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Digital Advisory Customer Experience Technology
Izabela Franke
Digital Advisory CX Strategy Retail
Jakub Nawrocki
Digital Transformation Retail
Paweł Wasilewski
Values People
Tomek Jurek
Digital Advisory M-commerce
Izabela Franke
Digital Advisory UX research
Jakub Nawrocki
Explore all insights

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UX research Digital Advisory

Ethnographic Research – the Key to User-Centered Design

Ethnographic Research – the Key to User-Centered Design

Understanding customers is the key to success in today’s competitive landscape. User experience (UX) research plays a pivotal role in unraveling the intricacies of how potential buyers interact with your products and services. How to gain profound insights into users' behaviors, beliefs, and experiences? This is when ethnographic research comes into play.

UX research helps to unlock the secrets of successful product design. Today, we embark on a journey to explore the world of ethnographic research, its benefits, and real-life examples of applications.

The value & meaning of ethnographic research

To put it simply, ethnographic research centers around gaining a deep understanding of users' behaviors in their natural environments.

By observing and participating in the daily activities of the studied group, researchers gain unparalleled insights into the impact of the environment on people’s interactions with products or services and the significance of social connections.

Ethnographic research goes beyond understanding users' thoughts, actions, and emotions. It helps to identify the factors that shape their experiences, such as biases, lack of understanding, strong emotions, or previous experiences.

Business applications of ethnographic research

In the dynamic world of business, tapping into the insights provided by ethnographic research can be a game-changer. This valuable approach makes it possible not only to identify genuine customer concerns but also to suggest actionable enhancements that can make a real difference.

Ethnographic research has the potential to revamp the entire customer journey, from building awareness, increasing engagement, and driving conversions to fostering loyalty and improving retention.

When to apply ethnographic research?

Ethnographic research proves most valuable when seeking to explore the factors comprehensively influencing users’ attitudes, decisions, and interactions with products or services.

In an era where physical and digital experiences intertwine, ethnography allows UX researchers to trace the entire process and study the impact of various factors on experiences.

It’s particularly useful for an in-depth understanding of users’ journeys, critical touchpoints, pain points, and elements shaping both physical and digital experiences.

Ethnographic research isn’t always the answer

While ethnographic research provides priceless insights, it's crucial to remember that it comes with its demands in terms of time and resources.

Compared to other research methods, ethnography can be more time-intensive and expensive, requiring prolonged commitment from both researchers and participants. In situations where swift insights are needed, or when resources are constrained, other research approaches might be more suitable.

It's a matter of weighing the benefits against the investment and ensuring that the chosen approach aligns with the goals or constraints of the project.

Examples of ethnographic research applications

Let's delve into some real-world scenarios where ethnographic research proves its worth and helps to analyze users’ behaviors to obtain data-driven insights and actionable improvements.

Understanding users’ habits in a physical store and analyzing their in-app behavior

Imagine you run a brick-and-mortar store, let’s say with clothes, and you have also developed an m-commerce app to connect the online and offline worlds. Ethnographic research can help you answer various critical questions:

  • What drives customers to visit your physical store? Do they use the mobile app and, if so, how do they use it?
  • How do customers make purchase decisions and what factors influence their choices of products?
  • What sort of information do they obtain from in-store assistants and what do they research online? How do they utilize this information to make informed decisions?
  • How do users navigate the purchase process and what factors drive their decisions?

Introducing a new app for fitness enthusiasts and checking its performance

Suppose you've just launched a brand-new fitness app that offers a wide range of exercises and physical activities to help users achieve their fitness goals. By conducting ethnographic research, you can gain deeper insights into how users engage with the application:

  • How does the app impact users' motivation to work out regularly?
  • What are the main limitations and pain points users experience while using the app?
  • Why do a significant number of users abandon the app after a short period of time?
  • How do users rate your app against the competition? What do they consider to be its strengths and weaknesses?

From in-depth interviews to uncovering the drivers behind customers’ decisions

Ethnographic research is like uncovering hidden treasures in users’ behavior. It means diving into their everyday lives to see how they truly react and feel. Through in-depth interviews and surveys, UX researchers obtain valuable insights that ultimately shape product development and enhance user experiences.

While ethnographic research requires time and resources, the outcomes are invaluable, provided you empathize with users and select a research sample that truly represents the diversity of the target group. This approach boosts the credibility of research findings, painting a comprehensive picture of users’ behaviors and expectations.

Curious about popular UX research methods? Stay tuned for more articles in our series!

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