Ethnographic research is a qualitative research method where the researchers observe participants using a product or service in their own environment, typically at work or at home.

Ethnographies can take advantage of a range of technologies and approaches to glean valuable information about the customer’s experience using a product or service.

Ethnos can be used to evaluate an existing design but it is more often used to evaluate new designs before they are released commercially, with the aim of discovering in-situ any design problems missed during R&D. Often this can be achieved with a relatively small number of interviews, say 5 to 10, although FieldworkHub has run ethnographic research involving up to 30 participants.

Ethnographic market research is also powerful in evaluating emotional responses and attitudes which participants may be hesitant to share in an interview. This kind of immersive study is a regular component of more complex research projects, getting “inside participants’ heads” and revealing valuable insights which aren’t normally articulated through interviews.


Young woman using smartphone standing in front of the food market in France

Ethnographic interviews on financial products and services

A leading management consultancy wanted to talk to a range of French adults about their use of financial products and services and their interest in a new digital concept that they were developing for a client based in France. We arranged over 50 90-minute interviews in respondents’ homes in Paris and Lille in two phases lasting two weeks. We were asked to recruit a mix of young professionals and parents in non-nuclear families (single-parent families, blended families etc) with a further split into respondents with a stable professional situation (people in permanent full-time employment, small business owners, established self-employed etc) and those with an unstable professional situation (unemployed, short-term contractors, casual workers etc).

Field of growing corn (maize) with wheeled irrigation device spraying water in the background

Ethnographic research with US corn farmers

A company that supplies products and services to help farmers improve crop yields wanted to conduct depth interviews with corn farmers and agronomists in Illinois and Iowa. It was important for the farmers to represent a range of different sizes of farms, including some very large farms (5000 acres or more). We recruited over 40 farmers and advisers in two phases and assisted with planning the travel schedules for each group of interviewers.

Woman testing medical packaging at kitchen sink, viewed from behind

Ethnographic user testing in London on medical packaging

Our client, a US-based company that provides human factors engineering services and usability testing to medical device manufacturers, wanted to conduct a week of research in London which involved participants testing out a new type of medical packaging in their homes. We recruited 18 participants with differing backgrounds and successfully scheduled the interviews, taking account of the travel time between each interview. Through these interviews, the client was able to obtain the feedback that they needed.