A marketer’s guide to identifying and solving customer need states

We all know that customers have needs.

Whether they are goals, challenges, or desires. Needs are what drives consumers and customers to seek out a brand, product, or service and make a purchase.

But customer needs can be varied and complex, changing based on a wide variety of factors. Making it difficult for marketers to pinpoint common customer needs, and reflect them in their branding, positioning, and marketing.

One way for brands to identify and understand their customers’ needs is by establishing need states. These states help brands to separate out customers’ needs into more digestible formats, and then begin to directly address them.

In this guide, we will explain what customer need states are, how you can identify them, and how you can begin to resolve them to build up long term customer relationships. This is because your customer will do business with you if you can fulfil their needs, the better you articulate this the more successful your business.

For brands and customers, better starts here.

What are customer needs states?

Humans have a lot of needs. Which means modern-day consumers do too.

This is something that most marketers are all too aware of. And have adapted and developed to offer their audiences exactly what they want, when they want it.

Consumers have advanced so that they can easily fulfil their own basic needs, such as food, shelter, and safety. Meaning that the needs of the average consumer are becoming increasingly niche and complex. Blurring the lines between needs and desires.

Need states are the stages that consumers go through when experiencing needs. At a very basic level, this could include needing to eat breakfast in the morning. At a more advanced level, this could be seeking human connection and wider experiences of the world.

For marketers, the ability to identify their audience’s need states can be the difference not only between a sale and an abandonment. But also the difference between long-term brand loyalty, and a fair-weather customer.

Common need states

There has been much research into customer need states. HubSpot, for instance, offers a particularly in-depth explanation of 16 different need states that consumers regularly experience.

To give you more of an idea of what customer need states look like, and some of the need states your customers may be going through, below are some of the most common examples:

Product need states

Functionality

Whatever your product, customers need it to function in a way that directly solves their challenges or meets their desires.

Price

Of course, price can be a key differentiator between products for consumers, so finding the right product for their budget is essential

Reliability

And lastly, this product will need to function reliably, ideally every time the customer wishes to use it.

Service need states

Empathy

Customers want to feel that a brand understands their wants and needs, and can relate to them as much as possible.

Transparency

They don’t want to feel ripped off or conned by a brand. They want to be able to trust the brand in order to purchase from them.

Information

And they require all of the relevant facts for making a purchase. This can include information on the brand, delivery, and of course in-depth information and images of the item they are looking to purchase.

How to identify your customers’ specific needs

However, to really address your audiences’ needs, we recommend identifying the specific needs states of your own consumers and customers.

Furthermore, need states can shift and change over time. For instance, consumer need states pre-pandemic varied wildly to need states during lockdown. So identifying need states is a process that should be conducted fairly regularly, particularly during periods of change.

That being said, the process isn’t necessarily an easy one. So to help you out, here are some steps you can take.

Use existing data

The easiest place to start is the existing data that your business already holds.

This could include past surveys, interviews, and support tickets. But also behavioural and purchase data, such as most popular items browsed or bought, and web pages most visited.

This existing data could likely be held in multiple systems. Ideally, much of it will be held in a centralised point such as a CRM, however, you may find that you also have to access finance systems, ERPs, and marketing tools

Internal interviews

Internal members of your business can be invaluable sources of information on your audience and customers.

For instance, your sales team, marketing department, account managers, and support unit deal with your audience day in, day out.

They hear their goals, their challenges, and they know how your brand and offering can help them resolve those problems.

They will likely be able to give you qualitative information regarding audience trends, to help support your data analysis.

Mapping the customer journey

The customer journey is the process a customer goes through to make a purchase

It varies from brand to brand, business to business. But will often include stages such as awareness, consideration, and decision making.

Brands can use this journey to identify the needs that occur at each stage of the journey, as well as how the brand can address them and move the consumer through the buying journey.

Interview customers

So by now, you’ve conducted extensive research using the resources you already have.

Now it’s time to move outside of the business and talk to your actual customers.

Customers are the ultimate source of information when it comes to need states. Brands can learn directly from them what led them to their brand, any competitors they considered, and why they chose to purchase a specific item.

However, bear in mind that sometimes customers can’t fully articulate their own desires. So it may take a little digging to get to the root of their need. There are various tactics you can employ to achieve this, such as The 5 Whys Strategy.

Build personas

Once you have all of this information at your fingertips, it can be slightly overwhelming.

To make it more digestible and usable, you can begin to mould this information into personas.

Personas help brands to put a relatable identity to their different types of customers, incorporating job roles, goals, challenges, and even personal information such as family life and hobbies.

