Personas to inform and inspire service innovation

In a follow-up project to the early explorations in 2009, STBY was asked to develop a series of personas for Southern Water. Again, we worked closely together with the Design Council team on this project. We conducted an in-depth ethnographic study among 23 households in South East England, identified 4 distinct personas, and visualised those in a series of videos and a full colour A2 poster.

The main objective of the project was to develop a better understanding of how consumers perceive their water consumption, and of their attitudes towards new ways to monitor this. Based on this understanding opportunities for new services and tools to support consumers in managing their water consumption were identified.

The analysis of the interview data revealed that people differ considerably in their understanding of water consumption, their sensitivity to the costs of it, and their sensitivity to the environmental impact of it. We investigated both their daily practices and the underlying motivations and concerns. The 4 personas identified and illustrated each call for specific tools and services that they would be happy to embrace.

Personas are a bespoke way of exploring customer typologies. They are not an off-the-shelf marketing segmentation, driven by demographics, such as age, gender, income etc. They are rather a qualitative typology,  driven by characteristics explaining customers’ relationships with specific products and services. Personas are focused on in-depth understanding of customers: Why do they use these products/services? And why do they care about these?

Personas are used to inform and inspire service innovation. They are not meant to pigeon hole every single customer an organisation encounters. They are rather used to strategically inform innovation management, and to inspire new propositions and communications. Personas specifically enable consumer-driven service innovation.