We can all get bogged down in the day to day running of our food and drink businesses, but we must never lose sight of what our consumers want or are telling us. They can have a real emotional connection with the brands they love. Find out how to listen to customers effectively and make sure you stay aligned to their needs.
I still remember when Unilever’s Flora changed their recipe. It was nearly ten years ago, but shoppers took to online forums to register their disgust. They threatened to stop buying the brand, labelling it “disgusting” and Unilever had to make a u-turn and relaunch the original recipe. It was positioned as going “Back to the Taste You Love” but it was a costly mistake of £29m and saw an annual fall in sales of over 12%. What’s more, they had to work hard to regain the trust of consumers.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a smaller food or drink company starting out or a large multinational, the key lesson learnt from Flora’s mistake is that you need to gain and maintain an understanding of consumers.
Here are my top 5 ways tips for how to listen to customers effectively:
- Use social media to build relationships with your consumers.
Social Media makes it easy to gauge public opinion on what consumers like or dislike about your food or drink brand. You can use polls and 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.
- 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 food or drink product.
- 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. Both provide valuable insights about what your consumers think about your food or drink brand.
- Customer service
Speaking to your customers when they are buying your food or drink brand 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. If you are selling online make sure you follow up and ask people how their order was and ask for specific feedback to help you improve your offering.
- 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 food or drink brand, 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 moves for your food or drink brand.
To help you keep close to your consumers you may want to take a look at our “Carrying out cost-effective consumer research” webinar which will certainly help you with this!