Individuals not purchasing your brand fall into one of three categories: current non-users, lapsed users and never users.
It’s brand research 101: measure and compare brand penetration rates across brands, knowing who qualifies as a user and who does not.
Start with the survey question: I find that the typical question is subject to telescoping. That means you will always get overstatement. Typically, if a national brand really has 15% annual penetration, a question like “which brands did you buy over the past 12 months?” will elicit 25% or more claiming purchase. Now, there are some tricks you can use to trap telescoping.
- Use a longer time frame that you don’t care about. That way, a consumer can state positivity about the brand but give you a better answer. I used to ask, “which brands have you bought in the past 12 months?” and then “which have you bought in the past six months?”. Doing it that way, I found that the past six-month responses matched closely to recorded purchasing for 12 months.
- If the client has first-party customer data, onboard that CRM information to the survey panel provider and match whether or not they really are a customer. Self-perception and reality about being a customer don’t always align, as I found out in a recent study.
Even with better ways to get accurate information on brand buying, this is still not enough to do an insightful analysis. What else would we want to know?
Measuring consumer’s propensity to purchase
Well, I might want to know a consumer’s propensity to buy my brand, and whether or not they bought it is an outcome. Someone could have a significant propensity to buy it but not yet actually be a buyer. Targeting those who have a propensity to buy your brand but have not yet bought it is the best way to develop a cogent new buyer strategy. Research I have done shows that those without propensity towards your brand are really hard and unprofitable to convert. However, there is a sizeable pool of non-buyers who actually have favorable thoughts towards your brand. Target them and you might be in business!
The key to measuring brand propensity is to use a constant sum question. Let consumers allocate 10 points across their consideration set and you will find out who is persuadable and who is not. In a recent study I did, those who gave the brand of interest between 2-8 points in the constant sum exercise were more than 10 times more responsive to advertising. Not 10 percent…10 times.
And this was not stated intent – this was based on merging in actual conversion behavior and known ad serving by pixeling ads or getting ID lists from the publisher or DSP. As a marketer, I should want to know everything about this segment called Movable Middles (from the white paper I helped to author on this topic via my MMA relationship).
Non-buyers vs. lapsed buyers vs. never-buyers
Going back to the past 12-month/past six-month question series, who are those who said “yes” to the past 12 months but not to the past six months? Treat them as lapsed buyers. This is a very important group. When I analyzed Numerator receipt scanning data broken into three time periods, I found that the smaller group of lapsed buyers accounted for the majority of non-buyers in period two who became buyers in period three. In other words, the non-buyers you win over are mostly lapsed buyers. This is an important group to analyze with an eye toward developing re-acquisition strategies.
My final word of advice – differentiate between non-buyers and “never”-buyers. Those who are in the first group but not in the second are where you will get new customers from. Non-buyers who are lapsed buyers or those with a reasonable propensity towards your brand are a productive target for your advertising dollars. The never-buyer group, which is the majority of non-buyers, is a sinkhole for your ad dollars from which you will never see a return.