A woman sits at a breakfast table participating in in-home interview for qualitative market research.There’s always a little anxiety when entertaining in your own home or attending a party at a friend’s home. Am I dressed appropriately? Is there enough to eat? Are we early or worse…late? So many questions…and that’s with friends! Can you imagine visiting the home of a stranger and asking to see their pantry or bathroom?

As ethnographies grow in frequency, it’s important for researchers and marketers, like you and me, to put ourselves in the homeowner’s shoes. It’s stressful enough for respondents to participate in a group being held in a facility…you can imagine what goes through their head prior to an in-home visit!!!

Some of our in-home work has involved online phases that give us an opportunity to interact with participants. Conversing online through digital diaries and bulletin boards are excellent ways for us to choose who we want to dive in deeper through in-person work. However, there isn’t always that luxury and we often go straight to the in-home. To circumvent the unexpected, we recommend a few extra steps to insure that all is successful the day of the interview. The following are a few of our field team’s recommended best practices to ensure your in-home research success:

1.  Don’t invite the entire office – Keep it to a manageable number of ‘viewers.’  We’d love to invite all of your colleagues to have a walking tour of a woman’s kitchen, but remember she’s not used to an audience.  Yes, she’s used to refereeing a demanding group known as her husband and children.  Having a large group audience of strangers may cause her to become very self-conscious and shut down.

2.  Tell consumers what you want…what you really, really want! There are people out there anxious to invite you into their home. So help take some of the guess work out of what will happen that day by working with your recruiting team to clearly define what will happen while you are in their home. The following are just a few examples of what recruiters might need to know when talking with potential respondents during screening:

  • Do you need access to certain rooms of their home?
  • Will you want them to demonstrate a daily routine or activity?
  • Will there be a videographer on hand to shoot the entire interview and parts of their home?
  • If it includes their friends, should they be serving food?

3.  Get recruits ready for their close-up before entering their home and getting really close – Insights in Marketing often requests head shots of participants as it’s a great ‘introduction’ to who the moderator and clients will be sitting down to chat with. This is especially helpful when recruits involve certain ethnicities that will be reflected in reports and presentations to end clients. Bottom line, it also demonstrates a respondent’s willingness to be open and forthcoming with information and can be a great way to see a family in their ‘natural’ setting.

4.  Be respectful of house and cultural rules  – Keep in mind that the home you are walking into is different than your own and comes with its own set of rules and etiquette. For example, it may require you to remove your footwear either because they are particular about their floors or they observe or follow particular cultural traditions. Therefore, come prepared with nice socks and a smile! After all, the last thing you want to do is distract consumers from (or upset during) their task of giving you really great insights!

Interested to learn more about best practices or ethnographic research? Contact one of IIM’s ethnographic experts, Chris Holt, today! Also, be sure to check out the impact of ethnographic research in some of our latest case studies:  household goodsretailer or electronic devices.

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