16.11.2023

Consumer research - evaluate your effectiveness

Key information:

  • Consumer research aims to detail habits, needs
    and customer expectations of a particular brand / product.
  • Studying consumer opinions through surveys is the most common form of obtaining customer information.
  • Consumer research methods are divided into types and techniques in terms of the form in which they are conducted and the type of data acquired.
  • The two main types of consumer research are qualitative and quantitative.
  • Qualitative research methods require more resources, but often provide more valuable information.
  • Consumer research (a.k.a. consumer insights) is one of the primary tools used in making important business decisions.
  • Consumer research helps spot unmet customer needs.
  • Surveys of consumer attitudes have helped companies like Old Spice optimize their operations and realize significant financial benefits.

Details below!

Why did the customer leave the store frustrated with an empty bag? Was the gray rainy weather to blame, the grimace on the salesperson's face, prices that were too high or perhaps the smell of almond tree sprayed in the store? Many entrepreneurs make their decisions based on their intuition. Consumer and marketing surveys are much more than guesswork, they are like a key to understanding the customer. They allow you to find out, not only what turned him down, but also what his needs, preferences and inclinations are. Such information gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to optimize existing processes, suggest how to attract new customers or how to position themselves in countries where there are major cultural differences.

Consumer research: types

A great many factors influence consumer decisions. They are divided into those that we perceive consciously and those that influence our decisions without our knowledge. Stimuli that escape customers' thoughts, such as the positioning of products on a shelf in a store or a sprayed smell, are called subliminal stimuli. The shopper does not think about the fact that items displayed at eye level are the most frequently chosen.

In recent years, developments in psychology and psychoanalysis have allowed consumer research to achieve previously unheard-of accuracy. Even how a customer moves his mouse cursor around an online store site can provide a wealth of information about his buying tendencies. In this case, how are consumer tests conducted?

Due to the complex nature of the purchasing process, consumer customer research (a.k.a. consumer insights) is divided into several methods. Each is designed to understand a different type of stimulus affecting the customer.

  • Secondary market research is based on data already collected, often by third parties such as Google Shopping, for example. This type of secondary data collection from various sources is often referred to as "desk research."
  • In primary research on consumer needs, on the other hand, the information is obtained directly from a specific target group.

It is also important what kind of information we want to obtain. They are divided into quantitative and qualitative. IQuantitative data describe the behavior of the entire study group and are easy to analyze. They allow a broader picture to be gained and, based on a carefully selected survey sample, their results can be generalized to a larger group of people. An example is the feedback about service on a scale of 1-5 that a customer will leave at the checkout in a clothing store.

Qualitative data is more difficult to analyze, but is often more valuable to those commissioning consumer behavior research. Therefore, a combination of both methods often yields the best results. It is worth noting, however, that despite their greater accuracy, qualitative surveys are not conducted on a sample group and cannot serve as a basis for broader conclusions. In the same store, a survey based on qualitative data could take the form of an open-ended question. For example, "What changes can we make to make your shopping experience easier?". Depending on what information the entrepreneur is looking for about customers, he or she should use appropriate qualitative or quantitative research techniques.

Consumer research techniques

Regardless of the chosen consumer research technique, the process of studying attitudes and consumer preferences is always based on information gathering. There are many techniques for capturing this data, and it is worthwhile to do it in a tailored way.

One of the most widespread techniques of consumer research, has become in recent years the method of CAWI - Computer Assisted Web Interview. It is nothing more than an online survey. It is most often used to collect quantitative data. This technique has numerous advantages. Low cost and low effort make it one of the easiest forms of consumer needs research to implement. A major advantage of this technique is also the speed with which valuable information can be obtained.

The CATI technique - Computer Assisted Telephone Interview - functions similarly. In this case, the interviewer does not have to fill out the questionnaire himself. The consultant calls the respondent and asks questions according to the interview scenario collecting information with the help of a special computer system. While this technique of surveying consumer attitudes is more labor-intensive and more expensive to implement compared to CAWI, they also offer additional advantages. Although CATI, like CAWI, is most often associated with quantitative research, qualitative information can also be collected with this method. In an interview, the interviewer can explore and expand on the respondent's answers through additional questions. Such a survey is called an "in-depth interview." Often it is these expanded and subjective answers of the interviewees that are most valuable to the person commissioning the consumer research.

CAPI - Computer Assisted Personal Interview is the most personal and expensive technique for conducting consumer surveys. It involves a "face-to-face" interview where the interviewer meets the respondent in person. It allows the most accurate insight into the subjective feelings of customers. In-depth contact, direct interaction and involvement make the data obtained in this way detailed, reliable and authentic. However, the CAPI method is time-consuming and requires careful planning in advance

PAPI - Paper And Pencil Interviewing is the most traditional of survey techniques. It is based on physical, paper-based questionnaires. This method of conducting consumer surveys is currently one of the least used. This is due to the high costs associated with the need for the physical presence of the interviewer and the respondent, the need to transfer data from the questionnaire to the computer system, but also the possibility of errors and misconduct. Unlike computer surveys, with PAPI, the respondent can easily skip questions or give incomplete answers. For this reason, this method is usually used in conjunction with simple quantitative questions on a numerical scale.

