Holistic Approach in Ethnography

The worsening of the geopolitical situation in Russia, the introduction of sanctions and counter-sanctions, the devaluation of the ruble had a negative impact on consumer demand in late of 2016 – early 2017. The population, faced with a reduction in real disposable income, was forced to change its behavior strategies. Many trends in consumer behavior remain relevant now: the real exit from the crisis to the levels of at least 2014 is expected only in a few years.

Among the food products, the reduction of consumption has affected expensive and imported products: vegetables and fruits, meat (shift in demand for pork and beef to chicken and turkey), sausages, baked goods and others.

In the face of increasing competition in Russia, retailers are aware that shoppers have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable. The emergence of a substantial number of very large western type hypermarkets, has expanded the choice of not only products, but also the buying conditions. This lead to a change in shopper preferences too. Shoppers are less than before, “tied” to a particular store, which caused an aggravation of the struggle for the shopper between the trade enterprises.

Such dramatical changes in consumer and shopper behavior require the market researchers to find new and effective approaches to study the Russian consumer. Using just focus groups or online interviews will not give the immediate desired result, i.e. deep understanding of the modern Russian consumer. In such situation, ethnography research is the most effective tool for studying consumer behavior and the consumer trends.

CreaMetrix has implemented holistic approach in ethnography research for the clients recently. Holistic approach in ethnography is a combination of offline and online tools for consumer understanding which may cover various research objectives. CreaMetrix uses both the following offline and online ethnography instruments:

Offline instruments:

  • Ethnography with video / audio / photo recordings
  • Accompanying visits
  • Observations
  • Offline diaries

Online instruments:

  • Online insight communities
  • Mobile ethnography
  • Online diaries
  • Nethnography

Our main expertise lies in the field of FMCG markets and HORECA segments. CreaMetrix was the first company in Russia which used online communities as a tool for deeper consumer understanding. Our company has launched online community of creative consumers in Russia in partnering with Canadian research giant Vision Critical in October 2011.

Applied methods of ethnography research both in, and out of home always consider Russian specific cultural aspect. We spend a lot of time with our respondents in their own environment. This can guarantee that people be more relaxed and feel comfortable to talk openly about not only specific product categories, but also about the real life and respondents’ attitude to the quickly changed and worsening situation in Russia.

Using ethnographic research, we are getting helicopter view of the consumer experience, picking up of unmet needs, and making the observation of unintended uses of products, which may equally lead to new product/packaging ideas.

In the research of FMCG categories pantry check and fridge opening during the home visits are like litmus paper, which reflects real situation with consumer income and purchasing behavior.

As an example of pantry check, we can see on the following picture.

In HORECA segment CreaMetrix uses interviews with chefs in their own environment, usually in the kitchen. It is very important to talk with food service professionals on one-to-one to get to know more about food trends, recipes of the most popular dishes, major ingredients used, etc. We are conducting ethnography with chefs for big multinational FMCG companies in Russia.

CreaMetrix can study online communication between consumers using netnography for understanding their attitudes, perceptions, imagery, and feelings. CreaMetrix proposes to the clients netnographic service and software, which is a qualitative research approach used text analytics and content analyses to gain a more profound insights into the consumers’ world. Netnographic research is able to offer very detailed descriptions of the life worlds of consumers, which researchers usually look for.

Russian consumers like many other people in the world communicate in social networks, forums, and any kind of communities to discuss different products and services perceptions, their attitude to changing economic environment, pricing and wages dynamics. All this is a field for profound research, which is done by CreaMetrix to reveal true motivations and beliefs of Russian consumers.

Another area for ethnographic research, which CreaMetrix developed recently is mobile ethnography. It is a modern technique that allows to record and visually represent a part of consumer experience in the real time “here and now” using smartphones.

Consumers record their attitudes and perceptions with pictures, audio, video and text messages. To do this they do not need sophisticated software or expensive applications. Consumers may use popular messengers, e.g. WhatsUp, etc. CreaMetrix implemented this ethnographic approach for the one client in tea category to get more understanding about tea sachet using in various product consumption situations.

Mobile ethnography tool has a big potential for the country like Russia, because such studies may be conducted simultaneously in different regions of huge country.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that ethnographic studies of the types listed above, which are used by CreaMetrix, allow one to obtain exhaustive information about how the Russian consumer is going through the current crisis and get more knowledge and understanding their real life and their hopes and fears.

About the author:
Alexander Blinov is a marketing professional with 20 years of experience in FMCG categories in Russia and CEEMEA regions. He has extensive experience on the top management positions of market research companies like GfK, Ipsos, Romir, and CreaMetrix. He has also experience on the client side in Mars Inc., as a market research director of Russia and CIS.

Current position of Alexander Blinov is CEO and founder of CreaMetrix company in Russia. Education: PhD degree in Math, Master degree in Applied Economics.

Contact: alexander.blinov@creametrix.com

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