By Emily Creek, Stable Kernel Market Research
Personalization has impacted the business landscape for a long time, but better data is making it possible to take this priority to the next level.
For example, according to Forbes, “L’Oréal has developed personalized cosmetics to match customers’ skin types, and Nike and other manufacturers offer custom shoes in thousands of combinations of styles and colors.”
These are exciting and profitable expressions of personalization. They also require the right tools and customer insights to deeply understand customers’ wants and needs, including how they differ across the customer base and which product or service elements are most important for customization.
Consumer preferences are a constantly moving target. B2B and B2C customers’ needs and wants always evolve, and understanding these shifts is critical to a company’s long-term success.
It’s a high-stakes endeavor.
Customers have limitless purchasing options and will happily buy from someone else if you can’t provide the personalization they demand. However, with the right research strategies, brands can stay responsive and ahead of the curve, always attuned to their customers’ changing preferences.
Here are five research strategies companies can apply to better connect with their customers, anticipate their needs, and elevate outcomes in the year ahead.
#1 Know What You Do (and Don’t) Know
The best way to start is to understand what information you already know.
Compile previous relevant research and understand what customer insights, if any, exist. By first understanding what insights already exist, brands can effectively evolve their research, enhancing and deepening their knowledge rather than asking the same foundational questions.
Key questions you should ask during this step are:
- What do you know about your customers and target audiences?
- What questions do you still have about your customers and target audiences?
- What are your business objectives, and what insights do you need to effectively achieve your goals?
Take the time to understand what you already know and then determine what insights are needed to achieve your business objective. It’s a critical first step that is too often skipped by companies eager to accelerate the process.
#2 Embrace the Right Format
After finding out what you already know and what insights you still need to acquire to achieve your business objectives, decide which research method to continue evolving your customer insights.
To maximize your efforts, use a mixed-method approach to gather data.
This means combining behavioral data, like content interests collected from click and open rates, with in-depth qualitative research from interviews, focus groups, and other sources.
Another effective approach is to leverage quantitative research, such as online surveys, to identify and create new audience segments and then conduct qualitative research to more deeply understand those audience segments.
Combining multiple research methods will make your insights more relevant and actionable.
Notably, the right combination of methods should always be driven by your research objective.
#3: Avoid Templated Survey Platforms
There is an expansive and easily accessible ecosystem of DIY software survey platforms that make it “easy” to conduct market research.
However, their utility is limited. While they might work for quick “pulse” surveys, like getting satisfaction ratings of a hotel stay, they can be extremely limiting to more extended research studies, especially studies conducted to develop personalized offerings.
Instead, observe your customer in their real environment or connect with them for a 1:1 interview.
Analyzing their online behavior will help you craft meaningful and relevant survey questions that help understand customers’ emotional drivers.
In addition, if you are trying to understand new customers you have never engaged with, finding the right people to talk with is critically important. Many of these templated survey platforms do not provide access to a new audience; if they do, costs can be unnecessarily high.
Who you talk to in market research is just as important as what you ask them. Avoid survey platforms and double down on more personalized information.
#4 Involve Stakeholders Throughout the Process
You will need help implementing insights, so ensure you involve stakeholders early and often throughout the process.
Ideally, stakeholders would buy into the business objective and key insights needed. They would observe the interviews or focus groups and help define key survey questions.
At a minimum, they would hear the results of the final reports/recommendations.
The best way to keep the project moving forward is to have your north star, your research objective, at the front and center of every discussion. This will help keep stakeholders focused and help gain the insights you need.
#5 Implement Insights Across the Customer Experience
Knowledge is power, but only if it’s put into action.
Maximize market research by implementing insights into brand positioning, product offerings, brand communications, and customer experience across the entire customer journey.
It should inform everything from web presence and social media content to shopping experience and customer service responses, infusing the entire customer journey with data-driven insights.
Of course, market research and customer insights can be applied earlier in the production lifecycle as well.
It can help brands ask foundational questions like “Should we create a product?” or “What is the best way to talk about the product?”.
Insights-Driven Brand Evolution
By deeply understanding audience segments, brands can create customized products and marketing that address audience needs and serve them that content at the right time in the right way, amassing an enormous return on investment with increased sales and greater brand awareness.
With 80 percent of customers saying they are likely to switch brands after a single bad experience, identifying and delivering on customer expectations is more important than ever before.
For companies that embrace market research to create a more customer-centric approach, increased loyalty and profitability are the payoff.
One analysis found that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than their less informed counterparts, reminding businesses of every size in every sector that accurate, actionable insights are key to cultivating growth in 2024 and beyond.
About the Author
Emily Creek serves as the Senior Director of Customer Insights & Strategy for Stable Kernel’s Market Research division. Emily is responsible for developing and executing strategic qualitative & quantitative research projects that benefit clients and their customers.
With over 15+ years’ experience gaining actionable insights, Emily has worked across a variety of B2B, B2C, and non-profit industries to refine and position brands, products/services, and messaging. She is passionate about helping organizations better understand their audiences and solve tough business challenges.
Emily holds a BA in Sociology & Psychology from Indiana University, a MBA in Marketing from Georgia State University, and a Principles of Market Research Certification from the University of Georgia. To learn more, visit Emily’s LinkedIn Profile.