Throughout our Marketing Tutorials and Blog Posts, we repeatedly stress how crucial it is for marketers to have a firm grasp on understanding what their customers' needs really are. While this is one of the most important issues facing marketers, it is far from being an easy assignment. For instance, for those operating in high-tech fields, predicting what customers want has historically been a challenge as needs change very rapidly often because customers did not even know they had a certain need until a new product is offered (e.g., cellphones, tablet devices).
But even less technical industries need to be on guard for changing needs, though these tend to happen on a slower pace than in high-tech industries. For example, food manufacturers may see consumers change their consumption habits but the change generally occurs slowly over many years. However, no matter what industry, marketers must be aware of what is coming and begin to move in the direction of the changing needs.
To help prepare for change, marketers immerse themselves in a wide-range of research techniques by gathering data from both internal and external sources. For example, marketers may develop their own customer surveys and ask customers directly what needs they may want satisfied in the future. Another internal option may involve closely tracking any changes in the purchasing patterns of identifiable customers, which can be done easily if customers use purchasing or loyalty cards, or other trackable measures.
For external sources, marketers may spend money to acquire specialize research that a third-party research or trade group conducts for an industry. Another external source may be reports produced by reputable news outlets, such as discussed in this story from USA Today. It paints an interesting picture of what the food habits of American consumers may be like in five years. The information contained in the story is based on comments by food experts from around the country. While this is likely not an example of highly scientific research, the comments offered should give companies operating in the food industry, including food producers, restaurants and grocery stores, something to discuss when they begin to talk about what their customers will want in the next few years.
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