by Rick Kroetsch
Too often we get caught up in our busy mode doing the same thing over and over again. When it comes to your customers, this can be dangerous. More information is being put in front of them every day, potentially influencing their purchase decisions. We may not truly know what they currently want, let alone how we’ll satisfy them in the future.
They’re watching videos on YouTube, listening to friends on social media, reading content about the latest trends, and following blog recommendations. If we don’t stay on top of what customers are using/buying/planning, how successful will we be in the future? Do you really know what they’re doing or thinking? Or is it time to check in with them?
Smaller, faster, more often
We need to get in front of our customers and ask them some questions to get an idea of what they like or want. Don’t make your research just a once-a-year project. Get in the habit of asking fewer questions, more often. People will be more open to taking short surveys that take one to two minutes than they will spending five or 10 minutes at a time.
Put together a research plan
Break your store or business into sections, departments, product lines, trends—whatever you want to question people about to gain some insights. You don’t need to do everything at once. For example, you could ask just eight questions every three weeks. At the end of the year you’d have answers to more than 130 questions that you wouldn’t have known before.
Ask them about:
- products they like
- trends they’re interested in
- websites they visit
- stores they like shopping in
- online companies they buy from and why
- products they wished you carried
- what they like to cook
- people they follow
- what they like to eat
You don’t have to ask only about your products or services. Try to understand what else motivates them as consumers and why. You might be amazed at how it can help your business.
Make it fun and inviting
Let them know you value their opinion. If you were to ask most people if they’d like to answer a survey, their automatic response would be no. You need to find a way to engage them. For example, you could confine your survey to your loyalty program customers one month to demonstrate to them how important they are to your business. Another month you could randomly ask customers in the parking lot, who may or may not be heading to your store, for their insights. Remember: you’re not just trying to get input from existing customers, you’re also trying to determine how to attract new customers.
Find staff members who truly want to engage with people and let them run with it and have fun. Brainstorm and come up with ideas that will make the short surveys successful and help you achieve your goals of understanding both current and future customers. The friendlier you are, the more the customer will relax and open up.
Don’t just gather information—make sure it’s actionable. You want the data to help you plan your business, review product lines, expand into new products, etc. Don’t sit on the conclusions. Put them to work. This will benefit you, and your customers will see that you’re listening to them.
Rick Kroetsch is the vice-president and associate publisher of Alive Publishing Group.