In the movie What Women Want, Nick Marshall (played by Mel Gibson) has an accident and finds himself able to hear what the women around him are really thinking. At first he uses it to his advantage selfishly before he falls in love.

Chances are you’re not going to suffer from an accident that gives you Nick Marshall-like abilities, but fortunately when it comes to finding out what customers want, market research can tackle the challenge.

Content management solutions vendor SDL Tridion and Loudhouse Research recently conducted a ‘What the Customer Wants‘ survey that asked 1,000 UK consumers what they want. Here are the results.

Savings Thy Name is the Internet

Thanks to the recession, consumers are more cost-conscious than ever. SDL Tridion’s survey found that 31% of those surveyed are now shopping online more than they did before recession hit. A big reason: the internet is seen as a great place to bargain hunt. Under

Consumers Love Loyalty Programs

SDL Tridion found that 74% of those surveyed “value customer loyalty schemes that offer discounts based on their personal shopping habits more highly than other features“. And over half (51%) indicated that they’d be influenced to make a purchase with one vendor over another based on a customer loyalty program being offered.

Personalization & Relevancy are Key

34% of the individuals participating in SDL Tridion’s survey stated that they like to be addressed personally when browsing a website. Even more — 47% and 45% — desire personalized email updates that cater to their interests and “suggestions for other products or services of interest whilst they are browsing“, respectively. A full two-thirds generally expect that the content displayed to them will be relevant.

The Bottom Line

Consumers want good deals, but they’re also increasingly sophisticated. Companies that are willing to reward them with relevant offers, send them relevant updates and introduce them to other relevant products, services and content are thus, according to SDL Tridion, best-equipped to attract and retain customers.

Of course, there are challenges. It’s noted, for instance, that many of the successful loyalty and personalization tactics used offline are not used online. One of the big reasons is that customer data often “sits in silos” and is never put together to provide “the complete picture“.

Obviously, it’s worth looking at the findings of this survey with the caveat that SDL Tridion has a vested interest in this subject, but I do think there are valid points made. There’s a lot of talk about consumer privacy online, and the phrase ‘Big Brother‘ is thrown around a lot.

But I think there are misconceptions in this area. While online privacy is still a big issue for businesses and consumers, the bigger issue is how data collected about consumers is used. Right now, a lot of data is collected but consumers don’t necessarily see the benefits. For all the talk about behavioral targeting, for instance, out of the last 10 banner ads you’ve seen, how many were relevant? In my opinion, this highlights the problem: a lot of data is being collected about consumers online but a small fraction of it is actually being put to good use in a way that benefits both the collector of the data and the consumer.

If there’s one key takeaway from SDL Tridion’s survey then, it just might be this: a benevolent Big Brother that looks out for you and does you a favor from time to time isn’t so bad. It’s the Big Brother who isn’t there or who pesters you that’s the problem.

Photo credit: dweekly via Flickr.