Mixing Ethnography with Customer Experience: A Deep Dive into Customer Benefits


Share on LinkedIn

Article source: https://www.eglobalis.com/mixing-ethnography-with-customer-experience-a-deep-dive-into-customer-benefits/

Ethnography and customer experience (CX) blend seamlessly to create a richer, more comprehensive understanding of customers. Ethnography’s immersive approach provides context and depth to customer interactions, offering insights into behaviours, needs, and pain points that traditional methods might overlook. When applied to CX, ethnography enhances the ability to design more personalized and impactful customer journeys.

Uncovering Hidden Insights: Traditional data collection methods, such as surveys and focus groups, often rely on self-reported data, which can be biased or incomplete. Ethnography captures real-time behaviours and interactions, revealing insights that customers might not consciously articulate. For example, observing how customers navigate a retail store can identify pain points or areas of delight that might not be evident from sales data alone. This level of detail allows businesses to address issues more accurately and tailor their offerings to customer preferences.
Contextual Understanding: Ethnography provides a contextual understanding of customer experiences by considering the broader environment in which interactions occur, including cultural, social, and physical factors. This holistic view helps businesses design more effective and empathetic CX strategies. For instance, observing how users interact with their devices at home can lead to the development of more intuitive and user-friendly product designs. This approach ensures that products are not only functional but also seamlessly integrated into the users’ lifestyles.
Building Empathy: By immersing themselves in customers’ lives, researchers and businesses can build deeper empathy toward their needs and challenges. This empathy-driven approach fosters customer-centric innovations and solutions. When designers and marketers understand the emotional and practical aspects of customer experiences, they can create products and services that truly resonate with their audience. Empathy also enhances customer loyalty, as customers feel understood and valued.

Integrating Data Analytics and Other Data Sources with Ethnography

Combining ethnography with data analytics, Voice of Customer (VoC), and other data sources can further enhance customer insights and CX strategies.

Data Analytics: While ethnography provides qualitative insights, data analytics offers quantitative data that can validate and complement these insights. For instance, analytics can identify trends and patterns that ethnographic studies might miss. Combining these methods allows businesses to cross-verify findings and gain a holistic view of customer behaviour.
Voice of Customer: VoC programs collect direct feedback from customers about their experiences and expectations. When integrated with ethnographic research, VoC data helps to triangulate findings, ensuring that the observed behaviours align with what customers are explicitly communicating. This combination can highlight discrepancies between what customers say and what they do, offering deeper insights.
Other Data Sources: Social media listening, customer support interactions, and transactional data can all provide additional layers of understanding. By merging these diverse data sources with ethnographic insights, businesses can create a comprehensive picture of the customer journey, identifying both explicit and implicit needs.

The Benefit for Customers

Enhanced Personalization: By understanding customers’ behaviours and contexts, businesses can tailor their products and services to meet specific needs, leading to more personalized and satisfying customer experiences. Personalized experiences make customers feel special and increase their engagement with the brand.
Improved Product Design: Ethnographic insights can drive the design of more user-friendly products that align with customers’ real-world usage and preferences, resulting in higher satisfaction and engagement. This iterative process of design and feedback ensures that products evolve in line with customer needs.
Effective Problem Solving: Identifying hidden pain points allows businesses to address issues that customers might not have explicitly mentioned, thereby improving overall experience and loyalty. Proactively solving problems before they become significant enhances the customer experience.
Stronger Emotional Connection: Building empathy through ethnography helps businesses create emotional connections with their customers, fostering trust and long-term relationships. Emotional connections are critical for building brand advocates who promote the brand through word-of-mouth.
Innovative Solutions: The deep insights gained from ethnography inspire innovative solutions that are grounded in actual customer needs and behaviors, leading to more successful product launches and service improvements. Innovation driven by genuine customer insight is more likely to succeed in the market.

Differences in Ethnographic Research for B2B and B2C

While the core principles of ethnography apply to both B2B and B2C contexts, the approach and focus can differ significantly, though the fundamental methodology remains consistent.

B2B Ethnography:
Complex Decision-Making: B2B environments often involve multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process. Ethnographic research must consider the diverse perspectives and interactions of various roles within the organization. This requires researchers to engage with different departments and understand their specific needs and challenges.
Longer Sales Cycles: The extended nature of B2B sales cycles means ethnographic studies need to capture long-term engagement and relationship-building processes. Researchers must follow the customer journey over a prolonged period to gather meaningful insights.
Technical and Functional Needs: B2B customers typically have specific technical requirements. Ethnography in this context often focuses on understanding the practical and functional use of products and services in professional settings. Researchers may need to observe the integration of products within existing workflows and systems to identify areas for improvement.

