opinion

Who Are Your Retail Customers? Exploring the Benefits of User Data

Brian Sofer

It’s very easy to get caught up in the steady flow of incorrect assumptions our own industry sometimes makes when it comes to pleasure shoppers. However, there’s good news – assumptions are not necessary, so let’s all stop making them. Taking the time to research exactly who your customers are can help improve sales, grow profits, fine-tune your customer service, maximize your advertising, and lead to successful in-store promotions.

Part of the challenge in marketing pleasure products is that, generally speaking of course, there aren’t hard and fast rules for what sells in every store. Things obviously can be and are, very different depending on the business, region, customer demographic, socioeconomics and the local political climate. In addition, product selection has exponentially expanded in the last 10 years so it makes sense to really understand which of these products will sell to your customers. And if you know your customers, finding best selling products becomes a lot easier. We can agree that luxury products averaging $150 or more, won’t find success in every store. But in order to find out what will, it’s important to learn everything you can about your customers.

There is no marketing currency more valuable than user data. This is why we’re constantly hearing so much about Facebook, Google and Amazon doing everything in their power to collect as much of our information as possible.

There is no marketing currency more valuable than user data. This is why we’re constantly hearing so much about Facebook, Google and Amazon doing everything in their power to collect as much of our information as possible. Sounds creepier than it is, but this has been going forever and as always, it’s just the medium that’s changed. “Big data” is also credited for helping the Obama camp cruise into the White House in 2008. How? Well for example, the campaign figured out certain people are more likely to donate/vote/be moved to action if pitched by George Clooney. Then they did other polling for other groups of people to see how those groups could be incentivized by someone or something else. All told, they found out that this group of voters will do X if provided Y and then applied that model to all their voting blocs in order to mobilize them to vote or drive people to polls or make campaign calls, etc. Now because they were able to find out exactly how to speak to their target/supporters, they were able to generate their desired results.

So how on earth do political campaigns, corporate oligarchies and high-tech social media networks find out all that demographic information? From you and they keep tabs. Data mining, following online habits, tracking shopping and donation patterns, surveying social media interests – in short monitoring, collecting and analyzing all information they can get their hands on. Am I suggesting that you convert your in-store marketing operation into a highly sophisticated, digital, consumer data-analytics house? Yes indeed I am! Well, no – but I most definitely recommend engaging your customers to find out what makes them tick.

There are several methods for using polling, focus groups, and online surveys to help paint the picture of who is shopping your store so you can help bolster your relationships and profits. When it comes to asking questions of your customers, first figure out what exactly you want to know and why. Are you considering investing in social media or an e-commerce site? Looking to bring in a whole new category of products? Brainstorming new in-store events and seminars to offer? Whatever the agenda, keep the questions you’re asking short, sweet and relevant – you can always do more sampling in the future. Put together no more than five yes/no or multiple-choice questions that get to the core of what you need to know. Do you shop online more than once a week? On a scale of 1-5, how interested would you be in purchasing a new blazing crotch rocketeer? Would you and your spouse attend a class on bedroom techniques?

So why does this all matter? Once you have legit and usable customer data you can effectively spend your advertising dollars on the right target. When you know what kinds of people your customers are, you can cater advertising and promotions specifically to their interests. Understanding exactly who your customers are creates several opportunities to strengthen customer service because you’re now operating from a place where you know and understand your customers. Relationship building becomes easier, conversation starting can be more natural and all these soft-skill tactics can now be maximized to win the sale.

Why guess about who your customers are? Why spend money on advertising, promotions and events that don’t speak directly to your shoppers and customers? Use surveys and questionnaires to find out as much as you can about your customers and turn that user data into store profits!

Brian Sofer currently serves as marketing ninja at Eldorado Trading Company. Sofer joined the Eldorado team in 2010. Brian is a creative, results-oriented marketing professional with extensive experience across his career utilizing digital media.

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