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Finding out what consumers want

As the pace of retailing quickens, retailers must keep in step with consumers' changing needs and wants. Research on consumers typically goes the route of mail and phone surveys, but panelists at a general session at IMRA here titled "What Do Consumers Know Anyway?" discussed how alternatives such as the Internet could speed up results.

Panelist Elaine Rubin, partner, Retail Options, said that retailers need to have a constant dialogue with customers to find out their needs and wants, as well as easy access to customer feedback about where they shop. For example, she said, Target issues an in-store receipt that has a proprietary URL printed on it so customers can visit that website and tell Target about their in-store experiences. And, as a bonus, Target can add another e-mail address to its database.

Andrew Atkin, president, Click IQ, addressed how his IQ Portal can change the way a company does customer research. With his service, companies can receive results within four to 12 hours of fielding a survey, he said, and not several weeks, like traditional surveys. A typical IQ Portal project is also cost effective, saving the company thousands of dollars and can be accessed by any department within an organization, according to Atkin. Research with IQ Portal research can also be archived online.

One of Click IQ's clients, Best Buy, now averages 30 projects a month through the IQ Portal, said Dave Williams, vp, research, Best Buy, which is important since the company "innovates at warp speed." One project, for example, was launched and completed within 72 hours, he said, and had 2,000 respondents at a price tag of $8,500. "This is the way research has to be conducted in the 21st century."

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