There’s a North American proverb that says “to understand the man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasin’. Walking in someone else’s shoes might sound a bit odd but it’s actually a great way to learn about your customers.

Here’s 14 easy things you can do right now to grow your understanding of what your customers are doing, thinking and feeling. Why is this important? You’ll get new knowledge. And knowledge is power. Power to build a business that gets results.

Quite simply, if you don’t take the time observe your target market, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Some ideas on this list are perfect for service based businesses. Others more suited for product based businesses. Some work well if you’re looking to get repeat business, while others will help you learn about potential customers.

Before you start, just ask yourself these two questions.

What do you want to learn?

How will you use your new insights

Here we go!

1. Observe your mum or grandmother making a purchase on your website. If you have a website that sells products, get your mum or your grandmother to buy something. Just give them a list of items to purchase, and sit behind and watch how they go at navigating the website, finding the items and placing an order. Resist the urge to give tips and prompts! Use what you learn to tweak your website and improve accessibility. While your target market might not be older (just yet!), remember that people buy gifts for others so you want to make it as easy as possible for all generations to use your website.

2. Join online forums and Facebook groups where your target market hang out. I’ll admit it – I love online forums and groups. You can find and connect with others facing similar challenges, and discover new solutions. But even more importantly, you can observe both your target market and your competitors. For your target market, you can understand what they’re asking. And from a business perspective, you can work out who the main authorities are in your niche. From there you can think about ways to address your potential customer’s problems and differentiate yourself from the competition. Want some suggestions of groups? Check out our post on forums here.

3. Have a random stranger use your website. I love Peek user testing – basically a random person from anywhere in the world will spend 3-5 minutes on your site looking around and commenting on what they’ve found. What they see is recorded, and you get voice narration to go with the screen. It’s not exactly scientific but you never know what you’ll discover. Click on the image below to see a Peek user review of a very early version of the Research Toolkit.

4. Set up google analytics for your website. You can learn about pages that are visited, pages that aren’t, search terms used to find your site, social media links and where visitors are located. There’s already a ton of great websites that can teach you about google analytics – you can use the data as a way to determine what’s working (and what’s not).

5. Analyse how visitors are using your website. Software that lets you record what people are doing on your website when they visit is pretty popular at the moment – think Hotjar or Mouseflow. The insights will give you an idea of how people are using your site, where they’re going and more importantly, at which point they’re leaving.

6. Have a read of the annual Sensis Social Media report. This free report gives you an overview of social media habits from a survey of 800 Australians and typically comes out in the middle of each year. It includes a good overview of the main social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter, SnapChat), as well as insights on how businesses are using social media. You can find it here.

7. Watch people in your store. If you have a physical store, put someone else in charge and use the time to simply watch people come in and out of your store. Where do they gravitate? What’s their facial expressions? How long do they spend? Are there physical barriers to moving through the store (ie – some small aisles, hard to reach places?) Are prices visible? What questions do they have? There’s possibly simple things that can be changed quickly that’ll make for a better customer experience.

8. Use analytics to understand product popularity. Regardless of what you use to manage your inventory, undertake analysis to see what customers are buying, at what time of day, at what time of year, in what colors, and in what sizes. Discover who is buying multiple products, and identify opportunities to package together items commonly bought together. Not comfortable doing this kind of analysis? Consider outsourcing to Fivrr where you’re sure to find some data savvy people willing to do your analysis for you.

9. Head to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to better understand your potential customers. The ABS runs a census every five years, and you’d be amazed at the plethora of information available freely. It’s particularly helpful if you’re looking to scope a new market and want to better understand the possibilities. For example, let’s say you were thinking about opening a business in a specific region? You can use the statistics to check the demographics of people residing in the local area. There’s a free small business portal to get you started.

10. Get someone to do some mystery shopping on your website or in your store. Give someone the task of finding something and making a purchase. Get them to give you an honest appraisal of how hard or easy it was, along with an assessment of the customer service they received.

11. Actively monitor and respond to customer reviews. Monitor reviews you get through Google or Facebook. Don’t forget to respond – even if it’s just to thank the person for taking the time to provide their feedback. Reviews can be a double-edged sword – giving insight into what’s working well (or not).

12. Tap into market research panels to test new ideas. Got some questions you want to ask of potential customers, but having trouble getting participation in surveys? Consider using market research panels – groups of people who are interested in participating in surveys. SurveyMonkey has a relatively affordable panel – you can ask 5 questions of 100 people for under $150. However, it’s US based only at the moment but nevertheless could be a good starting point to test your next big idea.

13. Analyse your email statistics. Do you regularly (or maybe not?!) send emails? Don’t forget to take the time to analyse open rates, click throughs and unsubscribes. These insights can help you deliver content that better hits the mark.

14. Check out IbisWorld industry statistics. Another great resource for anyone looking to better understand a specific industry. Ibis World publications are well known for their detail in scoping industries and uncovering opportunities. While this is normally prohibitively expensive to most small businesses, be sure to check out your local government (state/federal) small business websites. For example, if you’re based in Victoria, you can go onsite and access it for free. You can learn more here.

So there you have it, 14 ways you can watch and learn from your customers.

Sure, it’s time consuming and you may not always hear what you wanted to, but the opportunity to make some quick changes and grow your business is there for the taking. Want to keep this list handy? Download our infographic for ready-reference right here.

Are you ready to start connecting with your customers? Our Survey in a Box can help. Many told us that getting feedback can be time consuming, uncomfortable and sometimes confusing. What are the right questions to ask? How do I ask for feedback? And most importantly, how do I use new insights to grow my business?

You’ll get:

  • A survey template specifically designed for your business to get feedback from your clients.
  • An invitation template you can use to invite clients to give you feedback.
  • Step by step instructions on how to build your online survey in less than 20 minutes.
  • Guidance on how to interpret the results.

Head over here to get yours today – it could be the most valuable $9.95 you ever spend.

33 ways to learn more about your customers

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