Definition of coding

A systematic method for analysing qualitative data and generating deep insights into customers’ needs.

Coding is a way of identifying categories in the data. For example, videos of customers using products will be coded looking for all the ‘uses’ of a product, the way a product is ‘misused’, and the way customers develop ‘workarounds’ to overcome the limitations of existing products.

Further coding will look for ‘frustration’ with existing products, ‘cultural’ issues and other categories that emerge from watching the videos. Applying coding ensures that none of the subtleties of qualitative data are lost and all of the opportunities for innovative new products and services are identified.

Codes that market researchers also look for are the positive and negative emotions generated from using a product. By identifying such emotions, market researchers can gain insights into what product features are needed or can be improved.


Coding is a fundamental part of ethnographic market research. Videos of customers (either B2B or B2C) using products are analysed systematically. For example, Bosch Packaging produces production line equipment for the pharmaceutical market. In order to develop a new product, the operation of competitors’ equipment was analysed.

This included looking for the advantages and limitations of the competitors’ equipment, checking when and why operators were frustrated with machines, and where the existing equipment had been modified to overcome problems. Based on these insights, a breakthrough product - the Bosch FXS 5100 used for the processing of presterilized, nested syringes - was designed and has been very successful. [1]