While it is certainly preferable to explicitly collect data on values from your customers, that may not always be feasible. However, you may already have data that helps you understand your customer’s values. Data on social interactions, openness to new experiences, and location can give you hypotheses that you can test more rigorously in your marketing and communications campaigns.

Zenzi has been pioneering the use of a values scale, leveraging decades of research on values led by Shalom Schwartz, that can be more pragmatically useful to businesses who want to better serve their customers. Many of our current clients have been working with us to understand their customers’ values better, in order to serve them at a deeper level. In today’s world, it is no longer simply about filling a need and consumers want products that both fill a need and that make them feel good about their purchase more broadly.

Still, not every customer will be able to survey their customers explicitly and so we are also developing methods of implicitly understanding consumer values from data that you may already have. Here are three areas where you may already have data that may help you understand your customers.

Social Data – As Jonathan Haidt says, moral thinking is for social doing and so it is unsurprising that we see significant correlations between people’s social actions and their values. For example, many pleasure seekers tend to want to interact with more people, while tradition seekers might interact with fewer people at perhaps a deeper level of engagement. Companies may have information on consumers’ breadth of social engagement through social network or referral data.

Openness to New Experiences – One of the primary psychological traits that predicts values is how open a person is to new experiences. Security seekers are more wary of the dangers that may exist, while freedom seekers are more willing to put up with danger in service of their desire to explore. These preferences do not only apply to the travel domain, but also to people’s choice of foreign vs. domestic beer (e.g. Stella Artois vs. Bud Light) or ethnic vs. non-ethnic restaurants. Customers who choose the same products over and over again are more likely to be security seekers versus customers who try a variety of products.

Location Data – Increasingly, people are choosing where they live based on their values, as opposed to where their jobs or families are located. The implication of this is that where a person lives is often a rough indicator of their values. This goes beyond simple red state vs. blue state analysis and the more one knows about the location of a person, the more predictive power one has. For example, prestige seekers are more likely to be found in wealthier, urban communities with many young people that specifically are not too liberal in orientation. Pleasure seekers seek similar urban spaces with good bars/nightlife, but also look for places where religion is not emphasized. Zenzi has collected hundreds of such value markers that can be used to predict the values of your customer base.

In summary, while it certainly is recommended, it is not always necessary to directly survey your customers’ values in order to understand them better. Data that you already have can be useful in understanding their values. The best marketing and communications plans should take this kind of information into account, further validating these ideas by A-B testing values based messaging, until a more precise map of a customer base’s values can be achieved. In this way, Zenzi hopes to help our clients better serve their customers’ deeper motivations.