Qual Street

Dedication to the answer


Micro Anthropology

Micro Anthropology


Been reading about NorthStar’s work in ‘experience’ research – they have developed an approach they call micro-anthropology…

There are three key methods that they used to explore people’s experience of the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition:

  1. shadowing – they followed people around the exhibition (discretely observing their behaviours)
  2. they took photos of people interacting with various elements of the exhibition
  3. they did quick context interviews to see who was visiting, but they did these as conversations rather than Q&As to feel as natural as possible.


…This is very similar to what we do in shopper research, and we call it observations and intercepts. (And don’t charge that much for it). So maybe we’re looking at ‘emperor’s new clothes’.

Perhaps, but also the approach suggests that we can apply better rigour to observations and intercepts, and borrow more from anthropology in the way we codify and analyse the data we’re getting.

Traditionally with obs and ints you tend to stand there, observe what’s going on and report back, with less time spent analysing the data, but Northstar got together ‘the jigsaw’ of photographic evidence, interviews and shadowing to deliver more robust thinking.

Also their methods are a bit more refined than obs and intercepts. They shadowed shoppers, rather than standing on the spot in one area. I think this provides better context for what’s going on in the store. I’ve been doing shadowing myself and I think it delivers great insight.

Second they photographed key areas. This is easy to do in shopper research. We can set up cameras in key parts of the store and take photos over the course of a whole day – I’ve done this for Kellogg’s and Kerry Foods with stores’ permission and the insights it delivers is illuminating (linger time, who’s shopping, what influences someone to pick up and what gets in the way – like the crate that’s blocking the aisle.)

Third their context interviews add a new dimension – it would mean having 2 researchers together to do in-store work at any one time, and that could actually be a blessed relief for the researchers doing the work.

So it’s a fancy name, but probably a new and improved approach to research that benefits us all.

It’s made me think that it’s time to explore anthropology a bit further to see if there’s some more techniques and approaches to repurpose for qualitative research…


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

Latest tweet from the street

RT @living_brands : Come and see the friendly ICG! ⁦ @TheICG ⁩ ⁦ @TweetMRS#mrslive https://t.co/xkvfQDc4fz

@Qualstreet on 12 March 2019