Monday, December 9, 2013

Learning from Consumers: Examples of Easy and Insightful Questions to Ask

In last week’s blog, I encouraged you to learn about your customers’ needs, wants, and likes.  This week I wanted to provide you with examples of questions that you might ask them and that could provide you with a great deal of valuable data. 

No matter what survey format you choose or the type of retail operation you own or manage, consider asking:
  • Why do you shop at our store?
  • How frequently do you visit our business?
  • What additional goods do you think we should stock and that you would be interested in purchasing from us? 
  • What other businesses are you visiting today?
  • What events and activities do they attend/participate and how do they learn about these events/activities? 
A good bit of information could be gleaned from asking these questions, which includes identifying businesses that you could cross promote with and further build your customer base.  Responses also help you learn about festivals or celebrations where you could have a presence.  Asking customers how they learn about these events and activities is one way to identify avenues through which you could promote your products.
 
On-farm markets or farmers’ market venders might be interested in selling produce items that they have never sold before.  If you fit this description, ask consumers the following questions to learn if the product has potential:
  • If we offered ‘x,’ would you be interested in purchasing it?  Why or why not?
  • Do you already purchase ‘x?’  How often do you purchase ‘x’ and how do you use it in meals and snacks?
  • Do you serve ‘x’ to family and friends when entertaining?  If yes, what other food items or beverages do you serve with ‘x?’ (This question can help you with cross merchandising the potential product with existing goods, or help you learn about other items you could stock.)
  • How many adults and children live in your household? Of these household members, how many already eat ‘x?’
Would customers buy canning supplies from you? Don't guess, ask them.
What if a group of your customers share a similar heritage and you would like to provide them with products they could use to create authentic meals?  Consider asking questions that will help you determine the following:
  • Products that are in greater demand during specific periods such as holidays, seasons, or for festivals and special occasions.
  • If there is a preference for a particular variety, size, condition, type of package, or partially/fully cooked product.
  • What foods, cooking tools, or particular brands they have difficulty finding locally. 
Additionally, think about what other products you could sell, even those that might be a little more “nontraditional.” For example, ask consumers about their other interests.  How many of your customers are pet owners?  Traditional garden centers have been successful selling pet products and pet foods, as there are consumers who spend a significant amount of money on their pet’s care and well being.  Pet food is also a product category that pet owners need to purchase on a frequent basis, thus they may return again and again to restock their supply.  You may also find that these goods bring new consumers to your business.

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