Blog / The Value of Customer Feedback & the Power of Listening to Your Audience
Selling online is something that i’m most definitely learning as I go along. I have dipped in and out of working freelance and most of my income has come from selling prints etc of my work during those times. I suppose in the beginning it was a means to an end but in the last year especially, things really took off for me. With increased demand and sales comes a greater sense of responsibility. I sort of fell into this world of retail and I find myself learning on the job everyday. I make mistakes and I learn from them. I watch others and pick up tips for better success. The one thing that I have proven over and over however is the value of customer feedback. At the end of the day, if you are making and selling ANYTHING, its not going to serve you well to simply make whatever takes your personal fancy, release it into the big bad world of consumerism and simply hope that people will like it and ultimately buy it. If you’re going to invest your time and effort into a thing, it had better pay you back and serve others well. You’ve got to know it will be well received. You’ve got know it will meet a need or want, fill a gap or inspire something new and exciting. You’ll only discover that though if you are listening to your audience. Are you listening? Are you asking?
About 18 months ago, I put out a survey when I was wondering what to do about my business name. I didn’t ask directly if I should change it but I did ask what people thought about my current product range (which at that time was 90% geared towards children, with very little Welsh language options available). The overwhelming theme was a desire to see prints for grown ups as well as kids and LOTS more Welsh stuff. I knew my business name (Kindy Garden) was holding me back. So at the start of 2014 I changed it to simply “Megan Tucker Illustration” and the rest is history! I made a lot more prints for grown ups and massively expanded my Welsh language offerings. The result? My business grew hugely. Im so thankful that I have such an honest bunch of followers and I’m so glad that I took the time to ask.
At the end of last week, I was thinking ahead to the latter half of this year (can you believe we are already half done with 2015!?). One thing I most certainly have yet to master is the skill of major forward planning. Gift retail is a funny thing- Christmas is designed and planned months and months in advance, as well as any other occasion. I have yet to master this level of extensive preparation but i’m working on it! Anyway- I was thinking about products for Autumn/Winter and as usual my big list of ideas ran through my mind and I felt lost. Option paralysis. I have designed some things in the last 12 months that I have been absolutely sure would go down a storm and their performance has been somewhat lack lustre. While this is an inevitable outcome occasionally as we can never know for sure how a new design will go down, It’s made me reconsider how much I’m actually listening to my own audience. So I put out a survey. Just 10 short questions to try and tease out what people want. Once again- Im so glad I did this. My Facebook followers are such a fantastic crowd and within 24 hours I had a sampler of 100 individual responses. The stats are so insightful. I’ll go through each question here and explain what I can see:
QUESTION 1: WHAT IS YOUR GENDER?
99% female! Just one man filled in my questionnaire and he’s a stockist (Thank you kind Sir, you know who you are! Nice to see at least one man standing up for the Male element of my audience!). Seriously though- this was an obvious one, so no surprises there!
QUESTION 2: WHAT IS YOUR AGE?
Im on point with this. Ive always said my target customer range is around mid twenties to early forties and here it is in black and white… Or blue and orange as the case may be!
QUESTION 3: WHAT PART OF THE UK DO YOU LIVE IN?
I have to say- this was one of the biggest surprises for me. Now, 100 responses only accounts for a small percentage of my overall 1675 Facebook following (not to mention other actual customers who do not follow me on social media), but the fact that almost 50% of those who answered were in England was really intriguing! Again- Ive sort of fallen into the world of gift retail and I suppose at the back of my mind I have worried that my increase in Welsh language designs may have made English followers feel less interested. But look at that! 48.96%! What does this tell me? A huge chunk of my following are English but are still really engaged with what I do. So much so, that almost 50 of them took the time to fill out a survey for me. They follow me still despite the influx of Welsh products and are ok with it. What should my response be? Keep them engaged! Maintain a better balance of English things alongside the Welsh. Also- get into some English shops! All of my stockists are in Wales, and while that is very much my niche (which I’m immensely glad to have found) I shouldn’t let that stop me from branching out. Yes there is more competition in that market, but I shouldn’t let that intimidate me!
QUESTION 4: HAVE YOU PURCHASED ANYTHING FROM MY ETSY SHOP BEFORE?
This was almost a 50/50 split between yes and no. Im quite happy with this result. This means 50% of my sampled audience are customers too. That other 50%? Well, i just have to work harder to switch them from the blue to the green. Perhaps given that fact that so many are based in England, upping my english language offerings will help this. (Welshies! fear not! Im not going to pull back on the Welsh stuff! Just have a better balance of the two.)
