If you really want to study elephants, is the zoo the best place to learn about their behavior? Obviously not. You need to study them in their natural habitat in the wild.
The same is true of consumers. Brands invite them in for focus groups and ask them to complete surveys, but do these channels provide the true picture of how consumers feel about the brand and their products?
These manufactured measures of consumer opinion certainly have their uses, but they aren’t the best way to tap into the mindset of your target audience.
Analysts have long known about the response bias inherent in solicited feedback like customer surveys, interviews, and focus groups, and work hard to minimize its impact with strategic questions. But there’s another side to understanding what your customers and the market really want that bypasses this flaw: unsolicited consumer feedback.
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What is unsolicited consumer feedback?
Unsolicited consumer feedback is shared without having been prompted by the business. While the term “unsolicited feedback” typically has a negative connotation for individuals, it can be an excellent source of actionable insights for businesses.
Think of your last flight. Solicited feedback is the automatic email that you get after your trip asking for your feedback or prompting you to take a survey. Unsolicited feedback is your tweet about the positive or negative experience you are currently having, in the moment, without being prompted. Because it doesn’t involve directly asking for feedback, and the fact that it is happening in the moment, unsolicited feedback can uncover much deeper and more authentic insights than traditional solicited customer feedback alone.
Here’s an example of what the type of consumer insights you can uncover quickly with unsolicited consumer feedback:
Where can brands find unsolicited consumer feedback data? Public online sources like social media, forums, blogs, reviews, and more. Also from internal data like transcripts from calls or online chats and other internal business data.
Of course, most brands are “listening” to the direct feedback they are getting on social media and other channels. In fact, many enterprises have an entire team dedicated to responding to this feedback. But there is a entire world of “feedback” that exists outside specific mentions of your brand or products, like changing consumer preferences, perception of competing brands, and emerging trends. All of these deeper consumer insights can be uncovered with the help of AI.
Why is unsolicited feedback so valuable?
With consumers being more empowered than ever, it’s extremely important for brands to have the most up to date data on their opinions and preferences. Consumers now know that they have a wide variety of choices for most products and services. When brands don’t deliver, or when preferences change, it’s easier than ever for consumers to look for alternatives.
In the past, when brands wanted to understand how consumers felt about something, they had to pay big money for market research firms to run focus groups and administer surveys — all forms of solicited feedback.
In addition to the high cost, conducting surveys or focus groups takes a great deal of time. The process of formulating questions, distributing the survey, and waiting for enough results to filter in can take weeks. By the time you have compiled the survey data, the questions you asked may already be outdated in regards to the current consumer view of your brand.
Today, tools that analyze social media and other online sources allow brands to answer these questions much more quickly and deeply than in the past. Analyzing online data to understand consumer opinion about your band, products, or competitors provides results in real-time and can uncover unexpected insights that surveys and focus groups can’t match.
Even the best survey response rates can’t match the scale of the trillions of consumer conversations happening across online channels. Access to all of these conversations allows you to uncover insights you didn’t even know you were looking for. When you start to analyze unsolicited consumer opinion and direct feedback together, you begin to discover insights that can help you make better decisions on everything from product development to marketing.
Instead of using surveys or focus groups to ask consumers what types of food they wanted to eat at the stadium, Levy Brands used unsolicited consumer feedback from social media to choose what type of restaurant to open. The result was a big increase in revenue: