The most successful businesses are those that can make a strong connection with their customers. Successful brands have a knack for knowing what their customers want and need before they even know it themselves!
Getting into the mindset of their customers allows businesses to pre-empt profitable trends, identify expansion opportunities, and ultimately provide the right solutions at the right time.
Thinking like a customer is no longer restricted to doing surveys or just simply focusing on demographics. In these changing times, and facing increased competition, businesses need to think differently. Customers want to know and understand the brands they use and what they stand for. This helps them to build trust. Thinking like a customer is, therefore, an imperative ask today.
Understanding Your Customers
It’s impossible to think like a customer without understanding their preferences, habits, and demographic details. Developing a target persona is helpful here. Take the information you know about your customer base –such as their age range, gender, location, income, education level, and spending habits, and use this data to build a profile of your average customer.
Location is more than just a hometown. The majority of consumers are online; but where – specifically – are your customers? Which social media platforms do they use, and do they read blogs or watch videos? Where can you reach prospective leads and interact with existing customers? Does your website accurately reflect the brand and provide an enjoyable customer experience?
Customer preferences are unique, complex, subjective, and tend to shift over time. Still, broad similarities can be identified, and it’s a good idea for businesses to invest time in finding out what their actual customers want. Building a target persona is a process, so use every snippet of information available.
An entire new field of AI, data analytics has emerged to capture every aspect of consumer behavior. While companies in the US have been using data analytics for long to offer customized solutions, ex Amazon making recommendations based on browsing history and past purchases. Latest trends on data analytics can make recommendations based on your mood- captured by dilation of eyes, skin temperature captured by fingerprints on phone or temperature of skin using wearable devices like Apple watch.
Knowing your customer is no longer a subjective art, it’s a precise science. And with data capture of every aspect of our lives, the predictability of behavior is getting stronger. Algorithms evolve over time and get better at telling what would work. In USA for example items such as clothing and shoes which are part of experiential shopping- as in – physically trying have had great success online where outfit combinations, colors etc. are suggested based on lifestyle, current wardrobe matching and online fitment size suggestions based on cut, broadness of toe etc.
Precision on offerings makes retention of customers easier, as well as pronounced benefits of reducing costs on experimentation either in product offering or in listing products in stores. With costs to servicing customers rising, these benefits are welcomed as ultimately they are passed on to customers. Based on demographics of area and profile of customers visiting a supermarket, the sku (stock keeping unit- size of pack) can be rationalized. If a brand has multi categories, accurate selection can be made on premium, value or discount etc. All will result is greater efficiency not just for the brand, but the retailer (greater rotation of stocks), the logistics provider (merchandising accurately) but most importantly the consumer whose needs are serviced quicker and better.
Taking all of these factors together places you directly in the mindset of the customers you’re trying to attract and retain. It’s the most important tool at your disposal when attempting to think like a customer.
What Customers Want in 2020
As important as it is to know your customers, there’s substantial insight to be found in wider consumer trends. These are the most important right now.
Consumers are influenced by a wider awareness of ethical and environmental issues. They are actively searching for sustainable options; note the recent trends for veganism, reduced meat consumption, rejection of single-use plastic, and demands for plastic-free packaging. Demonstrating a genuine interest in the welfare of customers helps to build trust in a brand – a powerful emotion in the buying process.
With so much choice available, discerning customers are looking for something extra. Businesses must add value that’s relevant to their customers. Although there are as many preferences, common preferences exist amongst a brand’s core customer base. Tapping into that and injecting value where it is most desired is a tangible benefit for customers. Plus, highlighting this and giving extra value, whether that’s a community, freebie, or even supporting services can really set you apart from the competition in competitive markets. Consistently over-delivering on product quality and experience relative to price is the mantra for all brands who have mastered the art of providing value.
Business intersects with technology at every step. Digital processes have become a key part of enterprise, particularly in the past two decades. As technology continues to develop, new opportunities have emerged for businesses. Of particular interest are artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Both can be used to facilitate more efficient service and support, improving the customer experience, driving brand loyalty, and transforming the prospects of businesses that might otherwise struggle to survive. In 2019, customers expect that brands have already adopted new technology, and they’re not willing to settle for antiquated processes. Moreover being online is not an option, it’s a requirement. Digitally talking to consumers on social media platforms, gives greater insight, steers new product offering and reduces turnaround time on customer complaints and builds loyalty.
Competitive Pricing of Quality Products
Customers are looking for affordable products, but they’re not willing to compromise on quality to make a saving. For businesses, the challenge is to manage costs in such a way that their products are competitive, whilst simultaneously maintaining a high standard. Again this ties into value, what extra does this product provide for the same cost? It’s also important to look at ethical economies of scale that can allow you to use quality products that compete at a higher base price.
The differentiation is value earlier was relegated to mid and bottom segment. Customers are not looking for cheap products anymore. In fact the demand for premium products have never been higher. Premium does not imply price only now. Premium implies quality, wherein the quality (not the marketing behind it) can justify a certain positioning to the brand. This awareness on product quality and relative value is highest in today’s time than any other period in past.
Customers like to know their brands, and like all relationships, the affinity between consumer and business is built upon trust. There are lots of ways to prove trustworthiness, and transparency is chief among them.
Brands that are consistently honest and open demonstrate that they can be trusted, and customers flock to them. Conversely, businesses that make mistakes and fail to recognize, apologize, and learn from them, will not be held in high regard. Put yourself in the place of a customer; would you trust a company that behaved like they have something to hide? Trust is a 2 way street; just as you hope that customers will trust your brand, you’ve got to trust your customer and work hard to retain it.
Consumers want to engage with brand owners and not just end the relationship with purchase. Brand owners need to be ready in all aspect for it, especially brands that have relied on B-2-B format to service customers. Speed, earnestness, honesty and interest in listening determine how loyal the customer remains to the brand. Many brands have lost some customers, because those loyal customers did not find the reciprocity by the brand when engaged on social media platforms. Brands should be able to handle extreme emotions- extreme like to extreme dislike, genuine praise to sporadic outbursts.
In Summary, Brands Should Know What Customers Want – Before They Ask for it!
Using the target persona, businesses are equipped to pre-empt what their customers will want. Whether that’s prompted by a hot trend, a cultural shift, or a move to the traditional, brands can use analytic data and their understanding of audience preferences to give customers what they want, before they even know they want it! When a brand can pre-empt a consumer’s needs, there’s no need to go anywhere else.
*Written by By Priyanka Mittal, Director of KRBL Ltd