What are Consumer Insights?

A new way to think about sourcing the "A-ha moments" that can change your business

This post originally appeared in MarTech Advisor.

A New Way To Get Ready for Work.

Let’s say you’re in the shower one morning. You’re running a little late so you might be thinking about the commute, or what’s up next weekend or getting your daughter to school on time. But you are NOT thinking about work. You’re drying off and all of a sudden you have the insight that if you tighten your supply line by 10 days you could add another two months of sell-in time for the new Bluetooth headphones you’re about to introduce. Congratulations on your bonus check and have a great day!


Consumer Insights. Getting Down To Business.

For obvious reasons, business insights are most valued when they “increase the effectiveness” of a product or service for the consumer, as well as increase sales for mutual benefit”. Thank you, Wikipedia. In other words, consumer insights are tidbits of data that help businesses better market and sell their products…or help them better understand the market landscape.

Consumer insights can come directly from sales or engagement data, surveys, focus groups, direct interviews, and online data. For example, someone may examine a report and connect several line items in a new way and bingo, something innovative is born. Or, after all of these sources have been thoroughly reviewed and absorbed, an entirely new synthesis could occur.

But if all of this sounds intentionally opaque and circumstantial, we’re here with some good news: There’s a new way to think about, and source, consumer insights that is changing the way many businesses use data to inform their decision making.

What we’re really talking about here is public online data.

A New Way To Look, A New Way To See.

Generally speaking, there is some level of the ‘ah-ha!’ moment involved with consumer insights, typically rooted in data or information. A spark. A realization. A new way to connect the dots. Increasingly, these dot-connecting insights come from the huge — and ever-growing — pool of unsolicited, unprompted online consumer conversations.

Traditional research methods are solid, time-tested ways to get there, and they still have value. But it’s time to truly introduce yourself to the new kid on the block: Online consumer insights powered by artificial intelligence.

First, it enables you to query essentially everything online. That’s billions of people and trillions of posts, messages, blogs and articles. But even more important, there is a great synergy between online consumer research and the pursuit of more deeply understanding your customer. They have this in common.

The random, unexpected answer that leads to an insight.

In online research, you are going to see things you didn’t ask for. You’re not asking questions and getting specific responses from individuals. You are examining topics, areas of concern. And the answers will often surprise you. Simple example: If you’re looking at fast food trends and focusing on the price of a meal, you may actually discover that price isn’t the deciding factor in most cases. People actual place grilling vs. frying higher on their burger decision tree. Priceless info.

The reason those kinds of insights pop up is that you’re examining unsolicited information that consumers have volunteered to express in their own words, at their own pace. It’s a bigger picture, not as precisely defined as a research questionnaire, and more likely to tell you something new.

What Kind of Questions Can Modern Consumer Insights Answer?

Sometimes a good consumer insight will reveal a perspective that the analyst may not have thought of before. Sometimes the insight is simply one data point that can confirm or dispute a previously held belief. Sometimes good consumer insights will lead to ‘ah-ha!’ moments mentioned above.

In any case here’s a collection of business concerns that are crying out for insight.

  • Who is my target customer?
  • How does my target customer compare to the target customer of my competitor?
  • What does my target customer care about?
  • What else is my target customer interested in beyond my brand or my product?
  • Who is a previously undiscovered audience that may be interested in my brand/product?
  • How has my brand/product trended over time?
  • How has perception changed over the past 1, 3, 5 years?
  • Did our company’s most recent campaign resonate with consumers? Why or why not?

You Already Have A Huge Research Department. Use it.

Your whole crew can be ‘enlisted’ in the pursuit of insight. In the everything-all-the-time age of information, it’s conceivable that everyone in your organization can contribute to business strategy ideas and a better understanding of your consumer. Not everyone will have access to your most proprietary information and research results, but absolutely everyone has easy access to a wealth of information that, when seen through the prism of your business, can lead to important consumer insights.

Whether you have in-house research or you’ve engaged an outside research team, in either case, all of your employees are looking at online news, forums, chats, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, online publications and more. It’s the democratization of information and with a little training and encouragement your entire workforce can be keeping an eye out for valuable information and business insights.

It’s important for everyone in the enterprise to be open to discovery. It doesn’t’ have to be a measured result like a key performance indicator, in fact that’s probably the worst way to think of insight discovery. But It’s a big miss if anyone on your team is reluctant to look for and champion consumer insights.

Is There A Business Anywhere That Doesn’t Need This?

Intelligence is the bedrock of a growing business. No matter how you gather it, you can never have enough. With that in mind, you should compliment your traditional efforts with online consumer research. You should consider getting your whole team to jump up onto the seeking insight process. And be open to the possibility that some of your best discoveries may be things you weren’t even looking for.

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