Affecting Ethnographic Research Methods in China: A Bicultural Viewpoint Based on the Chinese Model of Thought
Elaine Ann, Founder/Director | Kaizor Innovation
China, with its 1.3 billion population, equivalent to over 4 times the population of the United States, has an average and continuing growth of 8 percent GDP every year. Since China opened its doors to the world in 1981, it has risen to become the largest emerging consumer power in the world. China’s immense market and growing demands for all types of products and services have attracted many multinational foreign companies competing to enter the market taking up a share of the pie. However, products imported into China will need to adapt to the differences in Chinese culture and lifestyle. This requires an in depth understanding of the Chinese psyche and behavioral patterns affecting product requirements and design. Ethnographic research is an important tool to access such insights informing product development teams.
To date, ethnographic research methods originated from the United States are based on a Western model of thought. A typical ethnographic field research study begins by recruiting respondents from the target market segment through market research companies or the client’s existing customer database. Then a team of ethnographic researchers and designers will plan and formulate interview questions and observational requirements prior to the research study. Depending on the context of use for the product or services, the study might take place at the respondent’s home, work place or mobile environment. During the visit, the entire process might be photographed or video taped for documentation. Following the study, the research team will analyze the observations and insights to formulate strategies informing product development or marketing teams.