Ethnography in a Business Research

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Executive Summary

The paper discusses the use of the ethnography technique in conducting business research. The tool focuses on the behavior of a particular group of people in society. The first section provides an analysis of various business applications of the Ethnography research method. It highlights how the technique can be effective in introducing a new product and enabling a business to venture into a new market. The second part compares the ethnography tool to other research techniques and highlights some of the technique’s benefits. It describes understanding the audience, business customer relation, wider scope of interaction, customer comfort, and use of video grapy as some of the tool’s benefits. The recommendation area discusses two areas to improve the ethnography research tool. The first recommendation focuses on incorporating an aspect of competition to make the tool stronger by analyzing its actions. Secondly, the use of technology is an area that can enhance the performance of the technique.


Ethnography is a research tool that has been used by various researchers over the past decade. The technique helps in studying the behavior of people in a certain geographical region. Although it was initially used in anthropology, it is currently deployed in areas such as business medicine, among other fields. The tool has also gained corporate acceptance in marketing, even though this has drawn widespread internal debates, with some people arguing that it is never effective in the advertisement environment.

Despite the arguments, it has created a new dimension in conducting corporate research by shifting the traditional study surveys that were initially marred with irregularities. The biases associated with traditional research tools often misled the business, thus making them run into losses as they ventured into activities that were not sustainable due to a lack of proper market analysis. Although ethnography has numerous strengths, it also has some challenges associated with it in different ways.


An ethnography research method is used to introduce a new product to the clients. Most businesses usually fail because they cannot know their customers’ needs and, in most cases, impose their goods on the public. However, the tool helps in determining how the products fit into the daily lives of the potential consumers. As a result, a business is more likely to succeed since they have prior knowledge of its customers. Spieth, Heidenreich and Joachim (2016) illustrate that new products introduced in a market can face stiff rejection if the community members do not benefit from them. As a result, ethnography helps determine what the public needs. The company can use this knowledge to create and design a new product universally accepted by society.

Secondly, ethnography is used by a business to get into a new market. Market analysis is essential for the success of an organization. A company should determine whether its goods and services can be accepted in a new market and if any barriers can cause negative reception. For instance, cultural issues can affect the sales performance of a product. However, ethnography reveals people’s culture in detail, and it aids in anticipating how the goods will be received in the market. Therefore, it assists the firm to determine if their projects are viable and capable of generating profits. Although some businesses can ignore ethnography issues, people’s behavior is crucial to a prospective market.

Benefits of Ethnographic Research

Ethnography research has numerous benefits compared to other research techniques. The first advantage associated with the tool is its ability to understand the audience. Customers are an integral part of any business although they are always considered less important compared to the competitors and the products produced by the firm. However, the use of ethnography reveals the cruciality of the people that are expected to consume the products. The tool focuses on the customers’ behavior in that it can identify how the customers will react to the products when the latter is sold into the market. On the contrary, most research tools deal with the marketing of the products, which emphasizes product awareness. In short, they only focus on the products rather than the consumers, who will determine the former’s success.

For instance, experimental research will try to prove a theory that has not yet been determined. With this type of technique, the researcher can only investigate why people relate in certain ways to a product. According to Ünal, Urbinati, and Chiaroni, D. (2019), assessing the customer’s behavior reveals information that was initially not anticipated when the product was being designed. Nonetheless, ethnography is the only research tool that determines the behavior of the customer. The tool enables the customer to spend days or even months with the potential clients to know how they interact and their values. Therefore, ethnography research differs from other research tools because it focuses on the clients rather than the products.

Secondly, the ethnography tool helps to determine the relationship between the business and the customer. Customer business relation is crucial for any business success and growth. The clients determine whether a product will thrive in the market or fail depending on how they relate to the business. When the company poorly relates with the consumers, the audience will not accept its products; thus, the business will be unsuccessful because there will be no sales made. However, increased purchases will be made when the customers widely accept the products due to good customer relations.

Ethnography research, therefore, determines how the public relates to the business, thus providing an insight into how the public can react to particular good when it is finally released into the market. Although other research techniques will also provide information on customer business relations, the ethnographic tool gives more weight to the customers’ behavior, thus may reveal more information on the things that might be omitted by other techniques. For instance, a survey entails asking questions and giving false information when the respondent is not truthful. On the contrary, the ethnography researcher is expected to stay with the respondent for some days or even weeks; hence there may be little falsification of the information compared to other techniques. As a result, the technique can provide more accurate information on how customers relate to the business. Therefore, the corporate business will use the information gathered to make a decision that might not jeopardize the business’s future existence.

