Just found this quote from Steve Jobs on my recent AMA MarketingPower newsletter.
"It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them."
Darn right, Steve. I would even go a step further. Customers are unpredictable: not only until you show them, but until they buy.
There are more choices with time and money than one can imagine, or handle for that matter. As witnessed throughoutt this holiday shopping season, if you walk into an electronics store with a straight mission to buy a new iPod, you’re golden. If, however, you are looking for any type of music player for a gift and are price conscious, the choices have just increased exponentially. Especially if you walk into an independent retail store or shopping on the worldwide and never-ending Internet.
So now you have seen it all on display or on the Net, and maybe a competent sales person explained it to you. Now what? You buy one, or you go home and defer the purchase until later. Chances are you left the store with product, bag, receipt and a good feeling.
But how did we get here? Well, at the start someone built a good-looking product, invested money in building a brand – like Steve Jobs and team. Perhaps they made a smart and timely offer to make the sale: a discount coupon of 20% that you brought into the store; a secondary product that convinced you of an added value; added points to your loyalty status; or something else stimulating. Most likely, both retailer and manufacturer helped you with convincing arguments to purchase the item.
If, however, we asked shoppers in a focus group, they couldn’t tell you what enticed them to buy. They’d make up stuff or take guesses at best. Better to track responses live in action, via item-level coding. It’s amazing what technology is out there already in retail or online, but hardly ever gets used to measure marketing success. Sure – we have seen coupons both printed and digital; barcoding has been used mostly for cost-saving focused supply chain management – and digital screen displays and more intelligent RFID tagging allowing retailers to interface with the end customer wirelessly in store aisles.
Both manufacturers and retailers are interested in faster product turnover, lower inventory cost (you may have noticed empty shelves during this holiday season) and more direct feedback mechanisms with the customer, allowing both to make smarter decisions on matching supply and demand.
As an agency accountable to manage our clients’ marketing spend, we have limited influence on this type of shopping infrastructure. Yet as direct marketers we always like to help push the envelope and zero in on cause and effect. When we do, we really are at our best. And our clients get credit for their effectiveness when asking the CFO for more budget.
Let’s do more of that in 2010 and measure more where the register rings: better, faster and with predictable ROI.