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Five Steps Local Retailers Can Take to Build a More Valuable Customer Base

Bricks and mortar Retailers benefit from customized marketing research to optimize the way their store serves their target market. Research enables the Retailer to invest efficiently and effectively in actions that will leverage strengths, speak to correctable weaknesses, and enhance performance in the market. These are some steps a local Retailer can take. Some of these are not cheap, and they aren’t all appropriate for every Retailer. A savvy, thoughtful investment in marketing research can pay off quickly. One of the ways we provide value to clients is in providing advice as to where a shrewd investment in marketing research is likely to have the biggest payback.

1. Know your reputation in the market. A survey of all potential customers in the trading area for your store can provide a rich understanding of not only your reputation, but your standing vis-à-vis alternatives in the area. This provides the raw data which results in a current, detailed SWOT analysis. The quality of the survey design, the questionnaire design, and the analytic tools applied will determine the usefulness of the data you get from the survey, so of course my recommendation is to work with a highly skilled marketing research professional with depth of experience in this field.
2. Know what your own current customers think and do. Survey enough of your current customers to be able to analyze different sectors, from Brand Advocate loyalists to the occasional shopper. With some simple modeling, this adds richness and depth to your understanding of what drives that loyalty to your store, and what the payoff is likely to be if you improve in certain areas. This knowledge enables you to invest your time and money where it will have the biggest payoff in terms of loyalty, sales, and profit. You often get enough of your own current customers in the Market-wide study, so it calls for either an augment or a separate study.
3. Check in with your employees. For most bricks and mortar retailers, the employees are the point of the spear, the ones who can make or break your success, based on their customer interactions. Trader Joe’s has an entire radio campaign airing now about the value their checkers bring to the transaction, with their human touch with customers, to combat the prevalence of the Self Check Out Systems in our local supermarkets. There are 2 surveys that can be of great use: survey employee satisfaction, and survey employees’ perceptions of customer satisfaction. Often there is a disconnect between what employees say customers think, and what customers really think, about the store. Showing employees both types of information helps employees see where their perceptions may be amiss, and adds credibility to Management’s efforts to bring the store more into line with what customers want.
4. Know what the competition is up to. Keep a broad definition of “competition”; for a supermarket, it isn’t just the other grocery providers, consider any channel for the products you sell. You can do this through your own investigation of competitors’ marketing actions. You can hire Mystery Shoppers to shop their stores and report back. You can even recruit regular consumers to shop your store and others and report back on the experience, to get a clearer, more detailed read on strengths and weaknesses.
5. Know what’s going on in the world, and how it may affect your market. That means keeping abreast of shifting demographics, economic realities, values and beliefs, and more in your market. Millenials shop a store differently from Boomers; they use Internet-based tools far differently (think online couponing, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter…) How deeply do you know how different generations shop, or what your demos are? The recession continues to have a massive effect, and savvy Retailers have adapted to it. For example, many supermarkets have not only beefed up their private label lines, they have developed programs to pull in dollars that used to be spent eating out at nearby restaurants, as consumers cut back on spending, and timed promotions to synch up with pay cycles.

Nufer Marketing Research consults with Retailers to understand their unique shopper-related challenges, and provides custom research solutions that result in targeted, actionable business recommendations.

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