There are two core groups of people you can split your business’ audience into; customers and consumers. Those who have purchased from you, and those who may purchase but are yet to. Understanding the wants and needs of these groups will strengthen your brand’s position in the market. For customers, it’s all about securing their loyalty for maximum lifetime value and inspiring them to become brand ambassadors. For consumers, by resonating with what they want, you’ll be able to convert them into customers faster and at a higher value. But – how do we really listen to these groups instead of just guessing?
When it comes to holding a conversation with your audience, the first thing that should come to mind is to simply ask them the questions you have. Direct interactions with the people who may be purchasing from you will tackle the information gap head on. You can use surveying tools such as Pollfish (great tip from Kirsty Hulse, will literally change your life) to put your questions to particular demographics and get real data from these groups. If you’re on top of the latest Google news, you’ll also know that they recently launched Google Surveys 360 as a new way to collect data on your core audience groups, at a faster pace than other tools will do currently.
Of course, if it was as simple as that, then everyone would be doing it. But surveying can be expensive, time-consuming and tricky to execute. The investment that it takes to reach a large enough survey audience for the data to be significant can be extremely large. If you’re looking to cheat your way around a survey, then you can always utilise the data stored by Yougov in their Profiles Lite tool. If you are a big enough brand then it is likely there will be audience personas built on your already, if not you can select some aspirational brands to research and combine their audience information to gain a picture of yours.
User Testing platforms (such as usertesting.com) enable you to directly see individuals interacting with your website and brand, gathering both written and verbal feedback from them. Through building scenarios on your site, and on competitor sites, you can test the most important interactions that people may have with your website to check how your messaging translates. Questions such as which of these three sites would you trust the most? And what do you think is the main USP of this brand? will help to gain qualitative judgements on the website, so you can understand what the audience is really thinking.
However, there is no perfect test when it comes to this method. Those testing are not real-life customers, and may not even fall into the category of consumers if they are not the suitable audience. As a result, your test groups are out of your control in terms of selection, which means that you may be asking people who are not relevant to the brand. There is also a risk that the wording in the questions and scenarios you set may create some form of bias. It’s important that they are not worded in a leading manner in order to gain the most accurate feedback.
In order to see your actual audience interacting with the site (if you think surveying might result in skewed answers or be too intrusive to their experience) you could also use session recording to gain insight. From a free tool such as Hotjar, up to more advanced platforms like Decibel Insight, any type of session recording can help you to see the direct interactions with your website – in a more advanced manner than Google Analytics.
As this method only passively records, a lot of the conclusions drawn from the findings will be based on assumptions. If you are collating a large number of recordings then it will be easy to find patterns in behaviour, however, the causes behind the pattern may not be clear. Correlation does not equate to causation.
The Best Way to Listen
It’s clear that all of the methods above have their advantages and disadvantages. In an ideal world, directly gaining honest and genuine feedback from a brand’s audience would be the most accurate way of understanding what the audience wants. However, as we live in an imperfect world, it becomes increasingly important to find ways around this. A combination of the three research methods above will be the best way to collate data on your audience and understand them fully. Integrating these data points will help you understand that if there’s a pattern flagged in session recording, then it should be tested directly in user testing, alongside an optional survey to real life users, to truly gain insight into your audience groups.