For more information on building personas, check out our Ultimate Playbook for Creating Marketing Personas.

Addressing your customers’ need states

By now we hope you have identified your customer’s needs and their various need states.

Now we will take you through a variety of tactics to help you address them.

Timeliness

A key part of solving customers’ needs is being in the right place at the right time. Exactly when they need you.

Timeliness in marketing can be achieved through the use of automation. Which can be triggered based on specific actions and utilised to share the most relevant and useful information for their need state at that time.

There are so many options for automation to address different consumer need states, for instance:

Welcome campaigns

By sending welcome campaigns brands can be there for their recipients from the very start.

Brands can address multiple need states from the very beginning with these campaigns. They can offer useful information such as social channels and support contact details. Offer reassurance by sharing customer reviews and case studies. Or promote their latest product range or sale.

Abandoned browse and basket

Consumers abandon their baskets due to many reasons. Distraction, overwhelmed by choice, not willing to pay delivery, or just aren’t 100% sure.

Brands can address these issues by automating abandoned basket campaigns and offering additional useful information. Such as the benefits of the product, customer reviews, and maybe even a discount code.

Email Marketing & Customer Needs - ASOS example

Solving the right needs

Despite gathering so much information on your audiences’ needs, targeting their specific ones can still be a challenge.

This information is ideal for the overall positioning and campaign inspiration for your brand. However, personalisation can add an additional layer of relevance.

Personalised campaigns can directly utilise the browsing and purchase data you have on your audience to automate highly personalised campaigns, communications, and messaging.

Product recommendations

If a consumer is overwhelmed by too much choice, brands can utilise purchase data from their audience, but also the individual, to recommend the products that they are most likely to be interested in.

These product recommendations can come in a variety of formats, both via email and on websites.

Brands can suggest similar products for consumers who can’t quite find the item they’re looking for. They can upsell and cross-sell based on popular browsed products or past purchases. Or they can promote sales and discounts for items that are most likely to pique the consumer’s interest.

Geo-targeting

By using geo-targeting, brands can ensure that they are sending the most relevant data to recipients based on where they are in the world.

This could include store location, suggested products based on the weather, or correct currencies. And ensures that consumers aren’t fed information that is irrelevant to them, such as events and sales that they aren’t able to attend.

Email Marketing & Customer Needs - DFS example

Image Source – DFS

Predicting needs

Brands can become even smarter with automation and personalisation by predicting consumer needs, even before the consumer is aware of them.

This ensures that the brand is at the forefront of consumers’ minds even before they have begun the buying process. And addresses key need states before the consumer has even entered them.

Replenishment campaigns

Brands can utilise regular purchasing information to send out replenishment email campaigns before the consumer even thinks about purchasing. Not only does this prompt the consumer to purchase, but it also ensures that the brand is ready for them, before a competitor.

This works particularly well for products that the consumer regularly buys, such as cosmetics, vitamins, or greetings cards.

Pricing and availability

Cost and availability are key need states for consumers when making a purchasing decision.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure this information is kept up to date. This is so consumers aren’t disappointed to find out their chosen item is out of stock. But also encourages the consumer to choose your product if there is a price drop or sale.

With the use of dynamic content, brands can automatically update their products and product promotions with the latest pricing and availability. Always keeping the consumer up to date.

Email Marketing & Customer Needs - Booking.com example

Image source – Booking.com

Feedback

Feedback is an essential part of understanding and addressing consumer needs.

Not only does gathering feedback mean that brands can improve their knowledge and understanding of customers’ challenges, wants, and need states. But also, asking consumers for their feedback has its benefits too. It makes them feel that their opinions are important to the brand. And gives them a chance to input into the overall buying experience.

Surveys

Sending out surveys and questionnaires is a great starting point for gathering feedback from consumers, all of which can be related to the need states they regularly face.

Brands can also include an incentive for their consumers to fill out the form, such as a freebie or discount code.

Automated feedback

Alternatively, brands can set up automated emails to ask consumers for feedback. This could be based on those who have purchased previously, a post-purchase follow up, or even a follow up for consumers who have browsed or added an item to their basket but didn’t purchase.

Reviews and testimonials

Brands shouldn’t just focus on gathering feedback, they should focus on sharing it too.

That’s because feedback, especially reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content (UGC) is great for addressing consumer need states based around trust and reassurance.

Brands can share reviews and testimonials through emails, or pepper them throughout their website and on social media pages.

They can even use dynamic content to automatically pull through reviews and testimonials in real-time in both emails and on their website.

Email Marketing & Customer Needs

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