Horizon Featured Article

Customer Data: Your Most Valuable Resource

Northsail Knows that Knowledge is Power

In our ever-evolving digital world, knowledge is everything.

There are lots of important pieces of data that you need to be tracking as a business owner: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), business expenses, inventory management, etc.

Northsail believes in making sure that any data relating to our projects is always clear and accurate. Every project we take on is always completed on-time, on-spec, and on-budget. We're so committed to this that we offer a 6-month guarantee on every project.

The odd time when we don't believe that we can complete a project to our high standards, we simply won't take it on.

Regardless of all the useful data that you can track within your business, one of the most valuable forms of data actually comes from somewhere outside your corporation - it comes from your customers.

In order to understand what customer data is, and how you can use it to improve your own strategies and processes, we've put together some tips for methods of collecting this valuable information.

What is Customer Data?

Customer data sounds deceivingly simplistic, but the reality is that it can actually mean a wide range of data that you can gather about your customers.

This information relates to the demographic of people that make up your business' target audience. The information could be personal and tell you crucial things about the person's age, geographic location, purchasing preferences, or simply gather their contact information for future marketing campaigns.

It can also tell you vital information about your customers' behaviors. This could be things like their likes/dislikes, their core values (which you can leverage to build Brand Affinity), their hobbies, even their hopes and dreams.

How is Customer Data Useful for Your Business?

It may not seem like all of those pieces of information are useful to your business, but don't sell this type of valuable data short.

Understanding the how's and why's of your potential customer base give you the unique opportunity to start shifting your business model in a direction that leads to higher guest satisfaction, more conversions, repeat visits, and even creating a loyal army of brand champions that will help improve your Brand Loyalty.

Think of it this way: Let's say you're running a clothing store. It's fall and you're a really big fan of carrying red and orange clothes, but you notice that your sales are down this year, so you decide to organize a customer email survey to try and figure out why inventory isn't moving the way it should be.

Once you get the forms back, you notice that there's a common trend with customers noting that they wish you carried cooler colors (like blues and purples), instead of just traditional fall hues. This might seem like a small issue and an easy fix, but how would you have known what they were missing, unless you had the opportunity to hear from many of them directly?

Without a survey, you might never be able to figure out that a specific need is being overlooked for your target market, and you'd be left scratching your head, wondering why sales are down.

Take the Time to Get to Know Your Target Market

Of course, surveys are only one example of a method for collecting customer data, which we'll get into in more detail in a bit.

The important thing to take away from this is that your potential customers want to share much of this vital information with you, you just need to give them a way to give you that data, which is fast, convenient, and engaging.

Here are some of our favourite methods for collecting customer data:

5 Methods for Collecting Customer Data

Feedback Surveys

These are one of the most straightforward ways to glean information from your customer base. Instead of beating around the bush and trying to subtly gather third-party data, you can just ask your customers a series of closed-ended questions, which often give you pointed answers to valuable questions.

There are a few things to keep in mind though, so that customers don't lose interest in filling out your survey, before they've even gotten started.

  1. Keep It Short - 7-10 questions, at most, is usually a good rule to follow. Any more than that, and the customer may feel like they're wasting time providing you with their information.

    Open-ended surveys may seem like a good idea, but it can be a nightmare trying to get valuable information out of huge blocks of information. Use a clean, concise survey template.

  2. Make It Easy - Don't make the process of filling out the survey any more complicated than it needs to be. Simple, short questions that don't require long-winded, elaborate answers are best. Skill testing questions should be easy enough that most people can complete them.

    Asking for a lot of extra, complicated work for nothing isn't a great collection technique. Keeping it simple is the most effective method for getting valuable, concise pieces of data.

  3. Offer a Bonus for Completion - Even a 5% discount code or voucher is enough to satisfy most customers for a few minutes of their time. If your margins are healthy, this shouldn't have any major impact on your profits, while giving customers a great reason to want to complete surveys for you.

    Giving people a bonus for sharing their customer experience in online surveys is a great way to keep them engaged.

    Bonuses for offline surveys at in-store locations are a fantastic way to get your guests talking to your staff and sharing more in-depth insights into where you can make improvements.

You can collect survey information in-store or online, but if you're doing surveys in-store, try to keep them as short and concise as possible. 3-5 questions are usually best; especially if you're asking customers to fill out the survey after the check-out.

Save the longer surveys for email or website campaigns. No one wants to stand around filling out paperwork for 15 minutes after they're done shopping.

Social Media

Possibly one of the greatest tools in every marketer's toolkit right now is utilizing Social Media Marketing to engage directly with customers.

We live in an age where many people feel more comfortable sharing their honest answers to questions from behind a screen. While this does pose some issues with providing good care, and maintaining consistently positive engagement with certain types of customers, it gives small business owners the unique opportunity to get feedback directly from their target market - both good and bad.

It's easy to add forms to social media or short surveys for visitors to fill out, but possibly the best way to get useful, honest information from people is to engage with them one-on-one. Do customer interviews. Learn about your customer expectations and how you measure up.

