Netnography has already been used to research banking sector consumers in a number of peer-reviewed publications. Table 11.1 shows that it has been applied to various areas, although it has primarily been used to study various factors imputed to relate to the creation or destruction of meaningful relationships between banks and customers. Paunonen, Lehtinen and Aro (2012) analyzed online forums from different countries in various languages and identified five attributes that they theorized were related to the creation of valuable banking relationships: trust, efficiency, self-service, personal contact, and extra services. Other online comments indicated a strong level of distrust in banks due to the suspicion that they wanted to sell products that customers may not need. With respect to the attribute of efficiency, customers discussed their desire for banks to oversee the fast, simple management of their financial transactions. Customers also were concerned about the distancing of banks from their customers and the consequent impersonal relationships they fostered.

In another study, Medberg and Heinonen (2014) analyzed the creation of value in the customer-bank relationship outside the line of visibility of service encounters. Using 579 posts from discussions of retail banking in 18 online communities, the authors identified four different factors that drove customer value: shared moral value, responsibility value, relationship value, and heritage value. “Shared moral value” refers to moral compatibility between the customer and perceived bank standards. “Responsibility value” is the banks practice of responsibility and integrity toward its customers. “Relationship value” encompasses longterm relationships between the customer and the bank, and “heritage value” focuses on relationships that were initiated by the customers parents or family members, turning the relationship with the bank into a family memory. In this context, netnography s utility lay in its ability to take an allegedly rationalist, technical, transaction, and economic activity, and identify the rich and complex set of underlying cultural values and meanings that undergird it. Netnography provided Medberg and Heinonens (2014) work with a rich window into the roles of elements such as heritage, morals, and family on the bank-customer relationships, helping to build what Kozinets (2006,279) describes as “intimate understanding of the actual reality of the consumer” (Kozinets, 2006, 279)—which is something that many marketers and business managers desire.

Table 11.1 Review of Studies That Have Applied Netnography to the Banking Sector



Creation of value between the bank and the customer

Paunonen, Lehtinen, & Aro, 2012; Medberg & Heinonen, 2014; Tang, Mehl, Eastlick, He & Card, 2016

Online banking brand positioning

Clemente-Ricolfe, 2017

Managing complaints in the banking sector

Melancon & Dalakas, 2016

In another study, Tang, Mehl, Eastlick, He, and Card (2016) collected social media data from the customers of 68 different banks that were posting on a popular and independent online forum. Their study revealed that the anger and outrage expressed by social media consumers on the forum had significant predictive value for decreased profitability of financial institutions from the second year onwards.

Netnography has also been used to gain insight into online bank brand positioning, to compile a ranking of banking brands and to understand how and why particular consumers view particular banking brands as “better” or “worse” than others. For example, using information from two consumer opinion websites, Clemente-Ricolfe (2017) identified two groups of competitors and two types of attributes in online banks’ positioning in Spain. On one hand, consumers’ perceptions of online banks as competitors were based on their size, in line with specialized literature on the topic. On the other, negative (or positive) attributes of products were perceived to be offset by high (or low) value in other attributes, in this case higher (or lower) returns. Finally, netnography can also be used to analyze complaint management in the banking sector. Melancon and Dalakas (2016) grouped together consumers’ motives for complaining on social media. Eight different segments were identified using negative comments, concerns or questions asked by consumers on Facebook with respect to ten different companies, including one bank. Motives for complaining were culturally complex and had a strong emotional component, and the complaints were not limited to simple questions of performance and efficiency. For example, the largest segment consisted of previously loyal consumers who were expressing their intention of changing brands because they felt personally offended by some action. The authors also determined that if a message was eliminated without a reply having been received from the company, it generated a larger number of messages that were even more negative.

In summary, instances where netnography has already been applied in the banking sector have led to the following improvements in our knowledge of financial sector consumers:

  • 1. They increase our understanding of customers’ reasoning, which is the basis of any commercial activity. Netnography enables in-depth analysis of the nature of the consumer that goes beyond the outwardly apparent. This makes it possible to identify cultural ideals or values, for instance, relationships with banks that were initiated by family members (Medberg & Heinonen, 2014).
  • 2. They confirm or broaden the existing literature on the topics being studied. By providing a less artificial and more realistically grounded view of the consumer, netnography facilitates a wider look at the elements regarding financial services, their perceptions, and their consumption. For example, one netnographic study suggested that, because of compensatory mechanisms yet to be fully developed and validated, but present in the research, high returns on an account could compensate for the existence of high fees (Clemente-Ricolfe, 2017). The theorists propounded, based on the data, that Fishbein’s compensatory model would support this finding.
  • 3. Naturalistic social media data represents an opportunity for marketing research method that fits with changes in the world of banking technology and an increased emphasis on customer journey, user experience, and experience design elements. This data can effectively be used by the banking sector to get closer to the increasingly technological and online world of the banking consumer. Banks are increasingly paying attention to the need for customer experience design to play a role in their processes. Netnography s empirical basis and facilitation of deep experiential understanding provide a structured approach to utilizing this rich social media data for pursuit of this goal of enhanced customer experience understanding.
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