These four research methods are used most often, but there are other more comprehensive techniques for learning about consumers. These include:

  • Experiments - researchers manipulating one factor of the purchasing process
    (e.g., price), observe the reactions of the study group and draw appropriate conclusions based on this.
  • Focus Group Interview (Focus Research) - a form of research that takes the form of a meeting of several respondents (usually 6-10 people) together with a moderator to generate discussion on selected topics. This technique aims not only to learn about customer preferences, but also their bases and sources.
  • Observation - A type of survey where you record consumer behavior in their natural environment and identify factors that influence their behavior. For example, an in-store camera image may indicate the most frequented routes by consumers or the checkouts they are most likely to choose.

Each of the above-mentioned techniques is applicable to different situations and should be carefully selected for the area you want to study.

Using consumer research to optimize operations

An in-depth understanding of the customer is the foundation of any successful business. It doesn't matter whether a company sells complex CRM systems or produces luxury pens. Every aspect of the company should be optimized for what the customer is used to and what expectations they have. Consumer research of customers gives companies a great many advantages. Among them are:

  1. Risk reduction - Every business decision involves risk. At overseas expansion It is very common to talk to potential customers in target countries. This allows to better understand the market environment, the most common practices, expectations or legal norms. Information obtained directly from prospective customers can often be very different from that contained in official reports and statistics published by organizations or government bodies. Taking them into account when making strategic business decisions can significantly reduce the risk of complications and additional costs.
  2. Product and service development - A consumer survey can also, in a direct way, point out what customers lack in a particular company's product or service. Places where there is room for improvement, for example, customer service, delivery time or lack of integration with another product. With these types of questions, qualitative consumer research methods are particularly effective. Based on the results of the market research, the entrepreneur can effectively allocate resources and develop products in the direction the consumer wants. This brand approach ensures that the company remains strong and competitive.
  3. Strategy development - Consumer preference surveys make it possible to draw up an accurate market segmentation Due to the attitude of customers towards the product. This type of segmentation of the target group makes it much easier to carry out thoughtful and effective advertising campaigns where the message is carefully selected based on brand and market knowledge. This practice is known as targeted marketing, and it has already proven its value in effectively reaching customers.
  4. Building Customer Relationships - research satisfaction Customers as a type of consumer research, in addition to providing valuable information, can also contribute to creating and maintaining a positive relationship with the customer. They show that the entrepreneur is interested in his buyers and cares about their welfare.
  5. Getting ahead of the competition - Information gleaned from consumer market research can identify niches in sectors, unmet needs, or emerging market trends. Using this data to target a company's offerings to the right places and niches can make a real contribution to increasing profits and staying ahead of the competition.

Consumer behavior surveys carried out according to various techniques can provide invaluable information for many aspects of a company. Examples of consumer research show that they are often the deciding factor between the failure and financial success of a business decision.

Consumer research as a treasure trove of brand and market knowledge

The results of the market survey are used extensively, including in other important business decisions. Often when developing a chain of stores and selecting locations for new stores, the observed and collected customer information is used to select the optimal site for the new facility.

Another example is a change in brand image. Often companies with a strong track record in the market are looking to modify their image in order to reach a new target audience or to adapt to changing social norms. An example of such a company is Old Spice, which, after conducting extensive research into consumer preferences, radically changed the image it created. The result of a well-tailored marketing campaign and personalization of content was a huge financial success for the brand, an explosion in popularity among young customers and a strong market position.

Careful selection of the type of consumer research technique ensures awareness about how consumer behavior, needs and expectations are changing. This can be crucial for companies to make the right decisions.
Especially in times of crisis, when the economic situation in a given market becomes unfavorable, customer behavior changes very quickly strategies established before the crisis can become ineffective. Therefore, during these uncertain periods, it is crucial to maintain awareness of current buyers' needs.

Consumer research - examples of consumer research

Many of ConQuest Consulting's clients have already experienced the power of consumer research. One example is one of Poland's largest rail carriers, Koleje Mazowieckie. This company, looking for the next directions of development, decided to get to know its passengers better, more than 59 million of them in 2022. To this end, consultants from ConQuest Consulting conducted one of the most traditional forms of qualitative research. Interviewers conducted more than 2,000 face-to-face PAPI paper surveys with passengers of Mazovia Railways in Poland on side routes. The data obtained from these interviews was then analyzed in depth by the team, and a detailed report was produced based on the data, including both summaries of all responses and the recommendations developed.

The results of the consumer surveys allowed Mazovia Railways to accurately identify consumer needs, detailing processes that were working poorly and those that travelers were most satisfied with. Based on the report's findings, the company later implemented extensive changes to increase passenger loyalty and engagement.

Is it worth conducting customer satisfaction surveys?

The results of consumer surveys are an indispensable support for making important business decisions. Their use ensures a better understanding of customer needs and behavior and habits. This research can take different forms depending on the desired data, available resources and characteristics of the research group. Top companies in global markets such as Amazon have long used tools to observe and understand the consumer. Using consumer research is an investment that enables growth and financial returns.

Sebastian Wodecki

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