Really Understand Customer Shopping Behavior—THE Top 3 Questions to Ask

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by Kristin Harripaul

Do you really understand your customers’ shopping behavior? A majority of marketers (76 percent) agree that they need to be more data-focused to succeed, but flawed/out-dated research, the wrong data and the latest technology trends could easily be leading them astray.

And, since rapidly evolving customer expectations and behaviors have already laid waste to famed retail giants and carved out a new landscape, it’s no wonder the average CMO’s tenure is often half that of their peers. Their challenge? Harnessing their data. In fact, nearly 50 percent of today’s marketers report simply “trusting their gut” rather than consumer data on where to invest their marketing budget.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. By simply focusing on the right questions, marketers can move past the data challenge and drive measurable retail decisions based on customer shopping behavior. Besides, if you’re going to invest time, money and resources, then it’s critical to know that your efforts aren’t being wasted.

Checkout THE 3 questions you need answered before you pull the trigger on that next campaign…

1) Where are Your Gaps?

In their quest for sales growth immortality, each year marketers pour more and more dollars into the hot, new trending “solution”, be it digital signage, loyalty programs, etc. Unfortunately, the problem with this “15 minutes of fame” approach to marketing is just that, often it doesn’t resonate with the customer. Flooded by the market’s noise, customers forget all about these tactics shortly after seeing them, and then they’re on to the next new “shiny object”.

The takeaway? All that glitters is not gold. What works for one company may not work for you. Rather than playing copycat and hoping to replicate the results of the latest or most successful campaigns, you need to do your own customer research and figure out why customers choose your specific products or services. In this way you can establish a baseline of your current performance, identify your strengths and most importantly, pinpoint the gaps in your customers’ experience. To gather these kinds of insights, use quantitative research methods such as a quick sample survey—you should be able to get the results back as quickly as 2-3 weeks.

2) What Separates You from “WOW-ing” Your Customers?

After establishing a performance benchmark, the next step is figure out how to really delight your customers. Is a customer’s experience with your brand just okay, or is it amazing? Do you stand out among the crowd? What touch points are most important to your customers when interacting with your brand? What factors influence their purchasing behavior? And finally, what is your competition doing? At this stage, you should be looking to reward customers for selecting your products and services, outside of just giveaways and discounts. Getting this kind of intel requires a deeper dive best solved through qualitative research, which usually won’t take more than 4-6 weeks. And, mobile research is definitely an option you’ll want to explore here, because it will get you in front of your customers when it matters most—at the point of purchase.

Another key consideration here: the physical store. Do you know if you are meeting your customers’ expectations in retail stores? With all the buzz, it’s easy to overlook spend on the physical store. But, if we look at the numbers, over 94 percent of retail sales take place in retail stores (U.S. Census Bureau). Not to mention, the store is the heart of a brand and your one opportunity to showcase more than just a pretty face. It is also the one place you have complete control over how customers experience your brand. That said, at this stage you should also focus on ensuring that what customers experience in-store is as compelling as the advertising promises you’ve wrapped around it. Mobile research will also be especially useful here.

3) How Will You Get Your Customers to Come Back?

After you’ve finalized where you are and where you want to go, the next step is to setup a system to gather these customer insights on an ongoing basis. This setup will allow you to stay up-to-date with ever-changing customer needs and shopping behavior so that you can continuously improve your experience and remain relevant to your customers. At this stage, your focus is on customer retention/loyalty—you want to make sure you’re giving your customers a reason to come back. After all, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20 percent.

Gut instincts or flawed/outdated research should never be the basis for your marketing spend. Again, if you’re going to invest time, money and resources, then it’s critical to know that your efforts aren’t being wasted. The right data can help you better identify, win, serve and retain customers. And, it’s not hard to achieve a better understanding of your customers, just remember the 3 keys: identify your gaps, determine your “wow” factor and establish a system for maintaining continuous improvement and relevance moving forward.

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Part 4: Digital in Retail—4 Keys that Drive In-Store Conversion >>
Part 5: Are You Losing Customers at the Finish Line? >>

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