Where Meaningful Customer Data Can Drive Retail ROI
In-store and e-commerce retailers are navigating a return to normalcy as the U.S. emerges from the grip of the global pandemic. Consumers changed the way they shopped due to the constraints of the pandemic, and in response retailers have understandably made it a priority to learn which shifts in consumer behavior are permanent and which are temporary. Today, even though brick-and-mortar traffic is beginning to increase, it's still not to the level it was pre-pandemic, according to foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai. Meanwhile, e-commerce continues to see growth. As vaccines become more accessible across the country, shifts in consumer behavior in the retail space will evolve once again and retailers will need to remain astute to these changes.
Retailers that place emphasis on gathering deeper data from their customer base will be able to get ahead of the curve to identify lasting consumer behavior changes. To start, look at brand loyalty perceptions, the customer journey, and message testing for your post-pandemic plans.
Put a Spotlight on Brand Loyalty by Speaking Directly to the Consumer
How loyal are customers to a retail brand, or to any brand for that matter? It’s a question retailers are asking in this highly competitive landscape. Simply asking the question to the key demographic however won’t give the insights needed to truly understand how they perceive, value or emphasize brand loyalty in their day-to-day lives and in their purchasing decisions. While many retail executives will turn to mass surveys, often done through email marketing campaigns to get the answers to these questions, the results do little to provide meaningful context to the respondents’ answers. Replacing these mass surveys with one-on-one video interviews with customers will allow for data collection that provides more meaning through identifying keywords used, tone and sentiment in verbal answers, facial expressions, and more.
Identifying these subjective data points alongside quantitative data begins to shape a much deeper understanding of not only how customers perceive brand loyalty in our new normal, but also how they perceive it as it relates to the retail business. Through more customer empathy research, retailers have an opportunity to learn more about a customer’s daily life overall and better understand where they can organically insert themselves in their daily routines. Asking thoughtful questions about their preferences, the needs of their household and family members, and more will cement successful brand loyalty strategies.
Advance the Customer Journey Map
In an era when the consumer’s retail options are plentiful and highly competitive, recognizing how a consumer interacts with a brand online or in-store is crucial. Previously, customer journey data was gathered from traditional in-store or post-purchase surveys to reveal the various touchpoints a consumer had with a brand, from the in-store experience to purchase and post-transaction. This high-level overview provides limited details with regard to how customers are actually engaging with brands throughout their journey, how and why they're making a purchase decision, and how these decisions differ based on each demographic. Digital screen sharing tests can now be utilized to pair retail executives or marketers with actual customers on their purchase journey through the retail experience, and in that moment capture quality data points that reveal the “how” and “why” of their actions. The retailers that make a concerted effort to better understand their customers in this context can make well-informed decisions with this detailed data in hand. They can also use this newfound data to make considerable investments to improve the findability of items, visibility of key messaging or new products, among other things.
Message Testing in Today’s Fast-Paced World
For retailers, understanding how customers will react to new messaging, whether it’s for in-store activation, a new product or service description, marketing campaign, or a total rebrand, saves companies time and money. Concept testing allows retailers to mitigate potential negative reactions to their messaging. The research focuses on identifying the visceral reactions of participants when they're presented with a new product, general brand messaging, or advertising campaigns. Carefully studying their honest reactions and finding common themes among the group, both positive and negative, will help retailers assess which messaging can go live and which will need to be revised. While concept and message testing can be a time- and labor-intensive process, the results garnered save a retailer from costly mistakes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges over the last 15 months, data can guide retailers on how to navigate the next evolution of consumer behavior as it relates to retail. Speaking directly to target consumers to generate meaningful insights regarding their evolving daily routines, brand loyalty, and their receptivity to brand messaging will provide retailers with the information they need to remain profitable in a competitive environment.
Nihal Advani is CEO of QualSights, an immersive insights platform that empowers brands, consulting firms, and agencies to reveal life’s meaningful moments and generate authentic insights from consumers anywhere in the world.