As part of Marks & Spencer's chief executive Steve Rowe's strategy to put customers "at the heart of M&S", the company revealed it has already held a lunch with a small group of female retail investors (subsequently to become a shareholder panel) to gather their views on the chain".

No wonder M&S is losing it, I hear you say! But, before we pillory the idea of a bunch of shareholding, female, over 50s being asked for views on their beloved brand, let's ask three questions of ourselves :

  1. Do housebuilders genuinely put consumers at the heart of their businesses?
  2. Do they seek to understand consumer and non-purchaser feedback, via research?
  3. Specifically, do they seek consumer feedback on external and internal house designs (which are largely developed by middle-aged males)?

Because, not wanting to use the 'B' word (Brexit – sorry!), but the game is now changing; it’s going to be a case of increasing market share in an, at best, static marketplace. The winners will be those who deliver the products and service levels that buyers demand; those who are seen to understand the aspirations and needs of buyers, genuinely putting consumers at the heart of their business.

By all means utilise the experience and skills of senior staff, but also listen intently to the views of current and prospective purchasers – and act on them.

The future is uncertain. Research can help.

MMS provides a comprehensive research service to gain consumer insight on broad range of topics; from after-sales service, brand awareness and purchasers’ information-gathering habits, through to specification, options packages, architectural design and more. Research clients include Linden Homes, CALA Homes, HBF, Redrow, Miller Homes, The Berkeley Group and Lovell, amongst others. If you have a puzzle that could be solved through focus groups of other research methods, talk to us now.