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Of Watermelons and Unstructured Customer Feedback

(Original Story cited by Keith Dunn)

Simon was a watermelon seller, along with several other vendors, at a local market. Simon being a good listener, heard some customers speaking about how difficult it was to buy the watermelon in the morning and carry it around all day with all their other purchases. Intelligent as he was, Simon put up a placard saying that customers who buy from him can purchase melons in the morning and he would hold it for them by customer name until the end of the day, when they could pick it up before leaving. Simon’s sales increased exponentially and soon all the other vendors started copying his idea and increased their sales as well.

Of Watermelons and Unstructured Customer FeedbackService Opportunity

Simon listened to unstructured and indirect customer feedback. He then utilized this feedback to create a service opportunity. He provided a service that differentiated him from all the other sellers. Do all retailers listen to unstructured customer feedback that gives them interesting insights such as this? Perhaps so, but the deployment of survey analytics platforms enables retail companies to leverage unstructured data from customer surveys, in-store feedback forms, social media comments and derive clear feedback themes which can significantly enhance decision-making.

Now, Simon had to think of a new idea to set his business apart from the others in the market. Since his watermelons sold through quickly and there were still some buyers in the market, he obtained an additional cartload from a local farmer and sold more when the other vendors had already sold-out.

Product availability

As paramount as it is in the retail industry, the availability of the product and the proportion in which it is available, defines the demand and value of the product. Simon created a situation where the simple availability of stock created a competitive advantage for him in the market.

Eventually, this idea was adopted by all the other vendors. At this point, with additional cartloads available in the market, some watermelons were left-over at the end of the day. Now, Simon decided to apply a half-price discount to the watermelons left-over at the end of the day and shortly customers began to buy two melons instead of one.

Opportunity & Innovation through customer feedback

Once again other sellers began to adopt the same concept and applied a discount to their left-over stock. At this point, customers had enough of the same type of watermelon and overhearing a conversation between two customers, Simon explored the possibility of a new type of watermelon from his local farmer. The farmer provided Simon a smaller, sweeter variety that was an immediate success. The farmer considering his longstanding relationship with Simon agreed not to supply the same varieties to other vendors if Simon continued to take two cartloads of the new variety. Together the farmer and Simon, benefitted from the exclusive agreement as it would take at least 3 months for other farmers to replicate this variety.

Product differentiation

Competitors can attempt to imitate service standards, therefore service advantage may be lost over time as most companies have a customer service value, that is in theory, expected to be unique, but eventually becomes an industry standard. Also, with the additional cartload brought by every vendor, the supply increased significantly resulting in a decrease in equilibrium price causing Simon’s new initiative to offer a discount. But besides all this, what really sets a retailer apart is the ability to provide a product that demonstrates the character of the company, either in terms of quality, price or a unique selling proposition.

Simon’s business evolved as he provided enhanced service, improved product availability, pricing opportunity and differentiation thereof. All put together, Simon created a value proposition that every retailer can adopt. So how did he do this? He listened to his customers and gauged their every move – a recommendation for all retailers to leverage the value of customer feedback through analytics.

Have a viewpoint to share? Please leave a comment.

This blog is authored by Sindhuja Vasudevan, Project Manager at BRIDGEi2i

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of BRIDGEi2i.