What You Should KNOW To Really Understand Your Customer

Most of us hate it when we shop at a big box store and they give us a long receipt that tries to incentivize us to take their dreaded SURVEY, in exchange for a small coupon. But it’s no surprise why every retailer in the world is working so hard to extract more data or information from us: they want to create a feedback loop. An open two-way dialogue, that allows them to better enhance or change their service, offerings and product so that we continue to buy from them.

You hear the term “feedback loop” often mentioned by digitally native retailers, who are HEAVILY invested in continuing to open up channels of conversation with their customers, so they can better understand them. They do this through Facebook groups, events, blogs, etc. Many of the most successful digitally native brands  (Glossier, Cuyana, Reformation, Allbirds) say building a solid feedback loop with their customer is why they are able to be so successful.

Now ask yourself: how often do you talk to your customer? And, not just at the register when they check out. How often are you finding out what brands they prefer, whether they think your price points are too high or too low, or if they’ve had a truly exceptional experience while shopping at your store? 

You need to talk to your customer and get inside their head to be a successful retailer in today’s day and age. You need to know not only what motivates them to walk in to your brick and mortar, but also what motivates them to get out of bed every morning and exactly what drives them in their lives. Once you have that information, you can put the focus on the customer and craft messaging, products and content around the unique emotional needs of your target audience.

As a smaller retailer, you have a competitive advantage. You’re often already talking and interacting with your target customer in your store, so now you need to create a process for extracting the data that you want. At Oh Hello, we complete qualitative interviews for our clients every week, to help them better understand their audience and position their offerings. Here’s a 5-step process we go through, that can also work for you:

      1. Compile a list of 20 customers and put together a mix. You should include 10 people who are brand loyalists, 5 people who sometimes come in to the store and 5 people who NEVER came back. Yes, NEVER came back. You should be able to pull this customer data from your POS and email list and it’s imperative that you strive to get a varied list, so you can get a wide range of opinions.

      1. Now that you know who you’re going to talk to, offer them something to get them to talk back. At Oh Hello, we always offer a $10 Starbucks gift card in exchange for a 20-minute customer interview and believe it or not, the gift card offer always helps us get the customer to pick up the phone! Email your list and tell them you’d love to have a conversation about their experience, and lifestyle habits, as they fit your target demographic. Be sure to mention you’d like to schedule a casual phone conversation and ask some questions in exchange for a gift card.

      1. You should prep for these phone calls. At Oh Hello, we always strategize as a team on what we’re really looking for answers on, and we put together questions that are open-ended enough to get the customer to talk but also neutral enough that our customer will feel like they can give us their honest opinion. For example, instead of asking, “Do you love your closet?,” we choose to ask, “What’s your relationship with your closet?” It feels more open-ended when you ask the question without any pretense behind it. As a small retailer, you should do some discovery on what you think you need to know to better serve your customer and then come up with a list of questions that are open-ended enough, that they feel comfortable enough to tell you the answers. 

      1. After you’ve developed your questions, you’re ready to complete your scheduled interviews. It’s likely you’ve reached out to 20 people and at this point, 10 of them have responded and scheduled with you in a timely manner. At Oh Hello, we suggest using a platform like Zoom, so you can send an invite to everyone with the same conference line and you can even record the interviews! As you interview people, listen to their nuances carefully and if you hear them say something that intrigues you, follow up with another question or clarification. Take notes on what you hear during these interviews that stands out to you.

      1. Once you’ve completed these interviews, meet with your team and analyze what really stood out, what you learned and how you can take the information and better serve your customer. For instance, if you hear from all 3 people who never returned to the store that they found customer service to be lacking, how can you improve on that? Or if the people you interviewed who were brand loyalists cited the EXACT same brands as the reason they continue to return to the store, how can you better advertise that you carry those brands? Analyze these interviews and use the golden nuggets you find as a guiding compass for social strategy, customer experience and improvement.

Yes, this process takes time and it can be cumbersome to schedule out all of the interviews when you’re running day-to-day operations. But finding out what your customer really wants will help you be more competitive, and ultimately you can use this information to drive your bottom line forward. Want help zeroing in on your target audience? Schedule a free consultation right here: https://calendly.com/natalie-letstalkbrandsandthings


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