It's no surprise that the increasingly social web have enabled customers to be heard while helping to improve the very products and services they've purchased. As millions of people continue to search online for the product they need and the service they want, do you know how the recession has impacted your customer's value perception? How are you going to improve the customer experience to optimize your products and services?
Your customer may have already shifted their spending in favor of private label brands over name brands or reduce the quantity or frequency of buying altogether. Perhaps the freemium business model has become the new standard to get your customer to try your product. Whichever way you look at it, consumer's perceptions of an interaction are influenced heavily from their purchasing experience, by how they research to who they trust.
To understand and improve customer experience, companies should first research their customer's natural behaviors, and then seek opportunities to influence those behaviors through targeted strategies and niche offers.
According to a recent Nielsen analysis revealed generationally shopping habits that reflect diverse lifestyle preferences and economic habits.
Naturally, Boomers have the highest earning of any group, followed by Gen X, then Millennials and finally Greatest Gen. What's interesting is that according to the study, "Millennial and Gen X shoppers favor mass supercenters and mass merchandisers over more traditional formats like grocery or drug stores which remain a draw for the Greatest Generation and Boomers ... Millennials today represent the largest population segmentâ€"over 76 million strongâ€"just slightly larger in number than the Boomer segment. The two groups together represent half of the U.S. population."
From these data, marketers should apply behavioral economics to further understand the minds of their customers. Once you understand the patterns contributing to buy and not buy, you can craft highly targeted campaigns and behavioral tracking techniques to connect with customers. Couple that with direct customer research such as surveys or focus groups, you will end up with a customer segmentation metrics that can help you define how changes of an offer can influence the way people react to it.
However, it's critical that a more systematic approach to behavior targeting is used when defining your customers. This will help to make irrationality more predictable in an attempt to understand the behavioral economics of your customers.
Here are some questions you should consider to help you improve customer interaction:
- Where does your customer go when searching for your products and services? Online communities, offline advertising, word-of-mouth, search engine, blogs etc.
- How and where did they obtain the knowledge necessary to make a purchase? Do they know how to find what they need?
- When and how do customers gain access to your products and services?
- What kind of lifestyle and overall financial situation are they in?
- What does value mean to them? Where is the line drawn between getting a bargain vs being cheap?
- Who and what influence their buying decision? And why?
- What conversations are generated around the 'benefits' of your product and services?
- What are some of the potential barrier to purchase? Lack of knowledge, confusion in the market, price points, product features etc.
- Who are your competitors and how are they perceived in the customer's eyes? What other options do they have if they don't buy from you or your competitors?
- In your vertical, does you customer look at brands first or price first? Is the service or support more important than the product itself?
You may consider paying for research from companies such as ComScore, Ipsos, Harris Interactive, TNS Group or Hitwise just to name a few. If you're not ready to pay for research, you can always conduct direct customer survey yourself or simply start gathering free data from sites like Consumer Reports, MarketingCharts, Pew Research Center or eMarkter on a regular basis.
Here is an example from the Compete Online Shopper Intelligence study that provides a high-level overview into the complete online shopping experience.
Often times, paid research firms will provide complete free report as well, you just have to keep an eye on it or subscribe to their newsletter. Here is one focusing on eCommerce from ComScore: State of US Online Retail Economy in Q3 09
You can also search on sites like Docstoc, Scribd or SlideShare to find more supporting data. Keep in mind most of the data on those sites may be dated but you can still use them to investigate current trends or form your own insights.
The take away: Because of the many factors contributing to consumer's buying pattern and media habits; there is no silver bullet to improve customer experience. Instead, the goal is to minimize wasteful spending while learning to invest in the drivers of customer satisfaction from desirable customer interaction. Do you know what makes your customer tick?
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