I'm really interested in the problem of helping retailers build personalized experiences through in-store analytics (i.e. segmentation, customer conversion, etc...). I've been able to compile a spreadsheet of local retailers to contact in my area but I'm struggling on how to expand that search (since I used a website that happened to list all of the local businesses). I was wondering how others approached validating that they were solving a valid problem and resources for how to get in contact with people who could validate that problem.
Note: My background is technical so I've never had to research or cold call anyone. Any information on this topic is extremely helpful.
I would say that independent retailers generally don't have the sophistication level required to understand and use your service effectively. Chain retailers already have programs like this from the parent. You can read about what big retailers are already doing in this area. There's quite a lot of detail. Grocers are also very high on this list already using retail experience analysis.
Most independent retailers don't even know how to do a traffic count. Chains already have the planograms and experiential layout decided for them by corporate.
Who is your target market? How will you teach them the skills they need to have in order to make use of the service or even understand why it's important? How do you justify the expense for an independent retailer?
Blanketing a list of local retailers isn't going to win customers or even obtain useful feedback about your service. You may have a very valuable service, but it may only be appropriate for a specific segment of retailers, not every retailer. Sure, in a broad sense they would all benefit, but in a specific sense they may lack the insight to even consider what you're offering because administratively they lack the wherewithall to properly utilize such data.
Walk into some stores and ask them what they're doing. It's not likely something they'll respond to a blind request via email or direct mail, so your list doesn't do much for you. You'll need a reason for asking. Be up front that you're just collecting information for development of a service, not that you're selling something right now, or they may reject talking to you because they're thinking they would be pitched.
This is basic business research 101. Talk to your potential market directly, not indirectly. Only you know the nuance that you want to get at, and a conversation is going to be much more valuable than a survey or email message.
Look at the companies who already do and provide retail analysis and how they pitch their solutions. Many have developed internal departments for this, so you may not get all the info you want. But the tactics and results are frequently written about in trade magazines.
You might consider a survey. I find them very effective. I went out to 5,200 names and got 1,700 replies. BTW, if you want good reply ratio, keep your survey to less than 10 questions. I keep mine to less than six questions and less than 2 minutes to answer. Make sure you leed with that in your email. My the way my list was one I rented on a one time basis with an even geographical distribution of adults between ages 30 to 65, It is not expensive.
+1 for Paul Garcia's response which I just saw after I wrote response below....
if this is for independent retailers, the Yelp API makes it very easy to retrieve lists of retailers by category and popularity (Yelp reviews are a coarse but acceptable proxy for popularity). it sounds like you are in the very nascent stages of market research so you're going to be best served walking into stores and talking to your customers (i.e., store owners). they want to spend their time doing productive things so the best time for you to visit them will usually be their least busy time (in the AM when they first open on weekday mornings that they are not receiving new stock) -- you could try to call in advance to confirm when they will be there by asking store personnel.
recommendations on talking with them:
a) keep it short and sweet
b) ask very specific questions
c) try not to ask leading questions
d) if you're ready for it, show some designs or, even better, interactive prototypes (for impact/value with prospective customers, demo >> clickable wireframes >> static design >> talk -- but you need to be sure you're demoing something they want so be prepared to put in some time talking with them before unveiling something).
if this is for corporate, you need to talk with corporate analytics buyers who are inundated with analytics company trying to sell them solutions -- it's a difficult audience to reach and they are busy. get an Internet Retailer or similar list and then hire an upworker to get the names and contact details for analytics/marketing leadership at those companies. without warm intros, they will be very difficult to engage..... try to get warm intros to folks at the target companies.
Use the DIKW ( Data, information, Knowledge, Wisdom) pyramid .
Use the DIKW pyramid .