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Financial Services|Belgium|English

An immersion in the financial world of young people

Leuven, 29.05.2017

How ethnographic research techniques can help you identify the levers to pull to create value for customers

How do youngsters manage their budget and their finances? Which financial products do they own, how often do they perform several financial transactions, which devices do they use to perform these, and what type of relationship do they expect to have with their bank? And how does all this fit in their life? What occupies these youngsters, where do their interests lie, and how can a bank help them realize their goals?

These were the questions that guided an integrated qualitative-quantitative study that we set up at the request of an international financial institution. Combining four different research methods (in-home observations, in-store observations, an online community and an online survey) we aimed to get to know youngsters inside out: we wanted to learn about their context and daily lives and identify their expectations vis-à-vis a financial partner. As the immersion in their world was key, we built the qualitative part of getting to know these youngsters’ financial life around ethnographic research techniques.

Ethnographic research techniques aim at understanding people within their context. In market research, this translates into observing customers in a natural setting and often implies that customers are observed while they use a particular product or service. This means that research subjects are not questioned about experiences after these took place; the researcher observes them while the experience takes place. Furthermore, it means that research subjects are not put in an artificial setting – contrary to e.g. an interview or focus group discussion – but the researcher immerses in the customers’ environment.

To gain insights into both the general and financial world of youngsters we combined two ethnographic research techniques (in-home observation and in-store observation) with a digital qualitative research technique, i.e. an online community. The two ethnographic research techniques each had their own specific goal. The in-home observations focused on getting to know youngsters’ general world. We asked them about their interests, youngsters were asked to show us their favorite objects in their home and explain why they feel attached to these objects, and we took 360° pictures of youngsters’ favorite rooms. The focus of the in-store observations was on youngsters’ perceptions of different payment methods, with a particular interest in their perception of mobile payment. Accompanying them to a store and asking them to pay their purchases using a method for mobile payment, we brought youngsters to evaluate the system of mobile payment based on a real-life experience. We interviewed them both before the store visit (learning about their perceptions of mobile payment before the first experience) and after the store visit (perceptions of mobile payment after the first experience). Their very first reactions were filmed right after exiting the store in order to capture their immediate spontaneous perceptions. Finally, in the online community, we gathered ca. 100 Belgian youngsters for a 2-week deep-dive into their interests, their concerns, and their financial lives. As part of the set-up we asked them to keep a diary of their financial transactions, and combined this with open questions on different aspects of financial life.

The insights gathered throughout these qualitative research methods were integrated with the insights provided by a quantitative survey among youngsters, inquiring about the frequency of several financial transactions, their usage of different devices for these transactions and their ownership of financial products. This allowed us to provide our client with a complete 360° view of youngsters, of how financial products and services fit into their daily lives and of how a bank can become a real partner for youngsters in realizing their goals.

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