Market Research for Understanding Retail Consumers: What You Should Know

Successful retail marketing is about so much more than following trends. Each brand and brand tribe is unique – there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Before you launch a new advertising campaign, roll out a new product or service, or expand into a new category, it’s crucial that you are able to accurately anticipate consumer behavior. Coming into your product line review (PLR) armed with credible industry data will make you a subject matter expert in the eyes of your merchant.

Investing in research can inform your marketing efforts and minimize risks, but how do you ensure that you are asking the right questions and designing studies that provide actionable answers? Here are five essential steps for planning and executing truly revelatory consumer research.

1. Determine your business objectives.

If you think back to the scientific method from grade school, you’ll recall that research starts with an observation. What is it that you are hoping your business can accomplish, perfect or correct?

Perhaps you are looking to expand into new distribution channels or access a new demographic. Maybe your messaging has started to feel dated and it’s time for a rebrand. This is an opportunity to think critically about what you want to do with your brand and for what purpose.

Marketing decisions can be made with the aim of impacting brand perception, awareness or profitability. Gather company leadership, and keep asking “why?” until you are confident you’ve uncovered your true objective. Having a focused, well-defined directive is the best way to ensure you will glean actionable learnings from your research.

2. Choose your consumer research methodology.

Once you have your objectives in place, it’s time to start thinking about what information you need to pursue your goals.

Is the data you need qualitative or quantitative in nature? Do you need hard numbers that will allow you to compare the likely ROIs of two strategic options, or are you interested in consumers’ feelings about your brand and self-reported anecdotes of how they shop your product category?

Your business may have the capabilities in place to gather certain data, but extensive behavioral segmentations, focus groups and path-to-purchase studies may be better executed by consumer research agencies.

Certain consumer behavior research companies specialize in particular industries, making them uniquely capable of gathering and interpreting actionable insights. Businesses that have any doubts about their ability to conduct comprehensive market studies may want to protect their investment by partnering with a research company.

3. Define your audience.

Who, specifically, are you hoping to get to know better through your research?

Even established companies benefit tremendously from taking time to examine their target audience. Consumer research can reveal changes in existing prime prospect’s attitudes that are crucial for designing future marketing strategies. If you have been in business for many years, you likely have well-formed hypotheses around your prime prospects. A newer company, however, many want to take the opportunity to identify its target audience and the key attributes that its end users share.

Brands who are seeking to grow by reaching consumers within a new demographic will have to look outside of themselves to understand the needs and values of a new audience. Be prepared to be surprised by what you find.

4. Set goals for your consumer research.

Think ahead to the conclusion of your research: what do you want to know with confidence?

Work with your leadership team or consumer behavior research company to define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It can be tempting to approach research with general curiosity. Unfortunately, broad demographics and unfocused questions typically result in scattered, unhelpful data. Pursue answers to pointed questions, like Where do my end users shop? and What other brands do end users consider?

Your results can only be as well-defined as your metrics for evaluating them. Setting benchmarks for your research allows you to know if you have, in fact, gathered meaningful data.

5. Bridge the gap between research and execution.

So often, research yields a stack of cryptic charts and tables – and little else.

Data collection is a worthy undertaking, but of little value to your business unless it can be used to inform a winning marketing strategy. You may discover, for example, that a particular segment of your end users is especially price-sensitive, but what does that mean for how to best communicate your value proposition with your marketing materials?

Avoid being left to interpret a convoluted report by choosing a partner that can extract and present recommendations once the research is concluded. Before you move forward with a consumer research company, ask specific questions about their deliverables. Do they simply turn over the data, or do they use it as a springboard for directing strategic marketing decisions?

Get the most from your consumer research investment by ensuring that it results in actionable insights.

Want to learn more about how to plan and launch consumer behavior research that helps you meet your business goals? Learn more about critical research methodologies and how to put your data to work.