As marketers, our greatest aspiration is to understand consumers; subsequently, we aim to create ways for them to engage with brands while shopping — ultimately, during product usage. When consumers have a positive experience with a brand, they are more likely to become loyal consumers who make repeat purchases and share the brand with their friends.
Getting inside a consumer’s head is the first step to being able to market to a brand’s target audience. To accomplish this task, it is imperative to gain insight on how consumers interact with the brand’s product, both at retail and at home. There are many methods of gathering this consumer and shopper insight; however, few methods target consumers at their most revealing point: the point of influence.
The Power of the Point of Influence
The point of influence is the exact moment when a consumer is interacting with a product or when a shopper is influenced to make a purchase. Whether it is during a test drive of a new vehicle or the initial moment of walking into a store at the mall, the point of influence is the best opportunity for a brand to make a positive impact on a customer.
Creative brands make the most of these points of influence by winning over consumers’ senses. Here are a few examples of how successful brands influence their consumers:
Smell: Starbucks ensures visitors are welcomed with a rich, enchanting aroma of ground coffee beans while they shop.
Sound: Bose arranges surround sound rooms to help potential customers experience the power of its products’ sound capabilities.
Touch: Apple stores have mastered the influence of touch by providing a unique, hands-on environment for consumers to interact with products.
In each of these examples, the brands are creating points of influence for their potential consumers.
Traditional Research Methods Fall Short
Although brands invest heavily in creating a great sensory experience for consumers, they often fall short on gathering real-time consumer data, collecting it weeks after the customer’s interaction with the brand’s product. Even if a consumer has had a great experience with a brand, the time lapse between the initial interaction and the evaluation of that interaction can breed a loss of recall about the experience.
Historically, two of the most common methods for gathering intelligence on the consumer experience have been surveys and focus groups. Unfortunately, both of these methods rely heavily upon consumers’ memories, which commonly are quite different from their original feelings at the point of influence. In hindsight, the most common methods of gathering consumer opinion have proven to be inefficient in the following ways:
Memories negate unique details of the consumer’s experience. After a few weeks post-brand interaction, no consumer is going to recall all of the minute details that made a difference during the point of influence.
Memories do not accurately characterize the raw emotion felt at the point of influence. Subsequently, it is highly unlikely a survey or focus group study will be able to capture the true emotional connection a consumer experienced with a brand.
Surveys and focus groups are highly structured events, often providing cookie-cutter options for consumers to choose among. These methods generally cause brands to miss out on a consumer’s candor.
Mobile Diaries: Capturing Consumer Data in Real Time
The lack of data gathered in real time continuously hinders brands from fully understanding and strategically working toward their target audiences. If marketers want to accurately capture the true customer experience, they must begin using mobile diaries to allow for instant feedback at the points of influence. Mobile diaries provide three key benefits that surveys and focus groups do not:
1. Higher quality: Mobile diaries provide a method of real-time recall during the shopping experience. Subsequently, no detail is lost due to the passage of time. Whereas surveys rely heavily upon recall, mobile diaries capture the details exactly as they happen in real time.
2. Greater depth: Not only do mobile diaries prevent consumers from changing details about their experiences due to the presence of a survey or focus group, but they also prevent any detail from being forgotten and omitted.
3. Greater breadth: By gathering information from the point of influence, brands are able to capitalize on consumers’ initial (first impression) responses. These responses can often incite additional ideas on how to expand, change and improve the product or service.
Investing in the brand insights derived from real-time consumer interactions at the point of influence ensures you will have everything you need to market to — and engage — your targeted consumer. Utilizing this invaluable information will ultimately make your business a successful one in the long run.
Originally published Jun 6, 2013 1:00:39 AM, updated July 28 2017