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How Fortune 500 Brands Leverage a Special Type of Research to Drive Innovation No need to reach out to customers when you know what they want.

By Gaurav Aggarwal

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many entrepreneurs work on a solution for problems that don't exist and then wonder why customers are not interested in their solution. These first-time entrepreneurs are inspired by the great entrepreneurial leaders of our current and past generations, but they have a lopsided knowledge of what reality is.

Within the world of entrepreneurship, there's an abundance of different misconceptions. Most famously, it is that most innovative companies, such as Apple, don't perform any customer research. While innovative companies do perform customer research, they don't traditionally undergo normal procedures. Instead, they follow a much more "hands-on" approach by implementing ethnographic research.

What is ethnographic research?

As a substitute to conventional customer research, ethnography methods are all about real-life environments. It's a qualitative method where researchers observe (or interact) with a study's participants in their natural habitat. Businesses can receive a much more comprehensive understanding of their audience, solutions and product significance from gathering data this way.

Currently, many Fortune 500 companies apply this customer research method within their business plans, such as Google, Intel, Apple, Ford, ReD and Samsung. Numerous well-established businesses opt-in for ethnographic research to obtain deeper insights into their target audience, products and future ventures. By executing customer research this way, many companies have excelled in their industry.

Here are the three main reasons why ethnographic research can improve a business's decisions.

Pinpoints customer needs

Physically seeing a company's business-client relationship in an authentic and natural environment showcases the actual needs of a target audience. It eliminates the "wants" discussed during the peer-to-peer development stages and transforms them into real solutions. Observing how they interact with a product or service is the most advantageous research to find customers' real needs. Failing to pinpoint the target audience's needs from a specific service initially leaves them dissatisfied with the solution.


Improves audience targeting

An "ideal" or "target" audience suggested during the startup stages isn't necessarily the perfect customer. Therefore, by constructing and implementing ethnographic research, you truly discover who your ideal clients are by examining their engagement levels, requirements and business goals. Undoubtedly the more laser-targeted and accurate your target audience is, the higher chance you have of developing a product or service that provides them desirable results.

Related: 5 Things to Research Before Working With a Startup

Precise predictions

The most important takeaway from this customer research strategy is to precisely predict future elements for products, services or the business itself. Surveying customers' natural reactions to a company's creations can dramatically help visualize the next innovative concept. By achieving this, you can build or expand inventions that solve a problem for a target audience way before anyone else hops into the market.

Ethnographic research is all about finding an audience's natural needs. By achieving this successfully, entrepreneurs can create much more sustainable business models which can help develop solutions far sooner than competitors. Additionally, they'll find "real" fixtures that promote a product or service to be genuinely desirable to the target clients.

These are only a few of the most important benefits of business ethnography, but they are compelling. Unquestionably, it's a significantly detailed approach to customer research, and it can provide you with outstanding information to improve your products, services and overall business.

Related: Why Messaging Is the Future of Market Research

Gaurav Aggarwal

Co-founder at Sleek

Gaurav Aggarwal is co-founder of Sleek and Forbes U30. He is an engineer-turned-entrepreneur helping small businesses survive and thrive with AI.

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