Identifying and Removing Customer Barriers
The real world can be messy and complicated, and it's not always easy to tease out what is really driving customer behavior. In those situations, it can be useful to create a hypothetical scenario in order to look at the effect of specific factors in a more controlled way. In this case, we were interested in understanding barriers to customers making a purchase. To get at that, we created a fictional business called Muffintopia.
In our fantasy universe, Muffintopia was a bakery in River City. They had been in business for 5 years, and built a small but loyal following. However, they were hoping to grow their business by expanding into new demographics. River City is home to Central College, and during the academic year about 10% of the city’s total population is college students. Muffintopia had noticed that very few of their current customers were college students. They saw this as a huge untapped market, and so they decided to do some advertising around the Central College campus to bring in more student customers. Unfortunately, this advertising had almost no effect. Since Muffintopia had already tried advertising, students presumably knew about the bakery. Something else was keeping students away.
Now that we had set up the situation, we asked 30 real people in the target demographic to view a fictional flyer for Muffintopia and say what they thought was the biggest reason college students might not buy a muffin from the bakery.
Although the scenario was fictional, the insights we got from it are not. If we put ourselves in the shoes of Central College students, here's what was likely happening when they saw the Muffintopia ads on campus:
- “Those muffins sound good, but they’re really expensive”
- “I could really eat a muffin right now, but it’s after 2pm so they’re closed”
- “I have an hour until my next class and a muffin would be a perfect tide-me-over, but I can’t get there and back in time”
And in turn, those insights can be used to come up with ways to solve these problems - solutions that can be applied in the real world in situations similar to the Muffintopia scenario.