The Kellogg Company is a leading producer of cereals with manufacturing units in 18 countries and successfully selling its products in more than 180 countries!! What has made Kellog’s a successful company? Its because Kellogg’s has established itself as a consumer-oriented company and not a product-oriented company. Kellogg’s has always focused on the wants and expectations of its customers, and developed products for their customers.
Understanding consumers is not just about knowing how they feel and what they think about your products. The only real way to know your customers is through deep consumer research.
With markets becoming more competitive, having the right information about the preferences and concerns of consumers can make or break the deal. Consumer research comes across as an important tool to make an informed decision and mitigate risks. No wonder more and more organizations are moving towards consumer research.
What is Consumer Research?
Consumer research can be defined as a section of market research that helps organizations to identify a consumer’s inclination, motivation, and purchase behavior.
Customer research aims to focus on demographics (such as age, location, gender, and income level) of an existing consumer group as well as a potential customer group. Where are your buyers? What is influencing their buying decisions? To which competitors are you losing your customers? Many such questions are left unanswered without deep consumer research. There are a variety of methods by which consumer research can be conducted – Quantitative and qualitative research methods. These research methods use data collected from surveys, interviews, focus group discussions and case studies. In recent days customer data gathered through online reviews, social media comments and customer forums are also used for consumer research.
5 Ways Consumer Research Improves Your Business Decision MakingHere are 5 ways in which consumer research can help businesses make educated business decisions.
1. Identify Customer Needs
As companies try to become customer-centric, they are embracing customer intelligence to collect customer data and hear consumer conversations. Product developers and researchers aim to understand the wants, needs, and expectations of customers.
When Danish toy-maker Lego conducted a study on its customers, it found a startling fact – only 9% of its customers were girls! This led the company to change its strategy to attract more girls. Lego came up with a new toy series called “Friends.” They changed not only the packaging of this new line, but also the colors, figurines, and size!”
With consumer research, companies can gather and analyze data regarding their consumers, market, products, or services. It helps understand the needs of consumers so that you can create personalized experiences for anyone who engages with your brand.
2. Understand Your Competition
Knowing how you stack up against your competition can be a massive advantage for any company. To truly understand the strengths and weaknesses of your company, you need to appraise your competitor’s activities and compare them with your own activities. But how do you do it?
This is where consumer research comes in! With customer data, you can derive deep insights into your competitor’s offerings, their strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for your own organization.
For example, Starbucks made use of digital consumer feedback to launch its dairy-free milk alternatives to stay ahead of its competitors. From 2012 to 2017, dairy-free milk alternatives in the U.S. grew 61%, with almond, coconut, and soy milk being the most popular types. Understanding the consumer trends, and staying a step ahead of its competition, the company launched drinks with coconut milk in 2015 and began offering almond milk in 2016. Very soon, Starbucks began offering oat milk in its European stores in 2018 to keep up with consumer trends there.
3. Test New Ideas
We all know some of the big names such as New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, Colgate Kitchen Entrées, Earring Magic Ken Doll, and Wheaties Dunk-a-Balls Cereal. Can you see the similarities in these products? Yes, they all failed!!
The sad truth is that most new products and new ideas end up in failure. There is an estimate of new product failures – they range from 33% to 90% based on the kind of industry.
Companies consistently strive hard to improve the success rate of their new products or new ideas. One of the most important ways is to conduct sound and thoughtful consumer research.
Knowing what will work in the market and what won’t takes more than a gut feeling. To judge if a product line would connect with the consumers, brands like Nike conduct consumer research to test new ideas. With the help of consumer insights, Nike realized that most of its target audience is not professional athletes, but many of them were striving to be more like them. So at the 2012 Olympics in London, Nike introduced a campaign to encourage athletics called ‘Find Your Greatness. It aimed to promote the aspirations of being an athlete, not just with high-performing athletes but wanted to include all people regardless of their physical capability. The campaign was well planned and was data-driven, of course, carefully analyzed before taking any action. This message inspired many consumers and had enormous appeal to target consumers.
4. Stay Relevant
When the world is changing as rapidly as it is happening today, the biggest challenge we all face is staying relevant to our target market. And do you know what is the main reason behind the rapid changes? It is the ever-changing behavior of our customers.
Today’s consumers have greater choices and opportunities, which means they can easily switch to a company that offers better products and services. Losing relevance will only cost the company its market share. Haven’t we seen Sony Walkman failing to stay relevant in the digital music era, and the taxi industry doom with no preparedness to battle the UBER uprise!!
“The pre-eminent skill required to shift ahead in the twenty-first century is the ability to see and seize.” -Adamson and Steckel, authors of Shift Ahead. Here I give an example of a company that missed to stay relevant in a world that was changing rapidly – The story of the rise and fall of Blackberry! Many of us remember how Blackberry was once an indispensable device. But its inability to recognize the needs of the consumers quickly gave way to the iPhones and Androids. The lesson learned here is that there is no brand or no product that is indispensable – no one can dismiss the needs of its most loyal consumers.
5. Business Growth
For any business to grow and develop, a well-researched business strategy is a must. That being said, a major part of the strategy depends on the acceptance of the products by its customers. There are many ways of developing new business, and one of the most important ways is to recognize the gap in the market.
See how consumer research helped Aguas Danone, a bottled water company in Argentina to identify market opportunities. When the company´s sales started falling, Aguas Danone identified two reasons – health and flavor. While bottled water was perceived as healthy, it did not offer good taste. Soft drinks and juices tasted good but were perceived as highly caloric. The company realized there was an opportunity for healthy drinks that can offer taste as well as flavor. As a result, they launched flavored bottled waters ‘Ser’ with great success. According to data from Euromonitor International, Aguas Danone has remained the leader in reduced sugar-flavored bottled water in Argentina ever since its launch in 2002, overtaking giants such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé.
Leading companies such as The Coca-Cola Company and Barclays, have constantly improved their existing products and focused on developing new products. The Coca-Cola Company aligns its corporate strategy of ‘refreshing everyone who is touched by our business, by conducting market research to identify consumer needs. Similarly, Barclays conducted consumer research to better understand the needs of this target market.
Consumer research has emerged as an important tool to understand your customers. By looking into consumer psychology and the forces behind customer buying behavior, companies can craft new products, marketing campaigns and increase profitability.
Companies should talk to consumers, watch out for frustrations, and most importantly, identify their needs and expectations!