We are in October and coming to the end of the year. For businesses , this year has been a year of mixed bags of opportunities and total disasters. Certain countries have been sneezing and affecting the rest of the world’s economies with bad colds. The Euro zone and the effects of that continuing crisis, the unsettled situation in the Arab region and parts of Africa, the rise and rise of China and India , the big banks bang in the USA and the list goes on. Businesses have been left reeling under the enormous burden of uncertainty. Yet while there are situations that a company cannot control, there are other situations that a business can influence in order to create competitive advantage.
One of these issues that is fundamental to a company’s competitiveness is information. Information is an asset which if used strategically, enables a business to create or offer quality products and services for the right customers , at the right price, using creative marketing communication. By performing basic market research a business is able to detect key demographics and market trends , learn how it can improve the level of customer satisfaction and find ways of attracting new clients.
What Market Research will tell you
■Who are your customers?
Would it not be great if you knew who your customers were so that you could correctly target your offering to their needs? For instance, if you knew the percentage of men/women/children who came into your store , how often they came in and what they bought, you would be able to stock the right products and also add-ons to make more sales. If for example you were a household linen retailer and you knew that young working class men between the ages of 21 and 30 were frequenting your store to buy sheets and blankets ,you might also decide to add a free decor and curtain make up service to encourage them to buy other household linen.
■What are they looking for?
Market research will also enable you to understand exactly what your customers are looking for. As a business person, until you have the resources of WalMart or GE or Microsoft, you will not be able to be everything to everyone. Ever wonders why Nokia only sells phones and not desk top computers, or why Nike sells sports wear and not ladies fashion shoes and why Victoria’s Secret sells lingerie and not men’s underwear. Its because they are looking after a specific segment of the market, they know what their customers want from them and they have made it a priority to create quality products for that market.
■What type of people are your customers?
When you make an effort to understand your customers , you will be surprised to discover information about them that will enable you to make real headway in your business and marketing communication. Customer profiling provides you with information about the types of customers who buy from you. You may discover that your main customers are housewives who come with small children and so to make your store feel comfortable , you might decide to have a small play area for the kids, or that your main customers are business people and so you will want to make the sales as quick and hassle free as possible. Zara, the international Spanish clothing retailer has perfected the art of customer profiling and provides opportunities for their petit size customers to actually design and request what they want to wear. Coca cola for example has discovered that different nationalities have different taste buds and sweetness tolerance. Therefore their coke drink sold in India and the UK and Africa does not have the same levels of sweetness Building a customer profile therefore enable you to understand the types of models, styles, color, flavors that your customers prefer.
■What is your competitive advantage?
Knowing your competitive advantage vis a vis your competitors enables you to transform your services and products from commodities to brands. How did Starbucks become a global brand? The company sells coffee afterall. However, Starbucks customers think that this brand sells the best international coffees in a trendy in a trendy and friendly environment. How did the fast food company McDonald become a brand? Afterall they sell burgers and chips. Their loyal customers however think that the chain serves the juiciest burger meats, softest rolls and the most mouth watering french fries ever and all in under one minute.
■What time do your customers shop?
If you are a business worth its salt, you will want to know when your customers do their shopping so that you have the right stock at the correct time. If your bar runs out of your customers’ favorite brand of beer at 4.30pm every day, when most of your customers are coming in for a pint after a day at work, you have completely lost the plot. As as a black women’s hair salon, if you do not have weave and hair relaxer on Saturday when most working women are heading to the hair salon, well, you will see heads alright….the backs of women’s heads as they walk out the door.
■Which advertising medium is likely to reach your customers?
Market research enables you to discover how best to reach your customers. In this age of media fragmentation, your customers are becoming more selective in what they watch ,read and listen to. Entertainment companies are playing to this tune by providing more and more selections of TV channels, magazines, radio stations and social media channels to choose from. Many years ago, if you wanted to watch sports on TV, you would have to wait until the news when a short segment of your sport was being screened or late at night when there was a delayed match. But now you can watch tennis, golf, car racing, football, basketball all on different channels and throughout the day. Your customers have access to cookery , travel, sports, health, celebrity magazines from all over the world. As a business, you can not be in all these publications and TV channels, so how do you find out which ones to market your products on. The internet is no better. Facebook, Twitter,Google+, Pinterest, are all providing opportunities for customer communication and if you do not know which ones your customers are interested in, your marketing communication will not reach your target customers.
Market research is a valuable tool that allows you to get to know your operating environment and your business, your customers and your competitors. It can be as simple as talking to your customers one on one as they come into your establishment, or as complicated as a marekt research questionnaire given to hundreds of people. But which ever way you choose, it is important that you do it.