At times their behaviour is strange and arbitrary; their tastes can change in a second; factors far beyond your control can have a huge effect on them. This makes it very hard to understand them but to run a retail business you need to know what customers want.
There are lots of different ways to go about getting this insight, but only a few of them are effective. Trusting your own insight is to arbitrarily reduce your sample to a nigh-useless level, however much experience you have. You need a broader base to for a foundation for your decisions – even if you’ve got a good record of making the right choices, it’s a stressful business being in sole charge of big decisions for a business. Lessen the stress by spreading your net wider and getting some data in to help you understand what your customers want.
You can do some low level surveying yourself, including questionnaires, or links to online surveys with purchases or invoices – though you should be prepared to offer some small reward for doing so. Don’t forget you’re asking your customers to give their time. It’s not something you’d happily do for free so they might not either.
Surveying customers yourself doesn’t necessarily have the best results. You’re an expert in running your business, you’re not necessarily a market researcher or a statistician. Getting useable data means writing surveys that get customers to give you useful information, not wording the questions so you inadvertently steer them towards one answer or another, and then taking the time interpret the answers so they give you something to work on.
On top of what this process asks of you, you have to remember that you’re only going to get answers from customers who are already shopping with. They’re the only ones you have access to. You can only find out why they’ve chosen you, not why customers who have yet to walk through your doors or browse your website haven’t, which is far more useful information.
Working with a market research company means you have access to their expertise, but it also means you access to their wide pool of respondents. If you’re trying to broaden the appeal of your business it’s not putting it to strongly to say this is simply a necessary step. On top of that, they will help you submit questions that get you the data you need and interpret that data into true consumer intelligence.