What does “customer needs” actually mean? On a subconscious level, all customers feel the need to be listened to, to be understood, made to feel comfortable and to feel welcome. But these are basic needs that won’t compel the customer to buy. They are, however, base level needs which must to be met in addition to the need to have a problem solved.
Base level, or sub-conscious, customer needs can be met by:
- Good customer service standards – This involves a superior level of customer interaction pre-purchase as well as post-purchase.
- Positive and targeted marketing messages – Spamming and broad capture marketing messages can make potential customers feel like they are not important or not understood.
It’s important that all businesses address the base level needs in addition to the conscious level need.
On a conscious level, customer needs are related to a problem that will be solved by making a purchase. Many businesses only guess at what their target customer needs are. Some get lucky and guess correctly, while other businesses languish because they have guessed incorrectly. Taking the time to correctly identify customer needs gives businesses a competitive edge. This competitive edge will attract and retain customers, persuade your customers to shop with you more (ie. repeat customers), and to increase the amount that they spend.
So how do you identify customer needs?
There are broadly two sources of information used to assess customer needs. One is conducting primary research, and the second is using secondary research. Primary research tends to be costly and therefore is mainly the domain of larger companies with a fair marketing budget.
Primary research is the process of gathering original information directly for your purpose. It consists of one or more of the following:
- Conducting surveys, through emails, door to door or telephone
- Using focus groups.
- Conducting interviews with people who fit the demographic of a business’s’ target customer base
- Gathering information directly by observing behavior.
- Secondary research is the process of using published information, or data gathered by another party, to assess customer needs through market research. The sources of this information can be:
- Local government (council) reports, statistics and business directories
- Industry bodies such as trade associations and chambers of commerce
- Free research on the internet
- Public libraries