‘Know thy customer’ is the magic marketing mantra behind breakthrough business successes. Gaining insight into the mind of the end consumer is crucial to surviving competition and change. The traditional categories of market research were either qualitative and quantitative or primary and secondary. Given the paradigm shift in mentality and markets, a more relevant classification of research tools in the current environment would be – online and offline.
Below are some handy, smart and effective tools that can help in sensing the consumer psyche:
• Social network survey apps:
The flood of applications, designed for Facebook or other social media platforms, has opened up a world of opportunities to analyse consumer behaviour. If you go to the Apps section on Facebook and search for ‘survey’ or ‘polls’, you will find numerous tools that allow you to send surveys across a broad network. The volume and range of consumers on social networking sites ensure that you will reach a large number of respondents, even if it is limited to those who find your poll or survey directly. Further, since the responses will be from people who are genuinely interested in participating, this will result in more authentic and meaningful data.
• Google tools:
In a world of diverse needs and interests, the Google Trend tool is an incredible way to find out where some of these converge. You can enter a keyword on the site and see the search volume involving that keyword for a period. Google Insights for Search is a similar service providing insights into the search terms people have been using with a visual representation of regional interest on a country’s map. It gives a clear indication of how mainstream media buzz is influencing people, and specifically if it is driving them to perform more searches on a given topic. This tool is useful in gauging brand and advertising impact, negativity influence and demographic patterns.
• Answer sites:
A simple and quick way of gathering consumer opinions is to go to sites like Yahoo Answers or similar forums on sites such as LinkedIn and ask a question that can be answered by anybody. You can also browse these sites for relevant questions related to your research topic. This may not be the most scientific approach but it is a quick and legitimate way to capture views and opinions.
• Blog exploration: Blogs are frequently updated and can be a good measure of public sensibilities and reactions. Blog specific search engines such as Technorati or Blogpulse help you pick up conversations and passages pertinent to your research. Their topicality and conversational tone make them excellent vehicles for understanding rapidly changing trends.
• Do-it-yourself (DIY) tools:
With the internet, information is a click away. Gut Check and AYTM can also be used to get instant reactions to your campaign design, copy and brand stand.
Offline Tools: •
Focus groups: Focus groups featuring open-ended discussions are an easy to way to get a ‘first-hand’ view of consumer attitudes, personalities and needs. A moderator can direct the discussion ensuring that you obtain relevant input from it.
• Experimentation: There are creative methods to tap into the consumer’s psyche without invading their personal space. Blind taste tests involving your product as well as the competition’s and free product trials linked to feedback are just couple of ways you can generate valuable predictive data on how your product will fare in the market.
• Observation: Observing customers at the point of purchase is another technique used by researchers to understand purchase patterns, selection criteria and decision influencers.
• Scanner data: A number of consumers can be given incentives to be part of a research panel. They then receive a card that needs to be presented at any time they go shopping. Their shopping record is tracked and collated with demographic information to better understand consumer inclination and behaviour. Start using the tools that are relevant or appropriate for your business and you will be amazed at the insights you gain into your target market in a relatively short span of time.