This post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, President of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. – a market research firm in Upstate NY.

Whether hospitality, healthcare or retail, successful businesses excel by distinguishing themselves from the competition. For example, in Central and Western New York, Wegmans is considered the gold standard of grocery shopping; customers take their overall experience at the chain (the products, service, and ambience) then compare the competition to those high standards whether they are cognitive of it or not. Wegmans successfully differentiates itself from the competition by effectively managing their customers’ expectations.

customer expectations market research upstate

The Wegmans Experience

All successful businesses want to be set apart from the competition. Marketing research tools such as Brand Equity and Image & Awareness studies can help achieve this goal by giving companies a glimpse into the consumer’s mind through traditional surveys. Brand Equity measures the consumer’s value of a brand and their perceptions that identify a product, service or provider. Image & Awareness identifies how conscious consumers are of a brand. By utilizing these tools, decision makers have a better understanding of the customer experience, and can use that information to set themselves apart from the competition.

After conducting these studies, the super drug store chain Walgreens found that customers blended their “Walgreens” experiences with other drug stores. As a result, Walgreens set out to distinguish itself from the competition debuting a new look on Jan. 9, 2012 in its Chicago store. In addition to traditional drug store items, the flagship store also offers made-to-order smoothies, a sushi and juice bar, as well as an upscale cosmetics department providing makeovers and manicures. Walgreens wants to set itself apart from the competition. They want to become the gold standard.

While actively seeking consumer input through mystery shopping and surveys, companies should also pay attention to the new generation of consumers who share their opinions and experiences via social media. The old adage “Any news is good news” no longer holds weight; executives need to monitor what is being said about their products and services on all social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and make an effort to resolve negative feedback before it snowballs into an online smear campaign.

In the end, to be truly successful, businesses must obtain insight into their consumer base then take action to exceed those expectations.

Mark Dengler is the president of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) a market research firm located in Upstate NY. For more information about RMS, email or call (315) 635-9802.