Whether you’re thinking of opening a bakery or yours is up and running, serving up what customers want should be on your menu to be successful.
Should you sell nostalgic baked goods, such as apple brown betty, donuts and sugar cookies? Or should you sell a creative twist on old favorites, such as ganache-filled chocolate chip cookie sandwiches, s’mores cupcakes and raspberry swirl sweet rolls? Or what about trendy offerings, such as Paleo cookies, gluten-free, dye-free red velvet cupcakes and sugar-free banana nut bread? Moreover, should you specialize in specific items, such as organic and traditional wedding cakes or French bread, or offer a broad selection of desserts and breads?
If you’re a professional baker (or plan to hire one), chances are, you could go in any direction — or several. But which? Eliminate costly guesswork by letting your customers tell you what to do to grow your business
Collecting customer feedback can help you:
- Decide which baked goods to sell.
- Measure current customer satisfaction.
- Determine how much customers are willing to pay for your products.
- Identify other key metrics, such as whether you should offer the ability to take orders online or if home delivery is important.
- Decide which part of the customer experience you want to improve, and where you might want to expand your business, such as selling items wholesale to restaurants and caterers.
The information you collect can provide valuable insight to help you make the right business decisions for your market. Here’s a winning recipe for doing your own market research and getting feedback from your customers and prospects to sweeten your return on investment.
Do your homework
One of the easiest ways to learn about what customers want is to research the bakeries in your area. Start with simple Google search terms, such as the name of your city and “bakery.” Use the information you find to help you assess the competition and create a snapshot of your market size.
Check out the websites of local bakeries. What kinds of baked goods do they offer? What do they say about themselves online? What do other customers say about them in Yelp reviews? How much do they charge?
You can use that knowledge to set your bakery or your business model apart. While you’re at it, read up on bakery industry news and bakery trends and take note of what’s on the horizon to help your bakery stand out.
Conduct primary research to discover what customers want
After you’ve gathered information about what customers want, take a deeper dive by gathering information that’s specific to your bakery or bakery concept.
Collect customer email addresses by holding a raffle for a free giveaway or by inviting customers to register for updates and special offers on your bakery’s Facebook page.
Then, send customers a survey that reflects your goals, such as this Survey Monkey bakery market research sample.
Don’t pie-in-the-sky it, though. Only ask questions that pertain to your survey’s goals and keep it simple by asking only one question at a time. Also, keep in mind that many social media outlets, such as Facebook, have built-in polling tools that are easy to use.
Alternatively, create and conduct research through face-to-face or group video interviews or individual phone calls to get answers to targeted questions about your bakery, such as which products are in high demand in your area. Or, go the focus group route. Find people in your area who represent your ideal customer and meet in person to facilitate a discussion related to your bakery’s goals. You could act as the facilitator or hire someone to conduct the focus group.
Avoid asking people to speculate. It’s best to ask questions based on real experiences they’ve had with your bakery or with bakeries in general.
To do hands-on research accurately, such as focus groups or in-person interviews, it’s tempting to take a shortcut by relying on friends and family for feedback. Their opinions can be helpful, but for the most unbiased, honest and accurate market research information about what customers want, seek out potential customers you don’t know personally.
Also, do some legwork. Visit bakeries in your area and take note of what they’re doing that might be worth emulating, like offering added services that supplement your bakery’s specialty, such as cupcake decorating classes, a “pie of the month” club, or specialty coffee and unique espresso beverages.
Leverage social media
Use social media as an informal focus group to listen to what customers want. Create a Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram page or start a blog for your bakery. Post photos and videos about the baked goods you’re showcasing. Pay attention to reader comments for valuable clues about what customers want and how you can better meet their needs.
Pro tip: In your posts and videos, ask customers specific questions, such as: Getting married this June? Which is better? A) Fat-free, gluten-free banana cake or B) Traditional white wedding cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.
Attend trade shows
Attend industry trade shows, such as the Atlantic Bakery Expo. Trade shows often offer educational sessions that can provide valuable how-tos on marketing and analyzing your bakery business from industry insiders. Their tips and advice can help you target what customers want and identify other ways to expand your market share.
What do your customers want?
Figuring out what customers want can help you propel your bakery business or your concept, but it takes several labor-intensive steps — just like making a lemon meringue pie. The end result is worth it, though. Doing your own market research and tweaking your business plan based on the intel it provides can be the secret ingredient to your bakery’s ultimate success.