April 5, 2012, 10:32 AM

Fast and cheap research helps King Arthur Flour take the pulse of consumers

The baking goods e-retailer uses a new research tool from Google Inc.

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Baking goods e-retailer King Arthur Flour Co. recently tested a new consumer research tool that let the company get a better understanding of how consumers understand and interpret the King Arthur Flour brand and its products.

The e-retailer used Google Inc.’s Google Consumer Surveys tool, which launched earlier this month, to get quick-hit answers from online consumers. Google approached King Arthur Flour to test the Consumer Surveys service ahead of the service’s official launch and King Arthur Flour did not pay for the surveys it ran. Generally Google Consumer Surveys’ pricing starts at 10 cents per answer gathered, Google says.

The survey questions appear on news and information sites in Google’s publisher network that agree to host the surveys in exchange for a fee. When a consumer visits one of those sites he is asked to answer the question before he can access the web content he seeks, such as before a video or after the first few lines of a news article. Answering the question, or indicating that he does not want to participate, then loads the rest of the article.     

King Arthur Flour ran several survey questions to take the pulse of consumers. “We used it initially to gauge brand recognition,” says Amy Roy, brand research and consumer insights analyst at King Arthur Flour. “That can be hard to gauge when you are living and breathing a brand like we do here, and this got us a better, more broad feel of that.”

The first survey King Arthur Flour ran asked consumers how familiar they were with King Arthur Flour. Answers consumers could select ran the scale from “very familiar” to “not at all familiar,” Roy says. The service gathered upwards of 2,000 responses in two days, and analytical tools let Roy dissect those responses according to respondent profiles Google generated, such as gender, location and age. King Arthur Flour was able to control how long the survey question ran and how many results it gathered.

The e-retailer ran several other surveys as well, including a two-question survey that gathered consumers’ use of and preferences about gluten-free baking products. That survey took longer to run and required more participants to get statistically relevant results because relatively few consumers consider gluten when shopping for baking products, Roy says. The first question was, “Do you bake gluten-free?” and consumers could answer yes or no. If a consumer answered no, the survey terminated. If she answered yes, another question asked her what kind of flavors she liked to bake. King Arthur Flour will use the responses to inform product development, Roy says.

Although the e-retailer didn’t have to pay to use the survey tool initially, Roy says she was happy with the performance and results, and intends to pay to use it in the future. She says she could see using it to measure seasonal buying patterns or to test how consumers feel about different package or label designs. “I think this gives a lot more flexibility to small and mid-sized companies that want to get answers quickly,” she says, adding that running similar questions using a traditional market research panel can take weeks to set up and cost more.

King Arthur Flour is No. 451 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide


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