Researching Your Customer Base

| Sunday, December 12th, 2010 | No Comments »

Many shops make the mistake of doing meticulous research in the early days of planning their shop and then nothing in the years that follow. Yet customer trends change not just yearly but monthly and even weekly and you cannot rely on the research you did two years ago to accurately reflect your customers’ trends now. Many outside factors will dictate and even change customer habits such as new competition or economic worries.

Whilst it may take up precious time and perhaps even expense to research your customer base, it is recommended that you do so at least once a year so that you can adapt to any changes and stay ahead of the game.

When doing your research there are three main customer focus areas that you should take into consideration:

  • The customers you aim to attract into your shop.
  • The customers who already shop with you.
  • The customers who no longer shop at your store.

The Customers You Want to Attract To Your Shop

Every shop knows what kind of customer they are looking to attract. A young and trendy fashion outlet will aim to attract young people aged between 16 and 25 whereas a shop selling cupcakes will be covering a much broader customer base. Setting up a stall with a selection of your products should ensure that you attract the kind of customer you want to enter your shop. The information you wish to ascertain will relate to where they usually shop for their products, whether they have ever heard of your shop, what influences them when deciding where to shop – price? Quality? Convenience? Find out what it is they are looking for and what would make them enter your shop instead of your competitors.

Loyal Customers

You may think that those loyal customers who regularly shop with you need no more convincing as to how great you are, however it’s easy to take customers for granted and if we do that we make the mistake of taking our eye off the ball. Find out what it is these customers like about your shop and what improvements they would make. Do they buy the same products every visit? Or do they usually leave with extra products that caught their eye? This information should tell you whether or not you need to re-think the layout of your shop and whether your product placement is working in tempting customers to buy more than they originally came in for.

Customers Who No Longer Shop With You

Of course you will get customers who inform you that they used to shop with you until you stopped stocking a certain product or changed the colour of the walls even! You can’t please everyone but this is what you should aim for, within reason. You need to find out if there is a general trend as to why some customers have stopped shopping with you. This is fairly important since it can be useful to spot problems that need immediate attention.

Research Methods

It’s never easy surveying customer habits and many larger store chains will employ people to do this for them, but there are some inexpensive ways that you can conduct this survey by yourself.

Approaching shoppers in the street will provide you with a good random sample however this will entail standing around with a clipboard trying to interview passers-by who will presume that you are after their money. To counteract this negative effect one idea would be to get permission from the council to set up a small stand some distance from your shop. Fill the stand with selected products for people to try. The public are much more inclined to stop for a freebie than they are to stop for someone with a clipboard.

As customer surveys are ongoing many shops have taken to producing feedback cards to give to customers. As well as a useful way of getting the customer’s details, it gives you a real insight into what the customer was shopping for, what they liked about your shop and what improvements they would like to see made or products added. As an incentive to customers to fill out these feedback forms some shops will offer prizes for a random form drawn. This is probably the least time-consuming and most inexpensive way of surveying customers, however it will not tell you why past customers have stopped shopping with you.

If you do have a database of customer addresses then a small card saying something like “We’ve Missed You!” will attract the attention of past shoppers. A couple of questions on the back about why they have stopped shopping with you and a discount or voucher for returning the card should do the trick.

As shoppers tighten their belts it is more important than ever to keep on top of customer trends and adapt to fit the changing mood. The most successful of shops know what keeps their customers happy and what incentives to use to draw in new and old customers alike and they only know that by constantly researching and polling people. It make seem like a huge effort but it will pay dividends in the long run.

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