The success of the right commercial or customer driven innovation strategy relies more and more of their ability to interact with customers and users. Community management is clearly not enough to give meaning to the huge number of conversations and interactions that take place between organizations and consumers or users.
Today we will introduce netnography in the first part of a series as a powerful tool to understand and manage customer and user communities.
What customers want is not necessarily what the need
The key point of the former paragraph is the word “meaning”. In saturated markets and environments were crisis reshapes consume we cannot create or market products and services if we do not understand the meanings and contexts of customers and users. In unsaturated markets it is easy to match supply and demand. In economically friendly environments, each novelty can satisfy what consumers want. When markets are saturated there are not many needs to match, when consume does not work, to look for what people want does not work. In both cases the solution is to work on the basis of real needs.
Demography is the key
Can we expect a return to pre-crisis conditions? Someday there will be recovery from current crisis and a return to classical consumption. But the world’s demography (China included, Africa and Latinamerica excluded) says that with growing population, new crisis will come and in shorter cycles. An older population without younger generations means that the needs of more and more population segments are cover and therefore, the need for consumption will shrink: no new housing is no new furniture, new fridges, etc.Less kids mean less schools, less school material, less clothing, less family vacation, etc., etc. Sure, niches for older population will appear, but they will have to match a lower income target. What are real customer needs Real customer needs we still do not understand well are how to match are urban mobility versus car possession, health versus medical intervention, children education versus school systems, independent living versus elderly care, consumption versus social experience … this does not mean that the kind of consume often labeled as “unnecessary” will disappear: it fulfills a clear necessary function that has less to do with purchase of objects or experiences and more with the need of social interaction and social status behind or simply fun and entertainment, as classical marketers discovered. It will not disappear, but niches for real needs will gain importance as the demographic change saturates markets and slows down liquidity.
The use of ethnography in business
The way real needs can be identify is with a close relationship based on trust and/or with in in depth research that allows to unveil meanings and discover contexts. The science that deals with meanings and contexts is anthropology; ethnography is the anthropologist’s main tool to obtain access to people, gain trust and understand thus meanings, needs, contexts and relationships. Classical ethnography was long disregarded as too complex and slow when compared to other tools such as market research. This reputation is not true, since ethnographers have developed a wide range of methods going from action research, to user workshops that shorten the time to get real insights.
The more organizations need to really understand customer and user needs, the less prejudice they show towards ethnography. Microsoft, Ideo, GM, Statoil, Intel and Nokia are good examples of companies that use ethnography on a routine basis for their innovation and market process. Web usability test finally have contributed to boost the demand for ethnographic knowledge, since it is the closest possible way to understand how users interact with webs and software.
What is netnography and what is its value
If in the past decade ethnographic research has experienced a boom thanks to innovation, technology and UX markets, the emergence of the social web has produced also an innovation in the ethnographic approach and has given birth to a new methodology: netnography. Netnograhy is a very powerful tool for market research that produces a great amount of quantitative and qualitative market data of high quality in a very cost effective way. It combines an adaption of classical ethnography to the web 2.0 with a market research approach and direct consumer interaction. The value of this approach is self-evident:
- Understanding of communities, for instance patient communities in order to develop services or fishing communities in order to learn about the use of fishing material and brands • Identification of hidden needs, like psychological support in care communities
- Early detection of trends
- Possibility of having a low cost but high quality interaction with users and customers
- Direct user or customer interaction and feed back
- Low bias compared with classicalmethods
- Easy quantitative analysis of data
For this reasons, netnography is widely used by Nivea, Henkel, Lufthansa, BMW, but also by small companies. Netnography is about working with classical methodologies such as participant observation, interviews, focus groups or surveys, but using all the possibilities of social media.
How to make a good netnogragphy and obtain it full value?
The answer to this question on the next post