Ethno studies reveal customer habits, attitudes and pain points

What we do?


Ethno studies reveal customer habits, attitudes and pain points that normal interviews often can’t.


We visit people in their typical contexts (e.g., at home, at work, out and about). In addition, the impressions and experiences of the participants are discussed in on-site interviews. Cultural probes like videos or photos are often part of the observation. This helps empathize with the target groups and generate new ideas for new products and messages that resonate with them.


What are typical questions?


• What is the usage context of products?

• How do customers behave in their familiar environment?

• What problems or pain points do people encounter in their world?

• In which social environments do people live and work?

• Who are we designing for after all?


How does it help?


• Provide deep insight and a feeling for the target group

• Inspire ideas for solutions, propositions, messages

• Help understand user journeys

• Help build first proto-personas (i.e., typical persons from the target group)


What are the limitations?


• As this is an open-focus qualitative tool, it does not provide prioritized, representative results. It rather produces a long list of ideas and starting points.

Key Infos

When to use?

At the very beginning of strategy development

Combine with

A representative survey, a segmentation survey

Variants and options

Ethnographic studies can be more observational or more directive, e.g., with interviews. They can also be combined with a discussion of already existing ideas, e.g., value propositions, product ideas, campaign ideas.


Where are ethnographic studies used?

Classic ethnographic studies have long been used in scientific research. In particular, cultures unknown to one's own living environment used to be studied through participant observation, sometimes over many years. In the meantime, however, one's own subcultures, which make up one's own society, are also being studied more and more frequently.


The advantage of ethnographic studies has also been recognized in commercial research. These are often used here in an attempt to better understand specific user groups and their usage context. For this purpose, however, research is no longer conducted over a period of years, but instead impressions are collected in short intensive research units (usually about 2 hours per study participant) and combined with in-depth interviews.

When should be tested?

Ethnographic studies are usually conducted at the very beginning of a project or in parallel as basic research. Early research can set the strategic course for all subsequent project steps and build on real user data from the beginning.

What do I have to contribute?

At the beginning of the project, we need a briefing from you regarding the questions you would like to investigate with the ethnographic study.

Based on this briefing, we create a participant screener to find suitable participants for the study. We also create an interview guide that provides the structure and topics for the interviews with the participants on site. Both the screener and the interview guide will be adjusted again based on your feedback, if necessary, to meet your objectives.

Optionally, it is a good idea to have a person from your project team on site with you. This gives you the opportunity to ask specific questions if necessary and to experience the use of your products live in real usage situations. The members of your team are also welcome to take turns.

Can I watch the tests?

One participant from the customer side can be present on site. In remote studies, any number of participants from the customer side can accompany the study live. The test persons film their environment themselves. Even if the on-site exchange cannot be replaced, ethnographic studies can also be conducted remotely via the Internet. The advantage here is that test subjects are not tied to a specific location and the logistical effort of the study is significantly reduced. Due to high-resolution smartphone cameras and fast internet, remote studies have therefore become a very interesting alternative to on-site studies.

What if I or my colleagues do not speak the local language?

We often work with international clients on ethnographic studies and are therefore prepared in case participants from the project team do not understand the local language. For this purpose, we have highly experienced simultaneous interpreters who are present live on site or, in the case of remote studies, in the video conference and translate what is being said. 

Michael Wörmann

Managing Partner

+49 89 2050 5560 

m.woermann (AT)