Market Research for Independents
Talk to your best customers and observe them in action to find the
"why" behind the buy
Most independent jewelers can't afford expensive market research studies
that involve traditional focus groups and phone surveys. The good news is
you may not need them. Through a combination of old-fashioned observation
and informal chats with your best customers, you may be able to get all
the information you need.
Many retailers are going back to a simple method to learn about their customers
watching them shop, reports Inc. magazine in an article titled "The
New Market Research." One retailer mentioned in the article visited
stores that sold the product he wanted to market. He got enough anecdotal
evidence about shopping behavior to tailor a product that became a success.
You can do this kind of observation in your own store. Determine where
customers linger near the product, the display, the nice salesperson?
Also observe customers when you visit other jewelry stores around town,
on vacation or on business. How much time do they spend at the counter?
What product do they most often ask to see. What do they ignore?
From these observations, you start to see some trends that will guide
you in selecting popular products, designing head-turning displays or training
associates. Don't dismiss this as too touchy-feely for your analytical style
Inc.reports that even the top market-research companies are
disenchanted with traditional surveys and focus groups and are opting for
more creative research methods.
Experts fear that consumers are less than honest in surveys and focus
groups, for fear of looking stupid or not wanting to openly criticize a
poorly designed display, a lousy gemstone selection or a dull sales associate.
Even consumers who know something is wrong may not be able to say what it
is. Their shopping behavior, however, reveals everything.
In addition, marketing gurus say that in today's changing marketplace,
consumers' tastes and buying patterns evolve so quickly that old research
methods aren't fast enough to point out changes needed to keep up with the
Marketers stress that observers must shed their convictions about shoppers'
habits for observation to be a success. If you're convinced men won't buy
earrings without the woman along, for example, you may miss all the time
men are spending lingering at your earring counter when they shop on their
own. You may find the gorgeous display concept you paid a lot of money for
is invisible to consumers.
Some marketers even go so far as to put video cameras in their stores
so they can record and review customer behavior. One furniture retailer
was shocked to learn almost everyone shops for furniture in pairs and
that the men usually hate it! She observed countless occasions when the
woman looked ready to buy, but her companion was so uncomfortable among
the fluffy pillows that he got antsy and begged to leave. This savvy retailer
retrofitted her stores with entertainment centers where sports fans can
watch live events via cable. There's a lesson here make everyone comfortable
and they'll spend more time and money in your store.
Sometimes it's OK for customers to know you're doing market research; they
may even thank you for it. Toy marketers, for example, run playgroups for
kids to test new toys. Clever jewelers could have small parties for their
best customers, encouraging them to "play" with new jewelry shipments
while sipping tea or champagne. What better way to spend an afternoon or
an evening if you're a jewelry fanatic!
The key is listening to customers and watching them shop to see what
attracts and repels their attention. Look for specifics are there
clasps that are hard to maneuver or are earrings a pain to put on? You and
your buyers may have become such experts at handling jewelry that you forget
what makes a piece of jewelry the one a woman wants to wear every day.
Knowing who your customers are and what they really like in jewelry and
the jewelry store experience can help build your store's brand image, according
to a retail consultant for Arthur Andersen quoted in an article in Stores
When you understand your customers and what they want, you can tell them
what you stand for and how you'll meet their needs. Drive this point home
in your advertising and other communications to remind them constantly that
you're the store for them.
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.