How To Become An Expert On Your Customers

Charlotte Evans

Pitch It: The Business Case for Customer Salience

As insight experts, we understand the power of insights, their inherent value in key decision-making...


Emily James

    Recently, I’ve been exploring the factors that influence a brand’s performance and market success. Across the international landscape, it’s not hard to spot the market success of brands such as Proctor and Gamble, The Hut Group, and Canva amongst many others – but this raises the question of how exactly brands can benefit from a similar performance? We all know that there are a full variety of metrics and analytics that can help brands to track their performance, but it goes without saying that there are many more variables involved!

    For the brands that consistently perform well in their industry, one of their key strengths is their in-depth knowledge and expertise on their customers. These brands’ customer segments excitingly remain at the forefront of every business decision and the impact of this can be seen in their growing market results. In this article, I’ll be revealing the importance of becoming an expert on your customers and how market research can positively support you doing this.

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    There are many new opportunities, trends, and challenges that come with truly understanding your customer-base - but there are also truths to be discovered about your brand too.

    Using Persona Research

    Across every business process, most brands rely on knowing their customers’ needs and preferences. This is because activities, such as new product development and marketing, are curated by brands to drive customers into their buyer funnels. Buyer personas are one way of segmenting the market and they are fictional representations of your brand’s customers. These profiles provide an excellent way for brands to visualise and understand exactly who their customers are, and learn more about them through analysing data including consumers’ demographics, psychographic, geographic and behavioural characteristics.

    When conducted effectively, buyer persona research enables brands to seek out new opportunities, challenges, potential threats to their customer-base, which means that they can then effectively tailor strategies and diversify their activities in order to take full advantage of the opportunities and mitigate any consequences.

    To create personas, a variety of research tools can be leveraged by brands to build a bigger picture of who their customers are. A mixed research methodology approach, that combines quantitative and qualitative data, is an exemplary way of finding out who is interacting with and purchasing from your brand. Surveys, in-depth interviews and group-based activities, such as Question Boards and focus groups, are just some ways that you can ask questions and gain significant insight about your consumers. Furthermore, the use of a mixed methodology approach, can effectively help brands to dig deeper and understand the unique differences across their customer segments. With the insights gained from consumer research, brands can establish an understanding about the different personas within their consumer base and use this to inform targeting decisions.

    As an example, Bili Bili, a Chinese video sharing website leveraged their understanding about their audiences to diversify their offering to include certain adverts and paid content. By recognising their customer segments, particularly Generation Z users, the brand created an attractive opportunity for luxury fashion brands to reach their audience. This awareness of their customer segments enabled Bili Bili to establish collaborations with a variety of big-name brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi to create engaging content and support them in their journey to reach new audiences.

    Using Customer Data

    Conducting market research offers a lens through which you can understand who your customers are. By doing so, you can begin to curate representations of the different types of customers you have. A good starting point when looking to understand who your customers are, is to use tools that will enable you to capture valuable data about them. These tools range from website analytics, to loyalty card schemes to surveys, as each tool provides an excellent opportunity for brands to delve into different types of datasets revealing insights on their customers’ shopping behaviour as well as data that boosts demographic profiles and uncover revelations on your customers’ frequency of purchases, spend and location.

    To illustrate this, Tesco’s Club Card loyalty scheme is recognised as a pioneering tool used to track customer trends, which works by collating all the data possible about every customer and their transactions. Once collected, the data is analysed and informs Tesco’s stakeholders about their customers’ current and changing preferences so they can start to prepare for future preferred products and services. One way in which Tesco has used this data to inform their buyer personas is through the segmentation of families that visit their store; notably, these are labelled to enable Tesco to understand the different types of family constructs including ‘pre-family’, ‘lower affluence family’ and ‘higher affluence post-family’ and target them effectively.

    Using Social Media Listening

    Overlooking unknown customer segments, is one challenge that brands frequently encounter when targeting their customers.

    In a previous article, I discussed John Deere’s experiences of identifying an underserved segment, small scale farmers, when conducting their buyer persona research. This led to significant changes to the way that John Deere target this customer segment. To overcome the challenge of overlooking potential customers, social media listening is an effective research solution that improves your brand’s awareness of the customers that you serve and potential unknown customers. Listening to your customers not only enables you to identify the online conversations that customers are having about your brand, but it also allows you to identify the type of customers who are involved in these discussions. 

    Effective social media listening involves analysing qualitative social data that comprises of consumers’ mentions about your brand online. When analysing the voice of your consumers in this way, specific keyword mentions can provide informative insight about who is interacting with your brand and what they are saying. These interactions begin to illustrate the customer segments that are making purchases and it can ultimately aid the development of your customers’ personas. As well as this, positive and negative sentiments that are associated with these interactions can be observed and these can reveal the emotional connections customers have towards a brands’ products/services. This is positive because this insight can highlight the customers whose needs are being met and customers with unmet needs. A final note on using social media listening is that additional data, such as consumers’ location and the time of day brands are mentioned, can build further dimensions, such as consumers’ demographics and behavioural characteristics to be incorporated into the buyer personas’ creation.

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    When you're suitably familiar with who your customers are, there are many ways you can activate customer insights across your business to positively disrupt and refocus strategies for a more successful impact.

    Using social media listening to track and analyse online content is one way that Arby’s, an American fast food chain, also identified a brand new customer segment. As the brand frequently tracks their customer segments, it has enabled them to respond to new and emerging customer groups. A new persona that Arby’s identified were hunters who are known as customers who dine on venison after deer hunting. The recognition of this unusual and non-catered to segment led Arby’s to create a new product offering, venison sandwiches, that were used to attract this audience to their local Arby’s. The social data from this research positively shows that it can support the introduction of innovative product offerings and ultimately aid the expertise brands’ have about their customer base.

    Becoming an Expert on your Customers

    When it comes to putting the pieces together and activating your buyer persona insight, there are many ways that you can integrate this across your business. From visualising the ways that your customers shop to recognising the unique differences in their behaviour, these personas positively disrupt brand strategies. The examples that I’ve shared including Bili Bili, Tesco and Arby’s are just a few of the brands that are using buyer personas to support activities such as online marketing, new product development and targeting strategies.

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