7 MIN READ

Mind the Gap - Bridging the Gap Between Brands and Consumers

Sarah O'Neill

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Consumer changes and trends have never changed so profoundly as they have in the last twelve months, with consumer attitude, behaviours and purchasing habits altering considerably and forcing businesses to evolve at a rapid pace. Whilst purchases are very much centred around basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, buying local and are embracing digital commerce. 

To give the economy the best chance at recovery, brands must be more connected than ever before with their consumers so that they can meet modern demands and flourish in the new world.

What Do Consumers Want?

According to ‘Connecting the Dots 2021’ report by Global Web Index, consumer needs are centred around convenience, value for money and quality. A large awareness for green credentials and eco-friendly products is also forefront when the consumer is making buying decisions. This awareness has been increasingly brought to the foreground after the initial global lockdown in 2020, when the usually muggy canal waters of Venice cleared up for the first time in years and fish and dolphins were spotted swimming due to the drastic drop in water traffic.

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The gap between consumers and brands is widening again. The way to closing it is through better mutual understanding and market research.

Positive staff treatment within a company was also a highlighted factor perpetuating brand trust within consumers, a brand treating their staff well shows through actions that they care than more than just profits, and thus will care more about them too as a result. Staff treatment along with proactivity in supporting local suppliers and helping people through testing COVID times, are a winning combination to winning over the public. 

But above all, one of the most important factors consumers want to see is a good online service. This factor will continue to be the predominant buying method for the future, so a good online customer experience is key if brands want consumers to become returning customers.

What Do Brands Want?

It is imperative that brands seek out their target customer group, their current customers, as well as the general consumer; explore what it is to think like them and identify with their hopes and fears. The aim is to understand them enough to easily distinguish between the three parties and then tailor the brand experience to cater to each.

To match their customers’ desires and expectations whilst making decisions for the future, brands should seek to discover captivating new ways to engage and communicate. Working with consumers as a collaborative in order to eradicate guess work on both sides of the coin and ensure that consumer needs are met and the brand can grow in line with its target audience.

An example of an industry who has understood its market and acted strategically during testing times is the automotive industry. Successfully reinventing the customer experience at retail level, they engaged, listened and understood this new age of buyer. Implementing initiatives to provide online virtual car tours and online Click and Collect for buyers This convenient new service has successfully re-engaged consumers and reignited demand. Bringing success where other industries have seen decline.

Empowering Stakeholders and Satisfying Consumers

As insight professionals, we understand brands have modern and complex needs, and that there is a wide variety of tools available to empower insight teams to work through those needs. When tools are stacked and used correctly, insight professionals can create a diverse range of engagement projects to tackle each concern, gather information and insights, and connect directly to consumers. The right combination of tools, methodology, platform, and insight team, can bridge the gap of understanding between brand and consumer.

Effective consumer engagement happens through agile and user-friendly methods of market research. The most successful and accurate research utilises both quantitative and qualitative methods in synergy; being able to access both qualitative and quantitative tools that work together gives insight teams the flexibility to drill down into the nitty gritty to reach the insight gold they ultimately seek. 

For instance, running a quantitative survey with a larger number of participants, then having the opportunity to take a smaller cross-section of the respondents to probe further with more specific questions using a qualitative video tool that shows emotion and physical reaction, allows the survey data to be infused with rich qualitative contextual understanding, creating deeply impactful insights. Those insights have the power to transform brands in the way that consumers need, so brands survive and consumers are rewarded with businesses that are aware of their needs and desires in a sustainable way. 

Whether it’s a new product in development or its consumer profiling over a longer time period, creating an arsenal of research tools in one toolbox is going to enable insight professionals to bridge the gap and remove the guess work. Saving time, money and future-proofing organisations with factual data.

One good example of how market research can empower decisions for the future is the market research carried out by the Caravan and Motorhome Club on the InsightHub platform. The Club aimed to understand how their members wanted them to incorporate sustainability into their services and campsites.

When it comes to designing new services, insight teams know that we can’t make guessed decisions without engaging with respondents first. The Club conducted an agile three-day focus group study with their own members, with image-based stimuli that led to the generation of a significant number of actionable insights that informed both short- and longer-term decisions with immediate effect. Through this, the Club recognised that they needed to add some new facilities to their sites, and designed an entirely new test campsite to accommodate the rising numbers of hybrid and electric vehicles expected to land on the roads within the next 20 years.

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Consumer trends have changed profoundly in the last 12 months, to give the economy the best chance to flourish, brands must be more connected to consumers than ever before.

This research empowered significant decisions over at the Caravan and Motorhome Club, enabling them to make an investment in the exact areas that they know will make a difference. Equalling happy members and a very happy brand! Read more about their research in our case study.

Closing the Distance

Closing the gap between brands and consumers is the future, and the path towards it is paved with market research projects and insight-informed decisions. With case studies like the Caravan and Motorhome Club, it’s clear that involving current customers, target audiences, whoever the next decision will impact the most will help brands communicate better with consumers, and make better decisions in the long run. 

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