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Combining ethnography and Big Data in market research : a real example

Qualitative research techniques have inherently an ethnographic background that many market research firms tend to ignore. Qualitative techniques are there to help researchers discover what’s going on and build their assumptions. This is exactly what we tried to do when we visited the N5 winebar last month too prepare the launch of the franchise.

Observation as a qualitative market research technique

The first step we undertook was to spend 3 full days in Toulouse to understand how the winebar was run. This started with the preparatory work to open the bar and the daily briefing of the 9 employees short before the bar opened at 6pm.
During that time period we carefully wrote down all different steps undertaken to later describe the processes that franchisees of the N5 winebar.
Observing customers while they were in the bar was also very helpful and brought a lot of information. You can observe their reactions, their hesitations and the role of personnel to provide advice, the dynamics that changing over time, the flows within the bar (and when you welcome so many customers during such a short time period flows within the store are extremely important). The N5 winebar concept being based on the use of Enomatic self-serving machines (we will come back to that later), observing the relationship between human and machine is of huge interest. What you can notice are the difficulties of consumers when they have to interact with a machine, the potential for improvement of course but also what happens when consumers can’t get the machine work.

Big data analysis to support qualitative market research 

To support our qualitative market research we are also employing Big Data techniques : visualization and statistical analysis of consumers’ behaviors. The Enomatic wine-serving machines record every transaction in great detail : name of the wine, price, quantity, time stamp, position. You can literally create a cartography of consumption and study consumption over time. The N5 wine bar has had 5 such machines for years and has recorded dozens of thousands of transactions which help us understand in its finest granularity consumer behavior.


This example of a market research in a retail environment shows that you can use both qualitative market research methods and quantitative ones to get a better understanding of human behavior. The second part (quantitative analysis) is particularly important as it sheds light on some non-rational behaviors that have been popularized by behavioral economics.

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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