Knowing what your target audience is thinking is essential to implementing a successful online business. The more you know about what goes on inside your customers’ minds, the more spot-on content, products, and services you can offer, and (ideally) the better the reception you’ll get.
But how exactly can you get to know your audience? Focus groups? Sure. Hire a research company to conduct a study on them? That would work. These methods are good, but they can also be time-consuming and expensive.
That said, you have a number of alternatives when it comes to conducting market research and getting your target audience talking. Here are 5:
Implement live chat
Live chat can give you unique insights because your customers are talking to you while they’re on your site. This can give you a real-time look at how they’re browsing your products or content, and can provide a lot of information on what you can do to improve.
For instance, if your chat logs are telling you that customers are having a hard time finding what they need, then you can quickly take action and improve the layout or appearance of your site.
Spend time on review sites and encourage customers to do the same
If you have a brick and mortar store, be sure to spend time on review websites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, or any other local directories to see what people are saying about your store. Doing so will give you a glimpse of your customers’ experiences while interacting with your business, and like live chat, can show you how you can improve.
Hang out in LinkedIn Groups
Got a LinkedIn account? Be sure to join relevant groups in your industry so you can always have an ear on the hottest discussions going on in your niche. People are constantly posting links, asking questions and striking up conversations in these groups, making them rich sources of ideas and insights.
Finding and joining groups is pretty easy on LinkedIn. I suggest you start by looking at the groups of your connections. Head to the profiles of other people in your niche, find out which groups they belong to, and hit the join button.
Another option is to use LinkedIn’s search function. Head to the search box at the top of the page, select “Groups” using the drop down button on the left, and type in a keyword relevant to your industry.
Do note however, that not all groups are created equal. LinkedIn gives you a limited number of groups you can join, so pick yours wisely.
When browsing the groups, get a feel of what’s going on by looking at the discussions and links being posted. Are there actual conversations going on or are people simply using the groups to promote their own links? Are members taking part in intelligent discussions or is it simply full of people just patting each other on the back?
Naturally, you’ll want to join groups that contain real discussions so you can derive insights and generate ideas.
I’d also recommend jumping in and contributing to the discussions. Don’t just silently lurk and harvest ideas. Weigh in and share your thoughts. Doing so paves the way for even more insights and, in turn, action.
Not to mention, it also gives you more exposure. The more you participate, the more people can get to know you and your business, and the more connections you can get. And who knows? Those connections can turn into great business relationships in the long run.
Let customers take quizzes
We all can learn a thing or two from subscription-based services such as Birchbox, ShoeDazzle, and StitchFix. For most of these sites, the first step that users make is taking a “style quiz” that would enable them to personalize their product recommendations and shipments to customers.
The great thing about quizzes is that the data is being volunteered by customers, giving companies direct insight into what they want or need.
Consider doing the same thing in your business. If you’re doing market research—whether it’s for a campaign, product, or redesign—ask your audience for input using quizzes.
And steer clear of the bland types of quizzes. Make them fun, just like what subscription businesses are doing. StitchFix for instance, a subscription site for apparel, has a quiz containing images and non-boring questions, making it fun to take and thus increasing the chances of people actually completing it.
Go beyond traditional analytics
We’re huge advocates of web analytics here at ViberAgency. In fact, we offer services dedicated to data and reporting in case you need help in that department.
We also recommend that you go beyond traditional analytics and reporting that track the usual metrics such as traffic and conversions. These tools are highly valuable, but if you wish to get a more comprehensive view of what’s going on in your site and what visitors are doing, you may want to invest in behavioral analytics tools such as heat maps or user testing software.
Crazy Egg for instance, is a nifty heat map tool that offers some visual representations of how people are behaving on your website. Want know which parts of the page are getting the most and least attention? Looking to find out where people are getting stuck? Crazy Egg can deliver to answers to those questions and more.
No need to analyze numbers, the tool can lay out everything for you through user-friendly graphics and colors.
Another great tool is Fivesecondtest, an online service that can help you understand people’s first impressions of your website. Simply upload a screenshot of the website, landing page, or design that you wish to test, set some questions that you want to ask the audience, and watch the answers pour in.
Testers on the other hand would see your upload for five seconds and proceed to answer the questions you posted. Responses are then gathered and served up to you in easy to understand graphs.
Another service you may want to check out is UserTesting. Using the tool, you can watch videos of people using your website so you can actually see their web browsing journey.