Power of Ethnography in Business Growth

Observation powers have contributed to the survival of humans till now. Ethnography usage in business is based on the same principle. Uncovering the audience’s views on products or services offered by the organisation, an ethnographer is responsible for understanding the impact of business on a customer’s life. The research-based study, performed by skilled individuals, helps businesses make decisions that drive them to success. It helps identify the opportunities and areas of innovation while serving other benefits. Learn more about its benefits along with methods and processes to perform ethnographic research. 

Understanding Ethnography in Qualitative Research 

Ethnography is a qualitative research method associated with society and cultural observation of people and their groups in their natural environment. It belongs to the field of anthropology and has been adopted by researchers in different disciplines like psychology, business, sociology, and others. 

Ethnographic research is characterised by the observation of participants immersed in a social setting, gaining contextual understanding, and collecting data through multiple methods. It also focuses on cultural sensitivity and provides a comprehensive and holistic approach. The ethnographers carry out flexible and adaptive research to look for cultural insights. 

Role of Ethnography in Business 

The importance of ethnography in business is as follows: 

  • Assists in innovation, strategy, and long-range planning 
  • Enlightens about the context of product or service usage and its significance in customer’s lives 
  • Identifies the opportunities and helps to enter new horizons 
  • Increases the value and position in the marketplace 
  • Helps understand the client.

Business Ethnographic Research Methods 

The methods depend on the type of project. The different types used in ethnographic research are: 

  • Field-based research includes studying the site of product or service usage by customers. It is performed with the consent of customers, and the research period ranges from days to weeks. It allows real-time insights into the importance of business offerings in customers’ lives. 
  • In-depth interviews include conversations for a limited period, like a few hours. It requires the trust of the customer towards the interviewer along with the requirement of an unbiased attitude.
  • Mobile apps like EthOS and others are helpful in getting insights into customers’ experiences, audio, visuals, and video-based data. 
  • Online communities through social media platforms can be used for question-answer rounds or poll-based information. 

Process of Business Ethnography

The steps to be followed by a market research agency to conduct business ethnography research are listed as follows: 

Reframe the Problem: The problem statement needs to be framed based on the customer’s perspective. 

Collect the Data: Categorise the questions into multiple parts with a focus on understanding the customer’s problems, satisfaction, importance, feelings, the role of social and cultural identities, and so on. 

Look for Patterns: Understand the cause of the customer’s inconvenience or nature from the large pile of generated data. Collect and organise the data for better identification. Customer-based files are effective in getting all the information in one place and are used for summarisation and insights. 

Create the Key Insights: It involves interpreting the information by gaining insights. Businesses can expect the importance of products or services for the customer, their problems, or other opportunities that the business can meet. 

Build the Business Impact: Act on the insights by planning and execution. Find actionable measures to take to incorporate the right steps that lead to business success. 

Business Ethnography: Challenges

Ethnography isn’t straightforward towards business issues. It requires the right interpretation and method for efficient results. Here are a few challenges associated with business ethnography: 

  • The researchers must be skilled in the art of extracting, organising and analysing a large volume of information. They should also be unbiased towards the business and customer. 
  • The insights gained from ethnographic research might be unacceptable to the business. The presence of a broad perspective to accept the criticism or the image among customers is important to allow improvement.
  • There is no predictable time limit for ethnographic study to get quality results. It can be modified according to the depth of results and may range from hours to months. 
  • Restrictions, geographical barriers, and political conflicts may also inhibit the research plans.


Ethnographic qualitative research is an efficient method to allow businesses to understand the customers’ points of view. The research insights provide ideas for innovation and optimisation while also assisting in decision-making and applying strategy. A clear understanding of the type of required information is crucial to choosing the appropriate research method. Market research agencies contribute to business growth by providing rightly skilled ethnographic researchers experienced in their work.