Ethnographic Research in China

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Ethnographic Research in China

What is an Ethnographic Research?

Daxue Consulting’s research team developed solutions of ethnographic research in China and observation methods. Ethnography is an anthropological study that seeks to understand how people live their lives. Researchers use various methods to answer questions that cannot be answered through quantitative measures. Unlike traditional market research that asks specific and purely statistic questions, this observation research in China emphasizes observing people’s behavior on their own terms. This method helps us to understand how Chinese customers would use a new product and incorporate it into their daily lives.

observation-research-chinaDaxue Consulting uses Ethnographic research analysis in China as it shows practical advantages regarding the context and the specificities of Chinese consumers. Below are several defining qualities unique to ethnographic research in China:

  • Observing groups of people in their natural setting and daily context, which proves to be also completely different than the environment of western consumers
  • Paying attention to the context, artifacts, environment, shop-along, and interactions of Chinese participants to identify also some cultural aspects and patterns shaping Chinese consumption
  • Studying regular patterns and routines of the Chinese audience of study as well as observing how the Chinese consumer responds to new or different situations by observing subjects over a long period of time

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How does Daxue Consulting do Ethnographic Research in China?

Daxue’s aim is to provide clients with a thorough understanding of the social cultures of target market segments in China. This service allows companies to realize and determine information based on our researcher’s analysis on different Chinese cultural environments to learn and understand customers’ values, motives, and practices. By understanding how people live and consume, researchers will discover elusive trends that inform the company’s future strategies. Our value is to understand the perspectives of consumers and help our clients understand their consumers and adapt to fast-changing markets. Ethnographic research in China is the methods used by Daxue Consulting’s team to provide the relevant analysis.

Below are a few examples of when and how ethnographic research is used:

  • To search for the meaning of Chinese cultural norms and views
  • To examine and try to find reasons for the use of certain behaviors and practices
  • To examine social interactions, encounters, shop-along, and market trends in China
  • To understand the roles of families, relationships, and organizations in the Chinese consumption

When Daxue Consulting uses this method, we seek to impose as little personal bias into the data as possible. We cross-analysis our ethnographic research in China using the following methodologies:

In-Depth Interviews with Key Group Members simply modifies our model for In-Depth Interviews with Market Insiders so it can be used for ethnographic investigation. Furthermore, when doing a Cultural Survey, we use our survey methodology, but we focus on ethnographic issues that are relevant to the interests of our client. And when executing a Cultural Study through Focus Groups, we use the Focus Group setting to make observation research about the culture of a particular market segment.


ethnographic-research chinese consumer


Observation Research in China, on the other hand, is a unique four-step process:

  1. Establishing Rapport: In the case of a closed setting such as a group of restaurant managers or wine importers, the researcher gets to know the members of the group. In the case of an open setting such as a mall, the researcher blends into the crowd.
  2. In the Field: The researcher does as the locals do, doing her best to be accepted as a member of the group. This allows the researcher to have access to otherwise closed-off spaces in order to get a holistic understanding of the culture she is studying.
  3. Recording Observations and Data: This includes field notes, In-Depth Interviews with Key Group Members, and Reflexivity Journals. A Reflexivity Journal is where the researcher records her personal thoughts and feelings about the subjects of study. This helps the researcher to evaluate her own biases.
  4. Analyzing Data: This generally takes the form of a Thematic Analysis and a Narrative Analysis. A Thematic Analysis seeks to identify common themes in the data, and a Narrative Analysis seeks to turn the data into a coherent story. Both forms of analysis help the client glean a full understanding of the data collected.

At Daxue Consulting, we understand how important a clear and holistic understanding of a culture is for successful market entry in China. With an ethnographic research report in hand, the client’s firm can gain an upper hand over the competition by paying attention to the subtle but important signposts within the culture of the client’s target market segments.


ethnographic research china