Consumer Preferences

Understanding Consumer Preferences with the Right Questions

by Ryan Schradin

Many retail leaders understand data is critical to gaining insights into consumer preferences, but challenges remain with using that data to their advantage. A recent article on Modern Marketing Today discusses a similar problem among marketers and the importance of properly utilizing data that they have worked tirelessly to obtain.

Data discovery and aggregation remains to be a hurdle that so many retailers just cannot clear and they might be unsure why. Forbes contributor Greg Petro thinks it’s because they aren’t asking their customers the right questions.

Petro opined in a recent article on Forbes  that retailers should look at the inquisitive approach the healthcare industry took to data intelligence and apply it to the retail arena in order to better predict consumer preferences and expectations. He stated, “The consumer has outpaced retailers when it comes to how they use technology to make purchase decisions. Retailers are now reacting to demand versus driving it.”

Specifically, Petro presented four key questions that retailers should be asking their customers that will produce invaluable data to drive better customer experiences and keener outlooks on consumer preferences:

  1. “What are your plans this weekend?” – This question opens up the door to deeper personalization and customer predictability. It’s no longer acceptable to only know a consumers age, location and gender to get an accurate analysis of their needs. Petro noted, “This kind of psychographic-based micro-segmentation is the future of retail.” Retail Technology Insider explored this concept previously when examining how to build a single view of the customer.
  2. “What do you think someone would pay for this?” – Instead of waiting for customers to either choose to purchase an item at a specific price point or not, just ask. This question helps a retailer better harness the power of price elasticity and maximize profit margins.
  3. “How would you change this item to improve it?” – There’s always room for improvement and making a concerted effort to learn what those improvements should be is a key to sales success and customer retention. Don’t ask if your customer would buy an item or not; ask them what would make them more inclined to purchase it.
  4. “Now, where do you live?” – This question reminds retailers about regional trends and preferences that dictate consumer preferences and demand. Some regions are heavily influenced by weather trends like the Midwest or Northeast. Some markets are shaped by lifestyle (e.g. is this location rural or urban?). Petro points out, “Retailers that can pinpoint not just the style preferences of specific customers, but also analyze them geographically, will be able to match supply with demand.”

It’s become imperative to involve consumers considerably more in the conversation about what they buy and to ask them open-ended questions that produce feedback that’s actually helpful and actionable. Retailers aren’t the ones calling the shots in the Age of the Enlightened Buyer, so they should be looking to the right influencers (i.e. the consumer) for marching orders.

If you’re interested in learning more about creating a more customized customer view, check out “Employing a Single Customer View” from Pitney Bowes.