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How Anthropologists Are Helping Companies Know Their Customers

One of the key tenets of a great user experience is understanding your customers or clients at a fundamental level. Knowing what motivates them, especially regarding the problems you are attempting to solve, can lead to better solutions. Increasingly, large companies are turning to anthropologists and psychologists to understand the underlying drivers that customers may not be able to express for themselves.

This article from Business Insider covers how some companies are getting to know their customers directly and gaining powerful insights.

When Red collaborated with Adidas, it trained members of Adidas's design team in conducting anthropological research. Design staffers spent 24 hours straight with customers, eating breakfast with them, joining them on runs, and asking them why they worked out. As detailed in the Economist, a Red staffer sent disposable cameras to customers, asking them to take a picture of the reason they exercised. Thirty women responded, and 25 of them sent a picture of a little black dress.

Business Insider

This kind of research is more effective than quantitative research like surveys and focus groups precisely because it is visual and tells a story. Rather than making decisions based on numbers and statistics, designers feel empathy toward their customers because they are part of a larger narrative. They feel like they are helping the protagonist in a real story to overcome the odds stacked against them.

This is different from the approach of most corporations, which rely on measures like surveys and focus groups. The problem with those is that people have a terrible time reporting their own preferences, Madsbjerg says. In one Swedish study, for instance, everyone reported that they were an exceptional driver, which is obviously impossible. By the same token, asking customers to tell you why they like a particular vodka doesn't necessarily reveal their motivations.

Business Insider

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