In the 21st century retail environment, where consumer confidence and spending patterns can shift with the speed of a tweet or Facebook post, for good or ill, traditional market research just isn’t enough anymore. While market research can add rich and robust insight, it still doesn’t address the immediate needs of location managers or the individual consumer.
To put it simply, current methods of market research take too long and cost too much. It can take weeks or even months to complete the research, evaluate it, and then disseminate policy changes back down to the front lines. Furthermore, traditional market research generally relies on large sample sizes in order to determine trends. These methods have changed little since the foundational market research techniques emerged early in the last century.
The customer has power today like never before. In the old days, one customer who had a bad experience might share his negative opinion with a friend or two, but it would take hundreds if not thousands of similar bad outcomes to affect a product or company. Now, using social media applications, that same customer can speak to an immediate audience that could fill an arena.
There’s potential to counter “negative noise”
But for all the “negative noise” that can be so quickly generated through social media, there is potential just as great to use these same tools to proactively promote the positive experiences that are going on, too.
To do that, companies must embrace new ways of thinking about market research, along with the tools and strategies needed to compete for customers, and keep them. At our company, Mindshare Technologies, we have come up with a simple, yet profound approach: the Sample Size of One™.
In traditional marketing, hundreds or thousands of respondents may be needed for the acceptable “sample size”—the mathematical minimum deemed to statistically represent a targeted customer grouping. Such mass market analysis remains useful for long-term, general planning purposes, but these methods won’t provide the “real-time” critical response needed at all levels of a company.
Customer feedback—the new playing field
That is why it is vitally important that today’s customer feedback techniques embrace the essential element of success in this Information Age: the speed of customer feedback, and correspondingly, the speed of response and solutions by businesses.
Customer feedback is the new competitive playing field. Every customer is important, every disappointed client—or happy one—has a voice multiplied by technology. Indeed, the effort to woo disaffected customers pays off: internal research shows that retained customers are three times more loyal.
At Mindshare, we address these new challenges with an array of surveying products that incorporate not only social media, texting and Internet-powered feedback applications for customers, but advanced and immediate data mining and statistical analysis. Our software applications incorporate managers and employees as part of the real-time feedback-and-response network.
For example, one of our clients—a national restaurant chain—uses such tools to maintain a quality customer experience and build customer loyalty.
At any time, a customer can give feedback about the in-store experience, possibly to say that one of their restaurants wasn’t clean enough. With our tools, this client will immediately be notified about the un-bussed tables or the neglected restroom or the sticky counter tops—with specifics about the location, time of day, and employees on duty—so action can be taken quickly and decisively.
Traditional marketing surveys may eventually identify those dirty restrooms as a problem, but perhaps not before customers are lost and revenues dip. Actionable insights and the ability to act immediately on those insights, is critical.
It comes down to the lifetime value of our customers. Act quickly to address the concerns of a disappointed customer, and that Tweet or Facebook posting may be turned from a rant that ripples across the Internet into a compliment that plants a favourable reaction to your company, service, or product.
About the author
Lonnie Mayne is chief experience officer for Salt Lake City-based Mindshare Technologies, which specializes in products and services to foster consumer satisfaction, build customer loyalty, and support employee retention. Mindshare serves more than 25 different industries including travel, hospitality, restaurant, financial, salon, automotive, and retail. For more information go to www.mshare.net