Ethnographic Research: Going Beyond Focus Group Boundaries
In our last post, we took a look at how ethnographic research helps marketing research professionals put consumer behavior in context. In order to do that, it’s necessary for researchers to go beyond the boundaries of the focus group.
If you’ve been following the FPG blog, then you know that a few weeks ago we dedicated several posts to the topic of avoiding focus group bias. While the information we presented and the suggestions we offered were comprehensive, we neglected to address one key factor that inevitably generates bias in focus groups: the focus group itself!
Before you get the wrong idea, we certainly don’t mean to suggest that the traditional focus group environment is in any way flawed or outdated. In most cases, it is still the best way to gather highly targeted qualitative research data from any given target demographic.
However, it is worth noting that the purposefully controlled environment of a focus group may, in fact, influence the behaviors, opinions and input of your respondents. The best focus group moderators are trained to cultivate and maintain a completely neutral and objective marketing research atmosphere with every session they conduct. That means keeping the discussion on track, making sure everyone in the room has an equal voice and, most importantly, limiting any influences or factors that might bias the opinions of focus group respondents one way or another.
How does that picture compare to the “real world” consumer experience? Before arriving at any given focus group, the average research participant is likely to be bombarded by billboards, radio advertisements, television commercials, pop-up ads and hundreds of other commercial messages, not to mention the opinions and viewpoints of peers, colleagues, family members and complete strangers.
The fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to completely separate the responses of your marketing research subjects from the multitude of factors and influences that have shaped their diverse perspectives. Even if you could, would you really want to? After all, by understanding HOW those perspectives have been formed, businesses are not only able to adapt their products and services in response, but they are better prepared to re-shape consumer perspectives to their own benefit.
Since ethnography is based on studying people in their natural environments, as active members of social communities (with collectively shared understandings, rituals, rules and influences), it offers marketing researchers a method of getting closer to the root of consumer behaviors. What results is the kind of direct, unmitigated data that can have a powerful impact on marketing success.
For more information on how to harness the power of ethnographic research, click on the button below and schedule a consultation with one of the experts at Focus Pointe Global.
Be sure to check back later in the week when we will continue our discussion on applying ethnography to marketing research. If you’d like this and all future Focus Pointe Global blog posts sent directly to your inbox, simply enter your email address in the field to the right to subscribe.