With not much more than a web meeting, product managers can put web-ethnography into action.
You have a lot of tools to help you learn about yours customers, such as customer visits, interviews, and surveys. One of my favorites is ethnography. I find some of the best insights, insights that competitors may have missed, come from observing customers. One form of this is called web ethnography and an expert at it, as well as other customer research tools, is Bill McDowell. He is a research practitioner, conducting customer research for a wide variety of customers in his role as COO of Accelerant Research.
In this discussion, Bill breaks down the steps for putting web ethnography into use.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[4:22] What kind of problems can qualitative research help us solve?
Quantitative is useful for explaining the “what” and giving concrete answers. Qualitative research is about explaining the “why” and giving quantitative research some context. It’s also helpful for exploratory research in areas that you might not be as familiar with.
[7:26] What is webcam-based ethnography?
It’s important to clarify that we’re talking about business-based ethnography, not an anthropological approach. It’s spending a few hours with your customers or audience, rather than immersing yourself in their culture. Webcam-based ethnography has accelerated a lot over the past five years as people become more comfortable sharing digitally over platforms like FaceTime and Skype. Traditional ethnography involves sending people to the consumer’s home to observe them interacting with a product. The webcam approach puts the customer into the driver’s seat. They might put their phone on the counter and set it to record. There’s so much nuance you can get from a video that you can’t get from a telephone interview.
[15:25] Can you share an example of how this approach is used?
We recently worked with a shoe insole company. We asked participants to purchase the product at the store and bring it home, then do a 45-minute webcam interview. The insole was geared toward fitness and we worked with people who have home gyms. We started by asking them to take us on a tour of their space. Then, we talked about the kinds of shoes they used and discussed their aches and pains. Then, we discussed the insole itself and went through an unboxing exercise as they interacted with the insole for the first time.
[18:30] How would you construct one of these sessions?
First, you need to define your business problem and your target objectives. What are the things you’re looking to learn? The shoe company was looking to make the case for how much space a retailer should devote to their product. You also need to define your target audience. Then you need to decide whether to do something in person or remotely. That decision largely depends on a combination of time and budget.
[22:15] How do you decide which customer groups to target?
When it comes to qualitative research, you need to think about who the “sweet spot” user is that you want to target. A lot of things can dictate a target audience. It usually emerges as a result of meetings with a client. In general, you want someone who is familiar with the product so they’re not coming into it completely cold.
[25:31] How do you find people to participate in ethnographic research?
You’re often looking for a very specific group of people who live in a certain area and have interacted with a specific type of product. We start with our panel of interested participants and use additional advertising as needed.
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