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How innovative online research can help brands

How innovative online research can help brands

By David Hefendehl, e-commerce manager at Pod1.

In hard times, customers and their needs become more important than ever. Customer research is a good way of proving to senior and C-Level management what should be done on your site and what shouldn’t.

For them, hard, cold and sometimes brutal facts that show bottom line effects are more impressive than any marketing fluff.

We use the voice of the customer to a great extent on our retail clients websites and more recently on one of our travel and leisure clients website.

The aim here is to provide valuable data fast. The format of the customer satisfaction survey employed is open ended so we really get users talking/writing. Because the deployment of the code is so quick and easy, we even offer this for free and only charge for the analysis.

We are currently using 4Q, which is a collaboration of Avinash Kaushik (Google Analytics Evangelist) and iPerceptions. The survey is free of charge and is set up to run over a long period of time to measure how changes to the website effect customer satisfaction. Pod1 clients using this include: Reiss, Jigsaw, Anna Scholz, Links Of London, Uniqlo and Barcelo Hotels.

The success of this is tremendous. All of the above are acting on the findings or have just been presented with the results from the analysis. Some have already changed their production lines to accommodate for customers wishes as the research helped them identify a niche they can easily cater for.

Customer insights are more valuable than ever in the present climate and provide brands with a mighty tool to strengthen their marketing towards their actual online customer. In combination with an analytics tool to track the "How" we can then add the "Why" and optimise the users experience and therefore in turn strengthen the brand reputation and perception.

1. Put the customer first

They need be at the heart of your business and you have to listen to them. Gathering data in Analytics is paramount for the success of your business but it only tells you “What” users are doing not “Why” they are doing it. Customer surveys (short and sweet ones) will help you fill the knowledge gap on the “Why” side.

2. Act on your findings

The most common mistake is to spend six months convincing the brand and finance director to run a £1000 research project and then not do anything with it because it would cost you £10.000 to fix what customers are complaining about.

It sometimes needs a bit of Excel Magic (Pivot Tables are great) to factor in the improvements effect on your revenue. If this still doesn’t convince them ask them if they want the brand to be seen in a bad light offline.

Customers think of your business as a whole, not as ‘website here’, ‘Oxford Street’ there. Bad experience online is directly related to falling sales offline.

3. Measure continuously

This is important to see if your changes have had any effect. Are customers getting happier? Do they start to rave about your site after you removed the Flash intro that was so dear to your CEO? Only continuous measurement can help you make predictions about future developments to your site and business in general.

4. Test, Test and test again

If you just can’t convince C-Level management that you should change something, carry out a testing programme. Installing a test program used to be an expensive undertaking but today most analytics programs offer this either as an add-on or additional part of the package.

Google’s Website Optimizer is free and easy to use. It works brilliantly with or without Google Analytics installed and it is easy to set up. If you know what you want to test and have all assets ready, you could be up and running within an hour.

Every tool you use for testing will automatically calculate the number of visitors per variation that converted, display the correct variations and so on. All you need to do is provide assets and design follow-up tests.

Using the cold hard facts from this to get management buy in for future projects.

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