Always Listen to Your Consumers – Even the Big Boys Forget Sometimes!

We can all get bogged down in the day to day running of our businesses but we must never lose sight of what our consumers want or are telling us. Consumers can have an emotional connection with the brands they know and love and any changes that are made to recipes, brand logos, designs etc can be taken personally.


Only last week, Unilever’s Flora has taken an embarrassing U-turn on its recent recipe change as a result of serious backlash from consumers. Their shoppers took to online forums to register their disgust & threatened to stop buying the brand after the company changed the recipe of their much loved and trusted brand Flora.  After only 18 months, and an investment of £29 million, Flora have  admitted the mistake and are reverting back to their original recipe and positioning it as ‘Back to the Taste you Love’.  Their actions saw an annual fall in sales of over 12%.

This was a costly and damaging mistake for Flora resulting in consumers losing trust in the brand; some stopping buying the brand altogether.  Regaining these consumers’ trust may take some time and expense.


It doesn’t matter whether you’re a smaller company starting out or a large multinational, the key lesson learnt from Flora’s mistake is that you need to listen to your consumers


Here are the top 5 ways to keep abreast of consumer opinion.


1. Use social media to build relationships with your consumers. 

Facebook or Twitter makes it easy to gauge public opinion on what consumer like or dislike about your brand.  You can test out new recipe ideas, gain opinion on new designs and basically use it as a real sounding board for any new ideas.  You can react quickly to any problems too.


2. Observe consumers’ buying habits through ‘accompanied shops’

This will give you a bird’s eye view into why shoppers are buying or not buying your product.


3. Traditional Market Research

There are two main types – quantitative and qualitative.  Quantitative usually takes the form of surveys and involves a large number of respondents to allow the results to be expressed numerically.  Qualitative normally involves focus groups with a smaller number of respondents to gain their opinions and thoughts on an idea.


4. Customer service. 

Speaking to your customers when they are buying your products gives you first hand experience as to their thoughts on your product.  So whether you are selling at a farmers’ market or running a store event take the time to speak with your customers, obtain their email addresses and create a dialogue with them.  Also, make it easy for customers to contact you with email addresses and phone numbers on all packaging and a ‘Tell us what you think’ section on your website.



5. An online community

Collate customer email addresses whenever possible in order to gain feedback on the things you are doing or simply keep them updated through newsletters.  If people are prepared to leave their email address they are interested in your products, so it would be a waste not to utilise this.  Also, have a general overview of what public opinion is to your brand or product by simply doing basic online searches to see what positive or negative feedback pops up.


There are lots of different methods of listening to consumers; the insights being invaluable. Using a combination of these techniques will help you understand your customers and will enable you to create a two way dialogue ensuring you make the right brand and product moves.