Multi-Generational Ethnography

biasing toward action and organizing and executing a research proof of concept


The goal of the Nordstrom Innovation Lab was to discover the future of retail quickly using agile frameworks. Though human focused in our approach, I saw an opportunity to inform concepts earlier in the ideation process by doing pro-active research to understand the latent needs of customers.

In order to test my assumption, I biased-toward action and created a proposal for funding for an in-depth ethnographic study of multi-generational shoppers. By shopping my proposal around to other research teams across the company and to our technology leaders, I was able to secure funding for and execute a three-city, multi week study. 

Role: Ethnographer, Innovation Lab Research Ambassador

Research Proposal

(the worst they could do was say "no")


Goals and Focus

The goal of my study was to understand behaviors, beliefs and latent, unmet needs of existing and potential Nordstrom customers through observation and immersion. 

The results of the research would be delivered as actionable, customer-based findings for the Nordstrom Innovation Lab, Nordstrom Technology and our research partners.


I successfully secured funding for customer recruitment through several recruiting agencies, participant compensation and travel to New York City, Ottawa, and Cleveland, Ohio.

Research Methodology

Customer Diary Homework

I created a pre-interview homework activity that occurred pre-interviews in order to understand the customer prior to our engagement. Customers were asked to create a collage of their style evolution and to choose one picture to describe their shopping partner’s style in order to give us  a baseline understanding of who they were prior to entering their homes. 



In Depth, In-Home Interviews

These 2-hour interview were conducted in a customer’s home as a way to understand the customers and their relationships in a natural, comfortable environment. During these interviews, I sought to understand their relationships, shopping service beliefs and expectations and pain-points.


Contextual Interview – Shop-Along

During the shop-alongs, we sought to observe and understand shopping behaviors by accompanying our dyads on a trip to a store of their choosing. It allowed us to validate their stated intentions with their in-the-moment actions.





Experiential Immersion 

During our week-long research sprints, we engaged in retail safaris in-between interviews. In these retail safaris, we shopped where our customers shop as a way to give us a holistic view of the customers environment, city and a naive view of their shopping experiences. By immersing ourselves in their current shopping landscape, we were better able to hone our questions during our shop-alongs.




Research Presentation 

I synthesized my findings in an interactive research presentation using a combination of photography and comparative-differentials in order to visualize behavioral and attitudinal attributes. Readers of the report were able to listen to key customer quotes, view pictures and homework assignments and reference these dyads back to our UX personae.

I presented my high-level summary presentation to technology and research partners and other information teams across Nordstrom.