the office, on public transport, in stores, took notes, filmed some moments of the day, took photographs, without the families selected knew what the precise object of observation was: observers remained as neutral and evasive as possible if specific questions were asked.

Under the lens of a Candid Camera

During this type of research, managers and researchers – even a group of four or five people – spend half a day or even a whole day together with the people selected for the study, immersing themselves deeply in their lives, observing their habits and behaviors.

In short, the research works like a sort of Candid Camera – or Big Brother, if you prefer – that studies habits and behaviors in their natural environment.

As you can easily imagine, it is not really easy for the observer to work maintaining themselves almost “transparent” in order not to embarrass those who feel observed and not to influence their behavior, just as it is not easy for the family object of study to maintain a natural and relaxed behaviour.

However, with this methodology it is possible to obtain more deep, rich and convincing results compared to what can be done with traditional research methods.

The first step

The ethnographic researches are carried out on a very small sample and do not have a statistical value: they often represent only a very early phase of a broader market research that will then be carried out with other methodologies.

In this way, however, you can enter people’s lives and understand what they do, what they choose and how and why they choose it, helping to discover the psychological universe of consumers and the emotions that are associated with a product.