Thirdly, ethnography allows the researcher to interact with the family and friends of the respondents. Most research techniques only provide an opportunity for the business to interact with the participant. The respondent’s extended social class is often omitted, thus limiting the accuracy of the information obtained from the study. Although data collection is mainly targeted to a specific group of people, ethnography provides an avenue through which the researcher can interact with the participant’s extended family members. As a result, the researcher can personally observe the community’s activities and make conclusions by themselves without seeking an opinion from the community members (Hussain, 2018). Therefore, it enables the researcher to have firsthand information on what the community members do daily versus what they claim to do.

Fourthly, ethnography research is conducted at the comfort of the customer. Usually, the researcher visits the participants in their workplaces or in their homes to collect data. As a result, the respondents are not limited with time because they don’t have to create time to interact with participants. Besides, their daily chores are not interrupted since the researcher visits them at their physical location and observes their culture. Hussain (2018) states that “…. valuable insight is shared more truthfully and openly as compared to focus group research settings.” Therefore, ethnography avoids the destruction of the normal duties to extract information, thus making it a good strategy that many community members welcomed and limits biases.

Finally, videography used in ethnography can capture important moments, such as when the community members interact with the product. The video footage captured from the interaction can be beneficial for the businesses since it can appeal to other community members to buy the products. Besides, it can help the marketing team change its publicizing strategy and design the product to fit the demand of the customers. Other research techniques do not provide firsthand information that can be used for future reference. For instance, questionnaires only describe how the participant interacted with the product. On the other hand, videography provides real-time information on how the client interacted rather than a description.

Challenges Facing Ethnography

Although there are numerous benefits of ethnography research compared to other investigative methods, there are challenges associated with ethnography. First of all, ethnography is all about the behavior of people in a society. In other words, it doesn’t consider other components of the business environment, such as competition. The technique only gives information on how the customers are likely to interact with the products without considering other companies that produce the same goods and services in the same business environment, thus competing for the same market. Additionally, the technique provides limited knowledge of improving the products’ quality, making a business gain a competitive advantage over other businesses providing the same goods and services.

Another challenge associated with ethnography is that it requires special skills to use it effectively because it is a complex research tool. Other study techniques are often easy to use, and they can be performed by any person who is not familiar with any research. For instance, questionnaires can be given to any person in the organization to collect data. On the other hand, ethnography requires intensive knowledge, and the researcher is required to undergo thorough training that may last years before being entrusted with a research task.


Incorporating ethnography research into competitors’ products is one recommendation that can help improve the technique. Competitors are crucial players in the world of business. They help in determining prices and also improve the quality of goods sold in the market. Although stiff competition can be unhealthy for firms, it makes the competing companies constantly improve the quality and the design of the products to lure more customers into buying the products. Therefore, ethnography should also be used to study how competitors interact with the customers, and this will reveal gaps in the market that can be filled. Business is all about looking for new opportunities in the market that can make a company gain a competitive advantage over other firms providing the same goods and services in the market.

Another recommendation is to use technology to reduce the high costs associated with ethnographic research. The technique is often expensive because it requires highly skilled personnel to conduct the research and the study period is often prolonged, taking up to several months to collect data. With the current technological advancements, ethnography should use more technology to gather data from the community and drastically reduce costs. For instance, instead of deploying several researchers into the field of study, a few people should be used assisted with satellite and drones footages to capture videos that can be used in arriving at research results. Therefore, modern technology can help cut the costs usually associated with numerous researchers deployed in the sites.


In conclusion, ethnography research has several benefits that businesses can use to enter a new market and send new products to the public. Although anthropologists initially used it, the technique helps establish the people’s behavior, which anticipates how they can interact with the business’ products. The technique also eliminates biases that are often associated with the traditional surveys initially conducted by businesses. However, the tool also has challenges that need that affect its pre-conference.

It only focuses on the behavior of people in society and customer needs. As a result, businesses cannot deduce any information from this kind of study that can be used to improve the quality of goods and services. Besides, only people who are skilled in ethnography can use it to conclude. Technology can, however, be used to reduce costs associated with the technique. Therefore, in as much as there are challenges, there are ways that can be used to manage the challenges to make ethnography research more suitable for conducting business research.


Hussain, A. (2018). Ethnography. An effective tool for business solutions? Case study. Amity Research Centers Headquarter, Bangalore. Web.

Spieth, P., Heidenreich, S., & Joachim, V. (2016). Passive Innovation Rejection: Rejection Behavior Prior New Product Evaluation. In ISPIM Innovation Symposium (p. 1). The International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM). Web.

Ünal, E., Urbinati, A., & Chiaroni, D. (2019). Managerial practices for designing circular economy business models. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management; Bradford, 30(3), 3-4. Web.


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