The Danger(s) of Not Getting Consumer Feedback

Here’s a sobering fact reported earlier this month in Harvard Business Review: Only 11% of customer-related decisions use consumer insights/data.

So, what about the remaining 89% of customer-related decisions? What do marketers use instead of feedback from their actual customers? The same article uncovered that these three approaches were much more common:

  • Information from their current experience
  • Personal intuition about how they think customers feel
  • Conversations with their managers and colleagues

In this environment we can’t be too shocked to read headlines about a new Tropicana package design that caused a 20% drop in sales after launch. Or a near customer revolt over a new Netflix pricing strategy that stunned company insiders. What is surprising, though? Why aren’t more marketing teams using consumer insights to disaster-check business decisions and launches?

Here’s the reason: Most marketing teams think that they don’t have time to talk to customers—despite innovations in the market that allow brands to find consumers quickly and obtain immediate customer feedback. This mind-set causes marketers to gravitate toward personal intuition and internal conversations as substitutes for consumer insights, because they seem like the only options that work in a world of short timeframes.

To illustrate, let’s look at a typical marketing team conversation and actions that stem from it.

Marketing Leadership: “We need to find out what our consumers think about this new product package design. Will they like it or hate it?”

Marketing Team: “Our research team said we could find out insights from our target audience. We can schedule a kick off meeting later this week, start recruitment in a couple of weeks and have a final report next month.”

Marketing Leadership: “We need to launch next week. Go figure out what you can do before then to make sure we don’t miss the mark.”

ACTION: Marketing team members leverage their past experiences, past research, and internal conversions with colleagues to make a final decision.

Perceived time is obviously an enemy for finding consumer insights. And contributing to that pressure is the fact that real-time solutions already exist in other facets of marketing. Solutions like lead analytics, Web analytics, and social media listening platforms have become standard practices. Along with these tools comes the mind-set that marketers should be able to look at data in real time and make quicker business decisions.

For example, a social listening platform can help a marketing team determine sentiment from the vast world of social media. Marketers can access high-level social signals immediately, and then disperse and discuss to make decisions regularly. So if social listening tools help marketing teams keep up with the pace of business, why can’t consumer insights also move faster?

They can. The solutions are there, and big brands are already using them—but they’re still a bit of a “trade secret.”

Several consumer insights platforms deliver real-time recruitment and immediate consumer insights. With this advancement in technology, you don’t have to wait a week or more to recruit and starting talking with target audience members: the whole recruitment process can be done online in a few minutes. And once these target consumers are found, online platforms provide instant access to communicate with respondents.

With this new shift in technology, marketers can incorporate consumer insights into their weekly business decisions without worrying that they have to significantly delay their schedules for new product launches, advertising campaigns, etc. for that feedback.  Target audience members can answer questions the same day they come up and react to concept tests, Web content, messaging, proposed packaging designs, and the like.

The most exciting learning is seeing how marketing teams transform their thinking about customer insights once they’re exposed to new technology platforms and solutions. Instead of linking the idea of consumer insights to slow and laborious market research, marketers start viewing consumer insights as a catalyst that can accelerate smart marketing decisions. This, in turn, can reduce product development cycles, increase ROI for advertising campaigns, and improve the success rate for product launches.

We imagine a future where marketing and research teams will talk about the “old days” when it took months to find rich consumer insights from a brand’s target audience(s). The new norm will be product and advertising launches that happen in a moment’s notice—each one with a solid checkmark next to a list item that says “received customer feedback.” In this future, marketers successfully avoid costly mistakes that stem from not including consumer insights in their decisions.

And in that future, we anticipate seeing an study where 95% of marketers report routinely using consumer insights/data for customer related decisions—on the fly, in real-time, and making them look brilliant in the process—as opposed to the 11% of marketers who report doing so today.

About the author: Matt Warta is CEO of GutCheck  

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