opinion

How to Survey Retail Customers and Reap Benefit

How to Survey Retail Customers and Reap Benefit
Brian Gray

With the peak Christmas and Valentine’s Day periods now past, some of you may have enjoyed a moment’s rest. But if you’re a lingerie or pleasure products company that formulates your next marketing plan after this peak period, don’t spend too long with your feet up on the desk!

Why? Well, there are a few reasons. But a key reason is that hopefully in the past few months you’ll have attracted a healthy number of new customers to join your much-appreciated ranks of existing ones. And that offers the perfect opportunity to understand what’s going on in their head and how it impacts upon your position in the marketplace.

With a well-designed customer survey that helps you calculate your wallet share, you’ll possess key market insights that will be instrumental in formulating your marketing objectives.

For readers in bigger companies or business-school grads alike, you’ll have perhaps come across the Balanced Scorecard, in which a number of perspectives (e.g. financial, internal processes) are obtained in order to drive the company forward. There’s also a customer perspective to investigate and understand — and rightly so. As Walmart Founder Sam Walton famously opined, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the Chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Walton obviously knew a thing or two.

A fundamental tenet of marketing auditing and planning is understanding the here and now. Any marketing audit worth its salt must incorporate this customer perspective when formulating a solid marketing plan. What do customers think of your products and your brand? Was the buying experience a delight or tortuous? How much of customers’ discretionary spend in this sector was with you? How likely are they to recommend you to others? The list of key — and worthwhile — questions could go on, but you get the idea.

As telepathy has still to be widely embraced by the erotic retailing sector — or any sector for that matter — the next best thing is asking them outright the key questions you need to know. That’s where a well-designed customer survey can come into its own.

In direct contrast to political polling where both the sample and the responses can be dubious for several reasons, and the god-awful practice of “voo-doo polling” (which sadly has become increasingly common in social media by erotic retailers) there are two huge advantages associated with using your own customer database as the sample for your customer research efforts.

Firstly, your database comprises the contact details of genuine people who have purchased your products: as far as sample quality goes, it’s first-rate.

Secondly, you can employ probability sampling rather than convenience sampling. I won’t bore you with the gory methodological details here, but trust me — this is good. Every person in the database now has an equal and known chance of being selected. And the subsequent data can really add impact. If you already know your customer database is, say, 66 percent female, but only 47 percent of your survey respondents are female, you can simply weigh the data so that it is now representative of your customer base. Nice. Just try (I’m being rhetorical: seriously, don’t bother) replicating that kind of quality data analysis with tacky self-selection surveys you’ll see on social media for anyone and their dog to complete.

If you’ve never been involved with customer research you’d be forgiven for thinking that they “just” generate statistics regarding customer satisfaction or brand awareness. These of course are highly relevant and insightful metrics. But there can be many more benefits if the research is well-planned and well-executed.

You may think that customer satisfaction is all that matters. You’d be wrong. Walmart learned this the hard way 10 years ago. In launching a major customer satisfaction initiative, improved customer satisfaction scores were obtained. The problem was that while shoppers were more satisfied with their experiences, they were also shopping more elsewhere, hitting Walmart’s bottom line. In other words, while satisfaction metrics improved, their share of wallet (the percentage of a customer’s spend in a given category) actually worsened.

From my own experience in talking with erotic retailers it’s clear that share of wallet is largely unknown about, never mind comprehended or utilised as a marketing metric. I’m not aiming to make anyone feel guilty stating this, by the way. If you’re a small business you’re already juggling a hundred different things. Rather, what should be impressed upon you is the importance of this metric moving on forward. With a well-designed customer survey that helps you calculate your wallet share, you’ll possess key market insights that will be instrumental in formulating your marketing objectives.

It’s also a great wake-up call for complacent retailers. Imagine a calculated wallet share for a retailer revealing that despite decent revenue and profits, their customers only spent 15 percent of their total spend in that category with them. Put another way, their customers – no doubt loved and appreciated — are nonetheless spending 85 percent of their total category spend with their rivals. If that isn’t an incentive to dust off the marketing boxing gloves and get in the ring to fight for more, I don’t know what is. All it takes is a good customer survey that asks the right questions in the right way, and a formula called the Wallet Allocation Rule, and you’re proverbially off to the races. Good luck!

In fact, there are a dozen very good reasons why you should be surveying your customers. Perhaps I’ll elaborate on these in the future. But if you can’t wait to immerse yourself in marketing research and put it to great use within your company, there’s a book just waiting to be picked up. Grab yourself a copy of “More Guerrilla Marketing Research” written by Robert Kaden — I highly recommend it.

Remember, the customer is boss. And it’s never a good idea to not listen to your boss. If you’re an employee you’ll inevitably get fired. If you’re running a company, you’ll inevitably end up losing it.

Brian Gray is the founder and head consultant at Lascivious Marketing, based in Glasgow, U.K. With two decades of marketing experience in a variety of roles and industry sectors, Gray helps manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers in the erotic industry improve their marketing performance through strong brand creation, better customer understanding and insight, tailored marketing planning and communications through focused effort. He was also the founder of the XBIZ.net London Gathering networking events back in 2010. Gray can be contacted at LasciviousMarketing.com, found on Twitter @LasciviousMktng and XBIZ.net or phoned at +44 (0)141 255 0769.

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