How to know what your customers, users or patients want? In our first post on netnography we described how important it is to have a good understanding on what is needed versus what is wanted and how ethnography can achieve this. Yet, ethnography can be time consuming and we introduced netnography as a tool to apply ethnography’s great ability to gain real insights on a mass scale. But how to do it?
Netnography is optimized market information
Netnography consists basically on applying exactly the same means than ethnography to field work; only that the field is now not a social space located physically, but, but a social space on the internet. The main point of a good ethnography is to observe and listen. If you want to analyze how people use, symbolize and take decisions on furniture, you would have to visit many households, take notes, pictures, listen to conversations on furniture as they appear by chance, visit referred households, stores and factories, make specific interviews and later perhaps work with focus groups and surveys: a hell of work and money. Using Netnography you can reach thousands of real people talking about real problems in real contexts, instead of just a sample, as classical ethnography does.
Huge amounts of customers talking
You can do exactly the same in a couple of days just observing furniture communities on the web. For instance, a quick search in Google of “furniture” and “Valencia” showed in the first pages over 30 forums on furniture and decoration. These forums have an average of 500 to 800 active users (some less, some more), which means the capacity of observing between 15.000 and 24.000 users. This is a huge amount of users and potential customers talking on the issue of furniture and decoration. Observation is easy and soon categories emerge such as uses of furniture (manufacturers don’t expect, such as recycling), symbolic value of decoration.
Customer generated ideas as clue for real needs
If you pay attention, users speak about more things than just furniture. They talk and exchange ideas on decoration, on kitchens and on do-it-yourself issues. If you listen even more carefully you will see that they produce and share lots of ideas that give clues on their needs. For instance users of the monitored forums produced 20 ideas on how to reshape IKEA furniture, 460 ideas on how to optimize space in bathrooms, 138 ideas on space optimization in children’s rooms, 145 ideas on how to re-use office furniture and 74 ideas on how to recycle furniture.
Besides of producing interesting product or services ideas, these conversations give clues on real needs of users; basically space optimization and re-use of furniture. For a furniture producer or retailer this is an interesting information in the creation of new product and services that meet what people need (space solutions) and not only what they want (size, color, style).
A community for everything – the case of fertility
The furniture example gives a small glimpse of what insights can be obtained by using Netnography. For each activity there is a community where to get in depth insights of users and customers that give competitive advantage by covering their real needs. For instance in health, e-patients and patients communities are some of the most mature and empowered users and customers. This is especially true for fertility, where service is provided mainly by private clinics that target wealthy couples and for this reason very demanding and highly informed on treatments and research.
A netnography of German patient communities showed that 43% of patients were producing opinions on clinics, 24% on success rates 75% giving judgments on doctors, around 27% sharing high level research materials and 80% talked about their patient experience (the sum is not 100% because the same patient discusses many issues). Also there was a lot of ethical a legal discussion on egg donation (68%). Patients, women were talking mainly about emotions and their subjective experience rather than objective parameter’s, rates, etc. All this insights are more valuable than market research for the right pateint care strategy and we used them with advantage for a positioning that has increased patient flows significantly.
Interesting also is how these women share this discussio0ns outside of forums using social media and how fast the effect of an opinion gets multiplied within two weeks to over 5.000 other users.
How to do it – the case of Nivea; practical solutions versus sexual appeal
Volker Bilgram of HYVE describes in this slideshare presentation how Nivea used netnography as a key element in order to co-create with consumers its new black and white stainless deodorants. Observing communities, Nivea understood that all brands covered the basic aspect of deodorants better or worse: avoid body smell. But while advertising has been insisting on the sexual side of (absence of) of body smell or enforcing the feeling of shame, insecurity or guilt due to body smell, users were complaining about stains.
Based on this insight, Nivea started listening to consumers ideas and generated a crowdsourcing co-creation campaign that ended in the involvement of consumers in R&D (ValueCreation’s specialty): at the end black&white stainless deo has been a market success.
The netnography process –ethnography with marketing orientation
The netnography process is similar to classical ethnography. But it combines a research approach with a heavy marketing orientation. In a first phase the object of study has to be defined with the help of secondary sources (literature and internet), concept maps and interviews. In a second step communities have to be selected.
The second phase consists of observation: anonymous, participant, inquiring, generating discussions or conducting interviews as conversations; even questionnaires and surveys can be introduced (attention to their scientific value has to be paid). Classical tools as a field diary (in digital format) are very useful.
Identify innovation areas and innovative users
Then all of the rough data have to be analyzed in a qualitative and quantitative way (the latter with software and 2.0 analysis tools) in order to identify the real innovation fields that can add value to real needs of users. Also innovative users have to be found filtering active users, out of the lead users to reach at the end a small group of innovators that can participate in the R&D process. Out of this R&D process a new and useful product or service has to come out.
The same communities that provided the information and the innovation are the first ones to be brand ambassadors (see “commercial living lab 5”), since they have been involved in the process and therefore your innovation’s best sales force.
For any question on how to make a good netnography to improve your business or how to get best value of your customers, you can contact us anytimne with no charge (info@valuecreation,es)