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Non-Traditional Market Research – Reviews

We have officially started researching for our business plan and we noticed that one of the best sources of information is customer reviews. Maybe this isn’t as non-traditional as I think it is, but it seems fairly new to me.

We have our concept for a coffee shop. We know what we want to create. The question is, will the customer buy it? That is always the hardest part about starting a business. Without customers paying you for what you do, you don’t have a business. So how do you get to know what customers are buying? You ask them.

In the good ol’ days we would have hired someone to go out and survey the people in the area. That is very old thinking in my opinion. For one, people travel a lot farther than they use to. Two, people post their opinions and thoughts through social media for free. It is possible that we may still need to get some more specific research for the market, but we can find out for free what people are paying for.

Just for giggles, pull up Yelp and look up some of your favorite places. See what people are saying. The thing to remember is that reviews are very personal. That means there are certain things that will make one person absolutely bonkers while another person loves it. We tend to focus on 2-4 star reviews. 5 star reviews are generally just love fests. They can give some good info, but it’s like getting a review from your mom. 1 star reviews are the polar opposite, a hate fest. Some people just love to hate things and they use social media as an outlet. I have rated things with 1 star before, but I try to state exactly why. If the reviewer provides justification, there will be a lot of good info. If it is just hate, then don’t spend a lot of time reading it.

2-4 star reviews tend to give you good solid feedback or at least honest opinions. Good solid feedback looks like, “they did X,Y and Z really well, but I really did not like 1,2 and 3.” An honest opinion is when the reviewer says, “It just wasn’t working for me.” You know that reviewer is saying that it didn’t match what they were looking for.

I think there is a lot of value reading these reviews. We can learn from other's wins and loses. We can learn how to interact with reviews to build loyalty instead of customer backlash. We can also find out what customers are paying for, which is what we have to build the business on.

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