In today’s fast-paced world, companies across every industry are impacted by the exponential rate of disruption. In my time as an expert in business transformation and corporate modernization, I have seen that innovation now happens in months, not years, which means that decisions need to be made instantly rather than quarterly. Companies must keep up with the ever-changing desires of consumers, or they will get left behind. Accordingly, many organizations are forced to operate in a stealthy startup-like mode in order to compete in the marketplace. Over the last two years as president of my company, a real-time consumer insights software platform, I have seen firsthand the massive business impact of what staying close to your customer can do.
More than half of the original S&P 500 companies don’t exist today — which means that any company unable or unwilling to adapt quickly is a target for disruption. Tech-driven companies are driving the most disruption in the modern marketplace. We all know how Netflix took down Blockbuster long ago, but how about the fact that Waze is up and coming in the navigation market, or Dropbox is taking a massive share from brands hard-drive makers like Western Digital, Nest and Honeywell, Airbnb and Mariott; the list goes on with consumer-first companies fulfilling specific needs and creating new experience for users. Technology not only creates a more efficient, streamlined process for businesses; it also connects people. Game mechanics, social dynamics and network effects are all key concerns for brands that want to put the customer first.
Keeping a pulse on consumer needs is critical for companies — and technology is helping them further refine how they approach the research and development of new products, services, or even positioning. Organizations have traditionally validated decisions through market research and consumer insight methodologies, which can take months for one project and become very costly. Today, however, technology can validate decisions and arm brands with the knowledge necessary to move forward with a given strategy. Here are three ways that technology can help brands connect to consumers and stay relevant (and stay ahead) in a quickly changing world.
Real-Time Consumer Insights
The opportunity to gain real-time feedback from consumers is abundant today, but brands must be stealthy and strategic for the greatest gains. Real-time consumer insights platforms can connect businesses with their potential customers immediately to make the best decisions about things like packaging and consumer perception prior to a product launch.
For example, prior to Coca Cola launching its new Odwalla Craft Ade flavors, my company helped generate instant feedback on which flavors would be most appealing. Based on both qualitative and quantitative results, Coca Cola determined the top flavors. Coca Cola is just one example of a forward-thinking business using technology to develop products that resonate with its customers.
These real-time results enable a company’s research and development teams to better anticipate the wants and needs of consumers and work to meet them. Ask yourself, is there an unmet or compelling need for your product? How compelling is it? Does it fit your customers’ life or workflow? What is the market opportunity size? How does the competition fit in? Are your customers willing to pay or sign up? How much are they willing to pay? What is the most compelling messaging to tell your story? By validating assumptions like these, you remove both technical and market risk, which is “the ballgame” for innovation.
Consumer Sentiment Retargeting
Typical survey methodology makes it hard to keep a conversation going with respondents since it’s a once-and-done process. However, advances in technology have led to the development of retargeting capabilities so that brands can ask follow-up questions weeks after an initial survey to better understand sentiment over time. It’s impossible to know the future, but the brave new world of consumer sentiment retargeting acts as a crystal ball by giving brands insight into how consumers feel about certain products and services over time. Recently, my company was able to test consumer sentiment for a major automotive manufacturer about car technology, service, maintenance and ownership models by asking a targeted set of consumers a set of questions and then retargeting those consumers based on their first round of answers. This was an effective way for them to initiate very specific sequences with follow-up questions based on how people responded.
Retargeting technology allows brands to slice and dice consumer data by any census level criteria. Segmentation (the practice of dividing specific groups of consumers) enables brands to focus their efforts on market segments that might be most valuable. As a result, brands can now see not only if general consumers are interested in new car ownership models but specifically which consumers are interested — and even how they feel about it. Consider using retargeting as a way to understand the sentiment of your product or service as time goes on.
There are endless opportunities to gain real-time feedback from consumers, but brands must be forward-thinking and strategic for the greatest gains. By leveraging a startup mentality and utilizing cutting-edge technology, brands can ensure that they are anticipating and meeting their consumers’ wants and needs — and doing it in real time.