Deep consumer insights create the foundation for breakthrough customer experiences that can set your brand apart.
Toward the end of last year, ecommerce giant Amazon revealed exciting details about its new brick-and-mortar store. Called Amazon Go, the grocery store promises to eliminate long checkout lines. The idea is to allow shoppers to enter, grab the items they want, pay, and leave—all through a mobile app.
The first Amazon Go store is bound to open this year in Seattle, so we still don’t know whether the concept would click and how smoothly (or otherwise) it would go. But we also can’t deny that it’s an impressive reinvention of the customer experience particularly in the age of instant gratification.
Innovative strategies like this are a result of rigorous market research. If the most outrageous (but powerful) business ideas have something in common, it’s that they’re all rooted in profound consumer insights. Unfortunately, this is where most organizations fumble. A lot of brands use inapt data gathering methods to understand their consumers, and the results they generate only scratch the surface. In the end, they fail to encapsulate the deepest sentiments of their customers.
What does it take to truly get to know your customers?
In an interview, David Rubin, former marketing director for haircare at Unilever and former head of brand at Pinterest, shared some secrets behind customer-centric experiences. He said,
“At Unilever, we go straight to the consumer to gather insights that will lead to breakthrough ideas and communication. We believe in immersing ourselves in their culture to better understand them in ways that will allow us to not just market to them but to add value to their lives, creating products they need and want. It’s critical to get personally down-and-dirty in this process; focus groups and quantitative research have their place, but are in no way replacements for first-hand, direct consumer contact.”
Embracing this mentality, Unilever employs unconventional ways to motivate their employees to find high-quality consumer insights. For example, they encourage their team to go to concerts that will be attended by their target demographic. There, they observe, gather data, and talk to customers.
It’s this openness to people’s ideas that brought a lot of success to the many products launched by Unilever. Customer insights also serve as the springboard for groundbreaking customer support and marketing initiatives.
But this mindset isn’t for big brands alone. Small and medium enterprises can benefit from the same practice. Here are four great techniques you can try to intimately understand the customer journey.
1. Shop-along market research
Shop-along research is a qualitative form of consumer research. Under this method, a trained researcher accompanies a customer while they browse and shop for items. The researcher then asks questions while the consumer strolls inside the store. The questions they’ll be asking would depend on the research goals, but here are some of the most common ones:
• Is it easy to navigate the store and find what you need?
• Were you able to get everything you need from the store?
• What motivated you to buy the items in your cart?
• Is there anything you don’t like about your shopping experience?
If your goal is to collect immediate, real-time feedback from your customers, this one’s an appropriate method. You can recruit study participants right when they step into your store. Just make sure to inform them first about the research you’re conducting.
For information recall and analysis, some researchers use cameras to document shoppers’ movement within the store, as well as their interview responses.
2. Customer diaries
Another form of qualitative market research, customer diaries give researchers a close and detailed look at the customer journey. Here, study participants fill out a journal. They write about their shopping experiences, thoughts about brands and their products, and even their daily activities that may not be related to their purchases.
Analyzing customer diaries can take a long time, but they’d also provide you with rich insights. They can help you uncover the pain points of the customer experience, allowing you to streamline problematic processes. You may also gain new ideas for new products or services by immersing yourself in consumers’ thoughts and opinions.
Customer co-design is a collaborative approach. Here, marketers, product specialists, or customer relations experts work directly with customers to create products, services, or processes that reflect their preferences. On top of this, co-design activities are also a good way to capture profound consumer insights.
This process is applicable for several business initiatives, including these:
• customer journey overhaul
• product development
• streamlining customer support processes
• setting up online consumer communities
4. Test marketing
There are several good reasons why brands should pre-test their new products, services, or processes to a small group of consumers before officially rolling them out to the rest of their target customers. By doing so, they’ll be able to spot issues, tweak or enhance some aspects, and incorporate improvements as pointed out by customers themselves. That way, companies can be sure that their innovations accurately reflect customers’ preferences.
Before conducting a test marketing, be sure to create a comprehensive plan. Determine your study participants, write down your specific objectives for the activity, and identify the most important questions you want answered. This provides a clear direction for your research activity, ensuring that you’ll be able to gather the most useful consumer insights.