How a National Park Discovered Real Customer Needs Using Digital Ethnography


The mission of Metsahallitus, National Parks of Finland, includes managing all natural conservation areas including national parks and dozens of cultural heritage sites in Finland. Metsahallitus protects endangered species and provides free basic services for hikers, next to selling permits for hunting and fishing to maintain a healthy balance.

The Challenge

Metsahallitus’s initial goal was testing new customer centric services and processes. But over time they realized that their real problem was lacking a good understanding of their customers. They found they didn’t know the real needs of customers hiking their national parks, what kind of problems they face. 

Starting from scratch was a challenge because they needed to change their point of view. They had many moments in which they thought they had correct assumptions about what they do for their visitors and customers. Susanne Nylund, service designer, sociologist, and customer research specialist at Metsahallitus said about this:

“Traditionally we do more quantitative studies, and never have we really dug deeper. We didn’t understand who our customer is and what kind of customer groups we have. Digital ethnography has helped us to better understand the customer, and as a result we have established new standards and new requirements for our service development.”

Susanne shared the research results have been an eye-opening experience for their entire team.

The Solution

Using a Digital Ethnography approach, Metsahallitus talked directly to customers about hiking, outdoor activities and recreation. They asked them how to develop their digital services to be used in nature and asked them how they recycle in parks. The topics were quite abstract sometimes. For example they asked about the dreams of hikers about the ultimate hiking routes. 

As they had access to customer insights 24/7, when there was a need, the next day they could have the discussion in the forum. Susanne continued:

It’s agile, fast and we can receive the results right away.”

Keeping customers close is valuable for Metsahallitus. After learning more about their customers, they created visitor profiles. These profiles have been a good base for the business development already. With the help of these visitor profiles they could categorize visitors and offer different services for each instead of offering everything to all. 

About CMNTY’s qualitative research platform, Susanne mentioned that it was easy enough to recruit customers and that she really liked the flexibility of available research methods. It worked well on mobile, making things easier for most of the participants.

CMNTY Platform supports various qualitative research methods

The Impact

Digital ethnography has helped Metsahallitus receive broad customer insights and it inspired many colleagues. At the same time, customers discovered things about the park they didn’t know before, and learned how their feedback can be used to improve the services offered. 

With this deep qualitative research Metsahallitus has found the possible changes in trends in the hiking culture. They are now going to create scenarios for the future to help internal teams proactively develop their services.


Metsahallitus started with a pilot project a year ago with the goal of testing new customer centric services and processes. Today, the results beat their wildest expectations and after the study, customer centricity became one of the core themes in their virtues. They can define their customers better and make the needed changes in their customer service development. It was a shift of focus, from internal discussions to outside. Something that can be really beneficial in customer service development within the organizations. 

What’s Next? 

Metsahallitus are now planning their next steps. They are thinking of having a continuous and a bigger insights community in the future, perhaps even a B2B community with their partners!