Shopper/Buyer Consumption Ethnography
This assignment is individual in the sense that each student must conduct the ethnographic research on his/her own and turn in his/her own original work; however, you are encouraged to get feedback and guidance from your classmates. This assignment is intended to assess your critical and analytical skills, as well as writing and creative abilities. For this project, you will go shopping with someone and observe and interview him or her about the choices they are making and what it means to them. This should be fun, but it should be serious. Ethnography is a very powerful method in marketing research; take this opportunity to get real experience with it.
1. Choose someone to go shopping with – this cannot be someone in the class, but it could be a friend, family member, neighbor, etc.; however, they must differ from you in some way. For instance, if you are male, you might choose a female participant to go clothes shopping with. If you are Catholic, you might choose a Jewish consumer to go grocery shopping with. If you are in your twenties, try shopping with someone in their teens. The purpose of the shopping trip is open – grocery shopping, clothes shopping, convenience store, out to eat, etc.
2. Go shopping with your selected participant. You are observing BOTH the consumer and the marketplace environment.
1. For the consumer: Observe the choices that he/she makes and ask them about their choices. Do not make assumptions based on your own experiences. For example, if the person chooses to get a shopping basket at the grocery store instead of a shopping cart, ask why – even if it seems obvious. Note HOW the person is shopping – Does she go directly to the sale rack? Does she check the price tag before trying something on? Ask about the person’s previous experiences with the store or product – What symbolic meaning is attached to these things? This is meant to be an interactive and unstructured interview but you are expected to take diligent notes. (If you have a recording device, it may be smart to use it. Most phones have recording apps installed or available for download.)
2. For the marketplace: Your goal for the marketplace observation part of this project will be to look at how factors in the environment may influence the consumers’ behavior in the retail environment. For instance, what is the store’s environment like? Music, smells, is it overly stimulating? How many employees do you see? Does it seem easy or difficult for customers to find help in the store? How is the store laid out? Do you think this influences the purchase behavior of the patrons? Do you think the patrons follow the “intended” path? Is it the store cluttered? Minimalist? Neat? Messy? Are there attempts to encourage impulse purchases?
3. Interpret (make sense) of his/her behavior (your empirical data) using the concepts introduced to you in the course.
4. Formulate some managerial recommendations based on your data. How might marketers better serve the consumer that you interviewed? What changes could be made in the store displays, advertising, etc.? How could the insights from your interview translate into an ad campaign or marketing strategy? These recommendations should be well-thought out and should stem from your observations and interview. Avoid generalizations. Base assertions on your own empirical research.
5. Write a paper between seven and ten double spaced pages (Times New Roman, 12 pt font, standard margins) that integrates your empirical data with course readings. Note that the project is worth 100 points; it can be done well in 7 pages, but if you need more to effectively cover your data, conclusions, and recommendations, then take it. Effective use of direct quotes from your interview will strengthen your paper. Remember, avoid banalities and generalizations.
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