Throughout our Principles of Marketing tutorials, we note that the most challenging part of marketing is creating products customers will actually want. To achieve this goal, most marketers engage in research to help identify benefits customers seek. There are many research methods marketers use to uncover customer needs ranging from simply survey research, such as those delivered by phone or on the Internet, to more advanced techniques, such as focus groups and observational research.
Within observational research, there is an evolving method called ethnographic research, where marketers watch customers in their natural environment as they manage their everyday activities. By entering customers' homes, marketers may come across unmet needs the customer may not recognize and would not be able to convey if asked directly.
For instance, in this Advertising Age story, we see how a research firm hired by Playtex (same name as the lingerie firm but offering different products) benefited from in-the-home research. The research was aimed at identifying shortcomings in children's drinking cups that led Playtex to introduce several new cup designs.