QUESTION 5: IF YOU HAVE, WHAT THINGS HAVE YOU PURCHASED?
Cards came out on top for this at 64.58%. This is interesting because I’ve only really offered cards for around 6 months or so. It makes sense because cards are something we all buy and all need on a regular basis. The response? Up my offering. (More on this in question 9). It’s also great to see how many of you have purchased prints too.
QUESTION 6: WHEN YOU PURCHASE THINGS ONLINE, DO YOU LIKE TO GET LITTLE FREEBIES WITH YOUR ORDER? IF SO, WHAT THINGS DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE?
This is one of those things that I keep meaning to get round to but haven’t as yet. Now though i’m going to MAKE time for it. The biggest winner was “A money off coupon for next time”. A few people commented under “Other” that they didn’t expect to receive extras and didn’t consider them necessary. This is true but I do agree that something like a voucher for next time A) encourages repeat business and B) rewards loyalty. It’s like a “Thank You”.
The second most popular answer was “Paper goods, such as useable gift tags or stickers”. I have purchased things from creative makers in the past and have been sent these sorts of little extras. I personally will hang onto them if I feel they are of use to me. I will have a think about these two options and see what will work best. Oh and while I’m on the subject, a considerable amount of people commented “SWEETS!” under “Other” which made me laugh! Sweets are fun but can push up the price of postage on account of the added thickness, so, sorry guys! hehe!
QUESTION 7: WHEN PURCHASING A PRINT OR ANY OTHER GIFT, HOW IMPORTANT IS THE POTENTIAL FOR CUSTOMISATION TO YOU?
60% agreed “Its a nice touch but I don’t strive to find gifts that offer this”. This is good to know because there has been a large trend along these lines of late and the pressure can be to make everything customisable. I think for extra special gifts this option is great but ultimately if everything a seller offered was custom, it would elevate the time and therefore the cost. I’m glad to see that although this is sort after on occasion, its not essential. So my response should be, offer a few more things like this but not feel under pressure to switch over completely.
QUESTION 8: ON WHICH OCCASION WOULD YOU BE MOST LIKELY TO PURCHASE A PRINT AS A GIFT FOR A CHILD?
“New baby” came out ontop at 37.76% followed closely by “To decorate a room”. I really do want to offer more artwork for children so this is why I asked about this. Both of these answers offer custom opportunities as well as giving me confidence to just create some beautiful illustrations to frame and give as gifts or to add to a customers own children’s bedroom decor. Fantastic!
QUESTION 9: I'M THINKING OF REVAMPING MY GREETINGS CARD SECTION. WHAT DESIGNS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN MY SHOP?
As we saw back in question 5, my cards are proving popular. I have shied away from cards in the past as they are relatively small ticket items, but this survey has confirmed that though that is the case, they are in the demand so its something worth expanding further. I knew “Birthday” would be number one (at 70.71%!) followed then by “Blank” surprisingly at 40.40% and then “Wedding” at 39.39%. A few mentioned under “Other” that they would also like to see packs of cards as well as lots more Welsh. So revamping my card section is an absolute must! This is high up on my to-do list now and I hope to within the next few months have a much wider selection for customers to choose from.
QUESTION 10: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF IN MY SHOP?
Now this was the biggie and the crux of my whole survey. What do people want? What do they need but struggle to find?
The most requested items were prints for kids. I guess after only offering kids prints at one stage, I may be guilty of swinging too much the other way. Particularly in the Welsh gift market, I personally see a bit of a gap here, so I most definitely want to fill it. Of course these designs would be offered bilingually. Other big requests were for personalised prints, such as prints for wedding gifts etc, Lots more maps (it would seem lots of you are really enjoying those!), possibly bringing back mugs and bags, and also offering a few more sizes in certain designs. There is so much food for thought in those answers. I will be taking the next few days to really think over all of the responses and carve out a plan going forward and allow those suggestions to shape my designs for the future.
I wanted to write this blog post so you could see firstly that I hear you! I really value what you have all brought to the table and will do my best to use the information you have provided to make my business better. Also- if you are a designer or a shop owner or even a student wanting to lauch into this kind of work in the future, I hope this post has shown you how vital customer feedback is and how having a good relationship with your following/fans/customer base is so important. Not only will it create loyalty to your brand, it will help shape the way you run your business and choose your products. I used Survey Monkey to create my questionnaire. They have varying options available, but a simple maximum 10 question survey is free! If you have any extra thoughts about ways I could improve my product offerings, or any tips on how to better listen to an audience, please comment below- I'd love to hear from you!