Ethnographic Research uses naturalistic observation to record systematically the behaviour of research subjects in their own settings. With its origins in anthropology, the focus is on cultural aspects of behaviour.
Ethnographic techniques can include the disposable camera technique, the mystery customer technique, the video and audio recording of everyday behaviour where the recording apparatus is made as less obstrusive as possible, and even such creative and non-mainstream techniques as "garbology" - the analysis of garbage left out for collection by householders. More traditional techniques can include the observation of shoppers and the way they browse stores, identifying problems shoppers may have with locating items, labelling, queueing, and other aspects of the shopping experience that may be impossible to detect with traditional survey and focus group techniques. It can also identify powerful linguistic elements too, such as phrases used by consumers in their daily lives that many not be recalled naturally in focus groups as they are less immediate.
The strength of ethnographic research is in reducing the sources of error associated with more artificial and secondary qualitative methods such as focus groups. Focus Groups are typically carried out in custom built fcous group facilities, and in some cases, the placing of consumers in such foreign environments affects their responses. They still often rely on participants recalling how they make decisions and interpreting their own motives within a different social context.
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