B2C Ethnography:

Individual Preferences: B2C ethnography often emphasizes individual behaviours, preferences, and emotional drivers behind purchasing decisions. Researchers focus on the personal experiences and motivations of individual consumers.
Immediate Interactions: Consumer interactions are generally more immediate and frequent, requiring ethnographic research to be highly adaptive to real-time behaviors and feedback. Quick iterations based on immediate feedback can enhance product development cycles.
Lifestyle and Context: B2C studies might delve deeply into the lifestyle and personal context of consumers, exploring how products fit into their daily lives and broader social environment. Understanding the consumer’s environment helps in designing products that enhance their lifestyle.

Despite these differences, the fundamental approach of observing and engaging with customers to gain deep insights remains the same. The application of insights varies to address the specific dynamics of B2B or B2C markets.

Real-World Applications and Case Studies


Philips (Healthcare): Used ethnographic research to understand patient interactions with healthcare environments, leading to the design of patient-friendly medical devices and hospital rooms, significantly improving patient comfort and satisfaction. The insights also guided the creation of intuitive user interfaces for medical equipment, enhancing both patient and healthcare provider experiences.
Siemens (Industrial Manufacturing): Studied how technicians interacted with machinery, leading to improved usability and efficiency, increasing productivity and reducing error rates. By understanding the contextual challenges faced by technicians, Siemens was able to create solutions that directly addressed real-world issues.


Samsung (Consumer Electronics): Observed smart home device usage in South Korea, leading to the development of more intuitive and interconnected ecosystems, enhancing user satisfaction. The company’s ethnographic studies highlighted the importance of seamless integration and ease of use, which became central to their product development strategy.
Tata Consultancy Services (IT Services): Customized software interfaces in India to better meet user needs, resulting in higher adoption rates and improved workflow efficiency. This approach also helped in identifying common pain points, leading to targeted training programs that enhanced overall user proficiency.

North America

Microsoft (Software): Conducted ethnographic studies to observe software usage, informing the development of user-centric features in their Office suite, enhancing productivity and satisfaction. By closely observing how different teams collaborated and managed tasks, Microsoft was able to introduce features that directly addressed users’ needs and preferences.
GE (Healthcare): Studied radiologists’ interactions with imaging equipment, leading to ergonomic improvements and enhanced software interfaces, improving accuracy and efficiency. Understanding the day-to-day challenges faced by radiologists enabled GE to create products that significantly reduced operational stress and increased diagnostic precision.


Itaú Unibanco (Banking): Understood small business owners’ interactions with banking services in Brazil, creating tailored financial products that increased satisfaction and retention. The bank’s ability to address specific pain points, such as the need for more flexible loan options and personalized financial advice, resulted in a more loyal customer base.
Grupo Bimbo (Food Manufacturing): Optimized delivery processes and improved client relationships in Latin America by understanding logistics and distribution challenges. By gaining a deep understanding of the operational hurdles their clients faced, Bimbo was able to implement solutions that streamlined logistics and enhanced overall service quality.


By integrating ethnography into CX strategies, businesses not only enhance their understanding of customers but also create more meaningful, empathetic, and effective customer experiences. This approach enriches the customer journey and drives business growth and innovation by placing the human element at the heart of customer experience. Whether in B2B or B2C contexts, ethnography provides invaluable insights that lead to more personalized, engaging, and successful customer interactions. Ethnographic research bridges the gap between data and real-world application, ensuring that products and services meet the true needs of the customers they serve. Combining ethnography with data analytics, VoC, and other data sources ensures a comprehensive approach to understanding and enhancing customer experience.

Ricardo Saltz Gulko
Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the founder of Eglobalis and the European Customer Experience Organization. He is a global strategist specializing in B2B enterprises, with a focus on Customer Experience, Professional Services, Design and Innovation, as well as data-driven services. Ricardo empowers major global enterprises to generate new revenue and enhance market competitiveness through the delivery of exceptional global CX, and he employs design to drive adoption and growth. The end results of his work include high growth, increased retention, loyalty, innovation ignition, adoption and growth.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here