Beyond Belief

In today’s Thursday Night Insight, Emma Flood considers the importance of understanding our customers and markets today.

I read with interest a story this Easter weekend on the BBC news website regarding British people’s belief in Heaven and life after death.  The study, conducted by Theos, the Theology thinktank, included the views of 2,060 respondents based in the UK, and revealed some enlightening insight.  The study found that 55% of adults in the UK believe in Heaven, while 53% believe in life after death.  Furthermore, 39% said they believed in ghosts.

These are interesting findings alone, although when they are examined within a timeframe, the findings are more striking.  In 1998 MORI carried out a poll which revealed a similar result, with 40% agreeing they believed in ghosts.  But compare this to fifty years prior, and the results are starkly different.  In a 1951 poll by Gallup, only 10% of the population claimed to believe in ghosts.  So the author of the article concludes that over the course of sixty years, the belief amongst the UK population in ghosts has risen markedly from 10% in 1951 to 39% today.

There are two ways we could look at this – either in accordance with the view from Theos Director Paul Woolley, that "The enlightenment optimism in the ability of science and reason to explain everything ended decades ago” – that the British public has opened their mind to considering what was previously thought unbelievable by the majority, and that society’s perception of the supernatural has dramatically changed over time.

Or we could look at these results with scepticism and argue that the panel of respondents would likely be remarkably different in 1951 compared to the likely demographics of that panel today.  One could argue that the composition of the panel in 1951 might well have been made up more so of the white middle aged and middle classes, whilst today’s sample is likely to be representative of today’s UK population, which would factor in the demographic shifts in ethnicity and could perhaps including a broader age range of respondents.  Could these demographic shifts be the reason for the marked increase in belief?

Whichever way we choose to look at the results, whether we feel there is a sample inconsistency between the panels of respondents, or if we choose to believe the results at face value, which indicate a dramatic shift in perceptions, it brings forward two valid points.

The first point is recognising the importance of the sampling method for any piece of research, and how if you might repeat the research in the future, you may choose to keep this consistent over time, to compare results directly.  The second point is that along with demographics of a population, opinions, needs and behaviour will change over time, illustrating the importance of revisiting your panel for an up-to-date set of data.

In considering these points, it is worth looking intrinsically at our own organisations, perhaps asking the questions: How well do I know my customers today?  Who are my customers today, and am I meeting their needs?  Who are my competitors today, and what advantage do they have?  What is my position in the market today, and how can I capitalise on that, or re-position in a more profitable segment of the market? 

It is also worth considering here the importance of understanding our customers, and striving in an increasingly competitive marketplace to meet their needs and retain their business.  It is much easier (and more cost effective) to retain existing customers than it is to attract new customers, which illustrates the importance of understanding their needs and ensuring your offering is more attractive than your competitors.

To read more about B2B International’s experience in the areas of customer satisfaction and segmentation, and how we could help your organisation today, follow the links below:

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