Customer Retention

The PEC Review: Ethnio Helps Understand Customers

Successful online retailers are often customer-focused service companies rather than just purveyors of products.

Put another way, many successful retailers are successful not just because of the products they offer or the effectiveness of their marketing, but rather because they do a good job of taking care of the customer.

Zappos is an excellent example of giving customers exceptional service—giving them what they want. But how do you know what customers really want? And if they told you want they wanted, how would you know if they were telling you the truth or if they even really knew what they wanted?

These are the sorts of questions that are not going to be easily answered with Google analytics or even some survey solutions alone. You need to speak with customers at some length and really get to understand what drives their buying decisions and what they perceive to be good service.

Ethnio is an online service created to help businesses recruit customers for just this sort of in depth discussion. If you think your business could benefit from speaking voice-to-voice with real customers either one-on-one or in focus groups, the Ethnio solution is an easy and cost effective way to get participants lined up, which is why I am awarding the service four out of a possible five stars in this, “The PEC Review.”

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column and video aimed at introducing you to the products or services that I believe will help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, let me show you what I like about Ethnio.

A Clear Function and Purpose

In my mind, Ethnio has a clear, well-defined purpose: recruit customers to participate in research. And this is a huge help.

I am a firm believer in customer research. In fact, I have used some form of customer research in many projects, ecommerce or otherwise.

While I personally believe that the most challenging part of the process is actually interviewing the customers—asking the proper questions and listening well—the next hardest part may well be getting customers to participate. Thus, Ethnio is addressing a large concern.

Filtered Respondents

Of course not just any old customer will do. If you are really going to get good data, you will need to help screen potential respondents. Ethnio offers a tool to help assemble “screeners” that filter out respondents that for any number of reasons might affect the accuracy of the research.

Ease of Use

For me to recommend any product, it must be relatively easy to use and implement. Ethnio is no exception. Creating the survey and engages potential respondents is simple, intuitive, and fast.

Notifications and recruit management is also well handled.


Recruiting 20 customers to participate in your survey using Ethnio is free. To recruit 200 customers or potential customers to participate in your interview or focus group, will cost you $400, and recruiting 2,000 folks will cost you $800.

Ethnio is also affiliated with research firm Bolt | Peters so you can also easily engage professionals to help conduct your interviews. These prices are generally quoted on a case-by-case basis.

The Missing Screen Viewer

I want to mention that Ethnio has disabled, for the moment, its screen sharing functions. One possible way to interview customers or at least interact with them would be to look at their computer screen while they navigate your site and comment about what they see or comprehend.

In the past, Ethnio included screen sharing as a feature, but the company removed it for further development.

“We took out the screen sharing and recording features from Ethnio…for now,” the service said on its website. “Until we can do a perfect job of dealing with the complex world of screen sharing, we don’t want to include a feature that only works some of the time.”

I really liked this approach. I wish more software companies would wait to roll out features until after they “just worked,” rather than using their customer base as beta (alpha) testers. So thinks Ethnio.

four stars graphic

Summing Up

Ethnio is a good tool that will help you recruit customers and potential customers from your own web traffic to participate in longer personal interviews or focus groups. The real payoff will be the customer intelligence you collect and how you will be able to improve your business. But for helping to get the process started, I have awarded Ethnio four out of a possible five stars in this, “The PEC Review.”

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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