No big research budget? No big deal.

Knowing your consumer helps set your brand up for success. But what happens when there’s no time or budget for some much-needed research? How do you connect with your target when insights are based on hunches instead of hard data? You get scrappy. That’s right. You can get a good pulse on audience perceptions and pain points with very little investment. Here’s how:

Read Consumer Reviews

Even if you don’t have a big retail presence, your competition might. Reading consumer reviews is a great way to hear directly from your target audience — what they like, don’t like and how your competition stacks up against their expectations. Here’s how you can make the most of this research exercise:

  • Amazon is a great place to start, but be sure check out other retailer websites
  • Pick 3–5 competitive products and dig deep into their reviews (you can spend hours on this!)
  • Focus on both positive (3–5 star) and negative (1–2 star) to get a picture of overall perceptions
  • If your product is in a new category, choose a similar category to analyze — it can still provide helpful information and direction

Main Takeaway
Reviews can give you real and honest feedback about what consumers want. Take time to understand what they’re saying about you and/or your competitors and use those insights to your advantage.

Reach out to your network

Social media is a great place to recruit active buyers in your category for 1:1 interviews. Recruits can come from all over the country, giving you a broader perspective on what consumers think. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:

  • A 30-minute call with 5–10 people (one call per person) will give you a realistic pulse
  • Prepare your survey criteria in advance and limit questions to 10 per call — that way you have time to follow up and dig deeper into the WHYs and HOWs
  • In exchange for your recruit’s time and participation, incentivize with gift cards or free samples of your product 

Main Takeaway
In the absence of insights from retailers, live conversations with real consumers can teach you a lot about your audience and the marketplace. Leveraging your social media connections can be a quick substitute for national focus groups.

Be a secret shopper

Posing as a customer can provide a lot of valuable information. It shows you how people engage with your products and your competition’s products in real time. And it gives you the opportunity to see things from a shopper’s perspective. Here are a few tips on making the most of your experience:

  • Pick 2–3 retailers that distribute products in your category and study the aisle to draw conclusions
    • What products are at eye level, on the top or bottom shelf? What does shelf merchandising look like?
    • Ask store employees a question or two about the products to see what you can learn
  • Take it all in with a consumer perspective, from the story retail employees tell, to the story brands tell on their packaging
  • Just like consumers do, visit online stores too — pay attention to where products appear in the scroll, how they look on the page and what kinds of information they feature
  • Stay true to the “secret” part of being a “secret shopper” and remember you’re incognito
    • Don’t linger too long or draw attention to yourself — you are only there to observe
    • Don’t ever approach consumers as it could cause trouble for the retailer

Main Takeaway
Whether your product is on shelf or you’re learning from your competition, visiting stores in person and online gives you a valuable sightline into the consumer experience.

Have more questions?

Get in touch with our research experts and let’s talk it through. We get how complicated research can be — we’re here to make it a whole lot easier for you.