How to Get to Know Your Coffee Shop Customers

Posted by Alyssa on 2018-04-19

In a previous post we covered the importance of getting to know your customer. Now that you have an idea what you want to know about your customers, it’s time to actually do it. Here are 5 strategies for getting to know your customers:

1. Ask them!

A café business has the advantage of interacting with their customers every day. Don’t be afraid to delve deeper than the standard ‘How are you doing?’ If a guest doesn’t seem to be in a rush, or is socialising with a friend, start a conversation. What brought you to this café? Maybe it was just a matter or convenience, perhaps they like the background music or the tea selection. Ask a follow-up: What do you think of (our coffee, décor, etc)? Every answer is useful.

Don’t be shy! Not only will it give you insight into the people who stop in, they’ll also feel honoured that you are seeking their opinion in a personal way. Patrons want to feel appreciated and that they’re more than just money in an owner’s pocket. Show them that their opinions and experiences matter to you—and don’t forget to follow through with their suggestions!

2. Conduct a survey

When done correctly, online surveys are a great method for gathering honest feedback and personal information about your customers. The key to a good survey is having a specific goal in mind and getting to it in a succinct way. A study by OpinionLab found that 52% of people would not spend more than three minutes on an online survey. That means the survey you create should aim to understand a very specific piece of the customer puzzle.

Survey design is important—questions should be short, simple, precise, and without bias. Offer an incentive such as a free coffee or tea to encourage people to participate.

customer survey

3. Analyse customer reviews

Coffee shops can glean a lot of information about customers from reviews. They tell you what customers like, what they don’t like, what they expect from a café, and what’s important to them when they patronise a business. Don’t just look at TripAdvisor and Yelp—seek out blog posts written about cafés that are similar to yours. It also helps with segmenting the market—millennial bloggers, mommy bloggers, and digital nomads will all have different expectations and opinions.

4. Interviews and/or focus groups

A focus group is a quintessential market research method where a select group of people are invited to answer and discuss questions together. It offers real-time feedback with the details you need to improve your business.

Assemble a group of customers who represent a diverse range of your target market in a comfortable setting. Offer a free lunch in exchange for their participation. Determine the questions you want to ask and ensure you have a moderator who can encourage participation and constructive discussion. Alternatively, the second person can serve as a note taker if you prefer to moderate. Recording the focus group will help supplement the notes and remind you of things you may not have heard in the moment.

One-to-one interviews are great for getting in-depth insights from people in various demographics. Say you want to open a small coworking space above the café—an in-depth interview with a remote worker will help you understand what will make the space appealing for him or her. Alternatively, you may learn from your current customers that the best use of the extra space was a live music venue.

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5. Talk to your staff

Employees have the most interaction with your customers. They likely have more time to chat with them during down time and likely follow your shop’s social media accounts. Let them help you answer some of the questions you have—you might find they are a fountain of knowledge!

The key is getting a wide variety of opinions, comparing responses, and looking for trends. That’s how you’ll get the most realistic idea of who your customers are and how you can attract new ones.

Putting It All Together: Buyer Personas

According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” A coffee shop business should have 4 – 6 buyer personas that help you understand exactly who each of your main customers are.

Once you’ve gathered all the data about your customers, creating a buyer persona is about filling in the blanks.

  1. Choose a name that suits each persona.
  2. Build a picture. Fill in as much information as you can to create a detailed profile of your ideal customer.
  3. Find photos that represents each buyer persona to help bring them to life.
  4. Put it together. Create a PowerPoint, a Word document, or even a collage you have in a back room.
  5. Use them. Before you make a business decision, create content, add products, always ask yourself ‘Would [buyer persona] benefit from this?’ The answer should always be yes!

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Final Thoughts

Getting to know your customers cannot be done overnight. In order to be successful, you have to understand that you’re selling more than great food and drinks—you’re also selling an experience. Take the time to understand your customers’ needs and motivations so you can continue offering the ambiance and value that keep them walking through the door.

What kind of customers do you love to see at your shop? Let us know in the comments below!


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