In the past, customers struggled to evaluate potential products that they wanted to purchase. The only information we as customers had was what the seller was giving us. We were all vulnerable to great advertising and marketing, which meant big name brands had the resources and the reputation to continue to sell, despite potentially there being better products by lesser known entities.
Back then, predicting consumer preferences and gaining customer loyalty was a lot easier. I, myself and I’m sure the majority of people reading this, will have in the past chosen a product simply because we had something from that brand already and liked it. However in today’s socially intensive environment everything has changed.
Now, there is such a multitude of information available to customers, so purchasing new items is no longer solely reliant on what the brand advertises. Consumers are now far more dependent on what has been dubbed ‘other’ information. Today, people purchasing new items or goods get knowledge on the different products available from user reviews, friend’s thoughts on social media, expert opinions, price comparison sites and other in time information. The influence of ‘other’ is very unpredictable; factors such as ‘coolness’ are very reliant on current fashion and social trends. And, aids such as Yelp or Google reviews get a lot of traffic and so people can look at the feedback in order to make a decision.
This has its advantages for small startup companies as they may not have the finances or resources to embark on large advertising campaigns and so word of mouth is vital for the growth of their products. However, for market research purposes, the rise of ‘other’ information means that traditional forms of marketing such as positioning and persuasion techniques are less effective.
Market research needs to evolve with the change in information that is available as prediction and forecasting methods are steadily becoming more difficult to do. Consumers are becoming less loyal as if they see a poor review or if a product is not following current trends then they are more likely to move to a new brand. There needs to be a higher understanding of the new sources of knowledge that are available to customers. By tracking the readily available customer preferences, reviews and trends on forums, social media sites and review sites can give an opportunity to respond quickly to market changes.
The question for the future is how will companies evolve with the times and develop market research strategies that are more customer-focused?
There needs to be much more awareness of what consumers are interested in at that exact moment in time. This could be at a huge corporate level where the research has to focus on the exact aim and goal of a large client. Or it could focus individual reviews from day to day consumers that could shape and influence future products. Market research could get out of control to businesses who continue to live in the past instead of modernizing strategies and keeping up with what the customer wants and needs.
About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com.