Ask customers to share testimonials on your platforms, and anytime someone brings up an issue, address it within the platform where all of your followers can see it. Don't take it to a private conversation, because this could give the impression that you're dismissing or belittling their concerns.

Dealing with problems publicly and with direct feedback shows a commitment to maintaining customer satisfaction, as well as good customer care habits.

Not every successful customer journey starts from a positive customer experience. Sometimes, you can have just as much or more of a positive impact, if you address negative feedback from customers with patience, compassion, and professionalism.

In-store Contact

Of course, we couldn't discuss primary data collection methods without mentioning in-store service.

Get to know the people who visit and support your brick-and-mortar locations. Ensure your team is training to prioritize each and every person that walks through the door.

Once they're comfortable with you and your staff, they'll be much more likely to open up about the things they love about your business, as well as the things that they don't. Ask them open-ended questions. Give them the chance to just talk - sometimes the best collection method for data is open, honest feedback from customers.

Be sure to give your team members somewhere to record and track crucial information they gather during these conversations. Otherwise, many of these gold nuggets of knowledge will get lost or forgotten amongst the hustle of your team's daily duties.

Don't hesitate to let customers talk as long as they want. After they feel comfortable with your staff, some people will open up much more than you would expect. They can sometimes even offer brilliant suggestions that are completely outside the spectrum of your current plans.

Also, if you do have surveys at the checkout for customers to fill out, be sure to mention it to customers when you're chatting. Explain to them how much you value their opinions and input. Don't ask for too much personal information - just their email address for your email list and a place for them to put any follow-up questions they might have for you.

Odds are, if you share these feelings with your customer base, many of them will spare you a few minutes to fill out a short survey; especially if your team took the time to talk with them at length. Or, they'll be willing to register for an account with your business, which also provides great personal information data.

Leveraging Contests & Promotions

We've talked previously about some great Ideas for Contest Prizes, as well as some In-store Promotion Ideas, if you aren't sure how you want to plan your next promotion.

After your event is planned, contests and promotions are a fantastic tool for collecting customer data. It's actually such a commonly used method that most customers expect to include at least some cursory personal information and preferential data, when they register to be a part of your promotion.

Just remember not to overdo it when it comes to adding ancillary or open-ended questions to your contest or promotional registration ballots. As soon as you make the information and time required to enter the promotion more valuable to the person than the prize you're offering, they'll lose interest.

The same thing could be said for Bonus Entry Contests or No Purchase Necessary Contests. If you make it too easy or offer customers an unlimited number of entries into a contest, the odds of winning with a single ballot become infinitesimal.

When this happens, some people may not want to enter at all, and then you'll get none of their information. It's a fine line to tread. Always ask yourself before starting, 'if I were entering this contest, how much effort would I be willing to put in?'.

Keep this in mind, and you'll make more mindful choices with customer preferences in mind.

Focus Groups

What better way is there to get customer data than simply talking to a customer face-to-face? Talking to a bunch of people at once, instead of holding individual customer interviews. It's also a great way to gain insights using an observation method, rather than a direct collection method.

Focus groups may not seem as relevant in today's world, but they're still a unique, useful marketing strategy to pick the brains of your customer base, in a way that might get you more honesty than you would expect. They're one of the classical methods for data collection that still works.

When talking one-on-one, people may sometimes downplay issues that they have with your products/services, customer service, or previous shopping experiences at your business. In some cases, this could be because they don't believe it's worth making a fuss, don't understand the question, or because they don't enjoy confrontation.

In a focus group, many of these concerns are set aside. Once people in a focus group start going through each question and talking about negative experiences (or ways that they believe you could improve your business/brand), you're much more likely to get open, honest answers from everyone.

The stigma about sharing those negative thoughts seems to disappear, when there are numerous other people sharing similar thoughts or experiences. In those moments, it's best to sit back, remain quiet, and engage in active, direct observation. You never know what interesting things you'll learn.

You'll also get the opportunity to spend a much longer period of time asking detailed questions about each element of your business, and you can ask much more in-depth questions about each topic. You can also ask people to fill out open-ended surveys, instead of just talking.

This technique allows you to explore the voice of the customer on some topics more deeply, like product offerings, price strategies, and marketing campaigns.

Northsail Believes in Gathering Data Through Customer Involvement

That's Why We Want You to Try Our Newest Service - 'Horizon'

As we mentioned, the most valuable data always comes directly from the customers themselves, which is why we want to give our clients the opportunity to test out our newest service 'Horizon'.

This way, they can share their honest thoughts on it with us, before we make it available through our regular stable of services.

Using Horizon, you can quickly and easily create high-performance landing pages and microsites for your business, without requiring the assistance of a developer.

You can also create and add customer data forms to any of your pages or promotions, so that you can stop missing out on collecting data from your own customer base.

All we ask is a few minutes of your time when you're done, so that we can hear about your reaction to Horizon. That's it. For a free trial that can help do so much for your business, don't you think it's worth a try? We certainly do.

Sign up for early access to Horizon!

We’ll send you important updates about the early access program and your free invite when we are ready.

Your contact information will only be used for the early access program, not for future sales and marketing.

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