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Observation Methods

Part 2. Marketing Research

  1. Robert V. Kozinets

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem02012

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Kozinets, R. V. 2010. Observation Methods. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 2.

Author Information

  1. York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Observation methods are qualitative marketing research methods in which researchers view, record, and then analyze the manifest actions of consumers as they engage in some market-related activity. Observation methods include mass observations and measurements of large groups of anonymous people, placement of cameras, and direct observations that researchers conduct in consumers' homes. Observation methods originated in the anthropological techniques of ethnography. A key characteristic of observation methods is that they reveal what consumers actually do, rather than what they say or remember that they have done. Videographic techniques, involving the use of video cameras to record naturalistic observations for later analysis and presentation, are increasing in popularity. Observation methods have been found to be particularly useful for strengthening brand differentiation, for identifying areas of untapped opportunity for new-product development, and for revealing opportunities for improving consumers' retail experiences. Technological developments in this area have included new recording devices such as TiVo, methods of technologically mediated trend spotting, online behavior measurement and monitoring, as well as netnography, the practice of online ethnography. The limitations of observation methods tend to arise from their small sample sizes, their time-intensive nature, their intrusiveness, and the significant researcher skill that is required.


  • observation methods;
  • observational research;
  • marketing research;
  • consumer behavior;
  • ethnography;
  • audience research;
  • videography;
  • netnography