American Marketer


98pc of executives report impact from formal listening programs: survey

December 2, 2014

Listening to the affluent consumer is key Listening to the affluent consumer is key


Listening to consumers is often thought to be key for brands looking to personalize experiences, but only 25 percent of C-suite executives have formal listening program, according to a new survey conducted by Shullman Research Center.

This survey highlights the lack of listening programs as well as the benefits a brand may redeem if it had a formal platform. By having an official method of listening, brands can redeem benefit in revenue, efficiency and marketing and develop a deeper connection with their consumers.

"The major takeaway is that there are two things that these type of programs address: you might be doing things for the customer that they do not want or appreciate, or you might be doing something that they value that would lead to increase revenue and profits" said Bob Shullman, founder/CEO of the Shullman Research Center, New York. "If you don’t listen, how will you know?"

The survey was conducted by Shullman Research Center, Luxury Marketing Council and Peppercomm between April 24 and July 15, 2014. The study had 251 completed surveys by executives in the luxury, affluent and wealth markets. C-suite executives completed 161 surveys.

What they really want

From the C-suite executives that were surveyed, 67 percent said they did not use a formal program for listening to their consumers, and 25 percent have one. From these two groups, the remainder of the survey was conducted.

Participants were asked questions about their interaction with consumers and the methods used to listen to them.

C-suite executives with formal listening programs reported that 90 percent of their staff personally interacts with their customers, compared to only 73 percent of the non-formal program C-suite executives who reported the same thing.

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Impact of formal listening programs

When it comes to listening programs, integrating digital and physical platforms, much like marketing campaigns, is also important. Eighty-three percent of the C-suite executives with formal programs reported having digital tools to assist in their listening to consumers. Forty-one percent of these executives have reported integrating all channels such as Web, bricks-and-mortar, catalog, etc., compared to only 20 percent of those without listening programs.

C-suite executives overwhelmingly reported an impact of their listening programs upon the brand’s success. These impacts included looking toward trends, changing marketing and product execution and looking at areas that were not previously considered to be problems.

"If you do these listening programs - when you listen to your customer and prospects - it leads to the bottom line," Mr. Shullman said. "If you aren’t listening you are missing out on revenue you could have had and they are probably spending with someone else. The end result, if you do it well, has massive impacts."

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Outlook from C-suite executives

Eighty-three percent of the executives with formal listening programs reported changes in the brand since the program was implemented. Changes such as a better marketing messages and media channels, more responsive and attuned to consumers, better allocation of funding and simply just listening more were used.

Those formal listening programs that report directly to the C-suite executives are found to be the most successful than those that are delegated out to other company employees.

By listening to consumers, brands can benefit through revenue, expense efficient, marketing and improvements on their teams. Knowing what consumers want can change the brand’s entire marketing platform.

Digitally listening

Brands without formal listening programs are placing themselves at a disadvantage for engaging their consumers as best as they can. However, there are ways that these brands can use their digital platforms to listen.

For instance, marketers should think about Pinterest boards as extension of their merchandising to drive sales from the platform, according to panelists at Luxury Interactive 2014.

Even if brands believe they don’t have a Pinterest strategy or presence developed, they are on the platform involuntarily as customers pin items they love to their own accounts, which then spread through further shares. Tapping into what is popular on social media, particularly Pinterest, can help a retailer market and sell its products to an audience that is 70 percent female (see story).

Other digital advancements have allowed brands to connect with their consumers.

For example, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Burberry were ranked among the top 100 global brands, according to Interbrand’s 15th annual Best Global Brands 2014 report.

The recent advancements in mobile technologies and consumers’ desire to be ever connected with preferred brands has resulted in the “Age of You,” which the world’s top brands have been able to capitalize on through digital platforms and personalization. Brands that have successfully integrated products and devices have fared better than their counterparts who have failed to react to changing consumption trends (see story).

Using digital aspects only enhances the potential listening programs, so having a program that reaches all consumer-facing aspects of the brand is important.

"A disciplined fully integrated listening program pays, in terms of long term loyalty, costumer satisfaction," said Greg Furman, founder and chairman of The Luxury Marketing Council, New York. "It pays in terms of profits, it pays in terms of customers buying in great depth with their favorite brand."

Final Take
Nancy Buckley, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York