Realising the true value of customer insight. Why knowing your customers is more important than them being right or wrong.
Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insight Director
It’s never been a better time to be a start-up in the food and drink industry. The smaller and more nimble brands are better placed to steal share from the big boys than ever before. A recent example of this can be seen in Sainsbury’s ‘Taste of the Future scheme’. Whereby space in store is given to start-up brands, with the opportunity to gain wider listings if they prove a hit. We also see the likes of Ocado craving exclusive products that you can’t get anywhere else – creating the opening for the smaller brands to gain a foot in the door.
A combination of a change in customer trends and the rise of e-commerce have led to the age of the entrepreneur. Online platform growth has meant the barriers to entry for brands are low. It’s become far easier for small/niche brands to reach customers. We’ve also seen a real switch of consumers to ‘crave brands’ that are authentic and come with a genuine story.
I think about some of the recent industry trade shows that I’ve been to and it’s amazing to me the amount of new and exciting food and drink brands that I see. Looking back even just 5 years ago, the same trade shows would be dominated by the traditional corporations and their big, well-known brands. With very little presence from the smaller, vibrant start-ups.
The most important aspect of selling any product is to understand who your target customer is. This is the value of customer insight.
Vibrancy is a good word. One that perfectly sums up the ethos and atmosphere that surrounds SMEs. If there’s something that these businesses have in common, it’s passion. Above anything else they believe in their brand and want to share that belief with everyone. Is this enough though?
‘Everyone’ is not a demographic and it most definitely is not a target customer base. More often than not, trying to be everything to everyone gets you nowhere.
The most important aspect of selling any product is to understand who your target customer is. This isn’t a once in a lifetime exercise. Customer trends and demands are forever evolving, and customer insight needs to grow with them. The real danger, however, is that for many a small business, customer insight becomes a luxury rather than a necessity.
In my experience, we see larger FMCG companies investing heavily in customer research and insight. Building large internal teams to sweat every data point into delivering ROI for the business. Small companies, admittedly without the financial muscle, tend to rationalise their spend and target spending on product development and direct marketing as they are seen as more valuable than customer insight.
Insights are a vital engine in growing any brand or business
Quick wins compared to long term strategy. There’s a real danger that without solid customer insight many brands are heading in a particular direction. Investing capital, to eventually reach a point whereby they realise they’ve made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. It then becomes a very time-consuming and expensive route back. That’s assuming they can find where they went wrong in the first place!
Alongside product development and marketing, insights are a vital engine in growing any brand or business. Furthermore, developing the relationship between these tools, in particular marketing and insight, is the key to building a strategy that speaks to customers in a figurative and literal sense. Getting this right enables brands to have the voice of the customer powering their brand and to have their brand become the voice to their customers.
Don’t go by gut feel alone
We live in a world where data is in abundant supply. Many large companies are drowning in it. Data is all well and good and is incredibly powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility. This is where, quite often, the passion and single-minded vision, combined with data, can lead to forced validation of pre-determined beliefs. Put simply, seeing what you want to see in the data rather than seeing the truth. Gut feel can often be the enemy of brands. Of course, a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I’m sure there are many stories of gut feel decisions leading to success but roll the dice often enough and the house always wins.
- Do you know your target customer?
- Do you know how they think and how they behave?
- Do you know what they like and what they don’t like?
- Do you know how they are evolving and changing as other trends change?
- Do you know the channels in which they shop?
- Do you know how these channels are developing their offers?
If your answer is YES! to all these questions and your brand/product addresses all your customer’s needs, then congratulations you don’t need any help, and how can I invest in your business?! If however, you answer NO to any of these, then it could be a sign that you need to get to know your customers better. Click here to see how our previous clients have unlocked the value of customer insight.
Nobody can be everything to everyone
Of course, the old adage that the customer is always right is a load of balls. The customer is not always right. However, they ARE never wrong. Through listening to them and understanding them better you can filter out those who are not your customers and focus your energies on those that are and who could ultimately be. Nobody can be everything to everyone, but by understanding your target customer and lasering in on their needs you might just be able to get everything that your business has ever wanted. Success!
Customer insight is a necessity you can’t afford to ignore rather than a luxury you can’t afford. Stop going by gut feel alone and find out how we can help you to get to know your customers better.