An illustration on Xiaomi's website. (Illustration courtesy of Xiaomi)
Social media is subverting traditional market survey methods, enabling marketing specialists to better understand their customers.
At Chinese budget mobile phone maker Xiaomi, researchers access customers directly through their phones. Before the development of its mobile phone, Xiaomi used focus groups to help tweak the product before its release.
Now Xiaomi uses social media to figure out what its customers want. Company employees use Sina Weibo's microblogging service to answer customer questions and listen to feedback, which has on occasion produced quick results. Due to customer demand, Xiaomi launched its telecom version in March. After that phone was announced, netizens asked for a silver case option and they got it.
More and more corporate executives are listening directly to the voices of customers. Media staffers are also playing the role of "chief marketing officer," offering flexibility in promotion of their products.
The closer relationship with consumers comes with challenges. Corporate executives, traditionally holed up in offices and board meetings, now need better communication skills and the willingness to make structural changes in the operation of their companies. For the best results, changes often need to be made more quickly than in the past. Fast changes are generally good for a company, said Li Wanqiang, Xiaomi's vice president.