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Consumer Data Collection – Some information from your customers can make a huge difference in your upcoming marketing efforts.

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | December 16, 2021

Retailers, restaurants, service businesses and organizations often spend a great deal of time trying to climb inside the minds of their customers. Effectively understanding how your customers think and what motivates them is critical to any marketing effort. Additional insights that can trigger an action can lead to sales and loyalty. Before you collect data from your customers via slips of paper on a register, think about what information you want and how you will potentially use it. The following are some categories of information you may want to collect for your business, and some best practices for collecting and holding the information.
Collect Important Dates- If you know birthdays, anniversaries, or other important dates you have an “in” for a directed draw to your business. A digital or physical note close to an important date can be an effective way to increase sales, and customers often appreciate the recognition.
Media and information preferences- What do your customers read/watch/listen to? What social media platforms do they frequent (if any)? How do they prefer to be contacted? Under what circumstances do they appreciate contact? Understanding where your customers absorb information allows you to target your messages more effectively.
What types of information do your customers want from you?- Some customers just want to know “what’s going on” in a more generalized format. Other consumers only want to know about sales, events, new products, or other specific pieces of information narrower in scope. When you know what your customers want, you can more effectively communicate with them.
Sales referrals- If a customer loves your business, there is a chance other people in their world will love your business too. Asking for referral information works for a lot of different business types in a direct fashion (who are your friends/family we should reach out to?). There can be more indirect referrals by understanding more about your clients. If you know that a customer is a business manager, you may be able to reach out for corporate gifts, administrative professionals day, or holiday office parties. Asking the right questions can lead to profitable pathways.
Lifestyles and business interaction preferences- Understanding when your customers like to interact with your business physically can help you maximize your sales hours. Determining your customers preference for in-store versus online services can help you allocate resources more effectively. Do your customers shop on Sunday, or can that be a day off? If every other restaurant is closed on Monday, is this an opportunity for your restaurant to capture market share and take a different day off?
Product and service ideas- Asking customers what they WANT from a product or service perspective can be a little dangerous. You need to understand what your customers will PAY FOR, and whether they represent a large enough sales volume to constitute a change in approach. However, if you ask open ended questions and receive good customer feedback about products and services that inspire a change, make sure you have the ability to reach out to customers that offered suggestions and provide a public “thank you”. When you take customer suggestions you can build loyalty with your business. When you recognize customers that help your business grow, you can inspire other customers to do the same.
Now, onto the collection of data!
Unless you have a sit down event with some time set aside from data collection, you have to devise plans to absorb data in ways that are convenient and beneficial for your customers. Below are a few quick tips:
Expand your knowledge of existing customers first through digital conduits- If you have email addresses of customers, and customers follow you on certain social media platforms, reach out through digital surveys to expand your knowledge of those customers. Keep your survey as brief as possible, and make your questions clear. If you have internal email marketing software, you can imbed questions in general communications. If you need something that is a “one off”, survey software like Survey Monkey can help you collect information in ways that easily convert to spreadsheets.
Search your cells- If you already have Point of Sale systems or integrated accounting software, you may have cells that you can directly import information into. You may also have customization options that allow your business to determine unique pieces of information that you can collect. Design the back end of data collection first, before you start asking customers for information (with no place to put it).
Capture information while people wait- If you have a business that requires people to wait for a finished product, ask them to fill out some information that allows your business to better serve them while they wait. This may be a digital form that you pass along with a QR code or a paper form for some business types.
Ask at the register- If you have some business information, but you are looking to fill in the gaps you can incentivize your staff to ask a single piece of information at the register. A simple “We are starting a birthday club, could I get your birthday to enter into our system so we can send you a card on your birthday?” is a fairly simple process. You don’t want to play twenty questions at the register and hold up a line, but a single question or two could help round out your database quickly.
Offer rewards- When providing detailed information, some customers will ask “what’s in it for me?” If you pitch a more extensive survey, an immediate discount, entry into a drawing, or access to something special can help customers focus on providing information. Have a plan to entice customer participation in data collection, and communicate your plan (and customer benefits) clearly.
Once you have information from customers you have to USE it. Design questions that matter to allow for better outreach, targeted specials, and the promotion of business loyalty. Think about all the marketing plans you can engage with the addition of basic information, and then budget for the implementation of those marketing plans. With a little extra effort, you can keep in closer contact with your clients in 2022.

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.


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