If there is anything that businesses find hard to pin down as an absolute, immutable reality, it’s consumer behavior. Big Data helps, and so does market research. But beyond facts and figures, statistics and postulations are a deeper amorphous intangible human emotion and what influences it. As such, consumer insights are a significant aspect of getting to know the consumer one caters to. In fact, it could well be the difference between success and failure for a business.
Making Connections Using Consumer Insights
How they help is seen in the way Nike ran its powerful, memorable #likeagirl ad campaign. One of its ads turns a stereotypical statement — “run like a girl” — on its head. It showcased the power of words, transforming something weak and worth ridicule into a compliment of the fierce, athletic ability of girls.
The seed for this was planted after some consumer insights the brand had received. At puberty, 49 percent of girls are so affected by the fear of failing that they avoid trying new things. While it would have certainly resulted in a spike in their sales, what’s possibly of equal significance is that it resonated on a deeply emotional level with its target audience. That emotional connection with a brand, the ability to get the zeitgeist of the times — maybe even be the brand that brings the change — was possible through some focused consumer insights.
COVID-19 and Consumer Insights
Gaining an insight into what could move a consumer is fast becoming integral to the success and longevity of consumer-goods-centric businesses. This was brought to the forefront during the pandemic. More people began looking at environmentally sustainable options, for instance. Then there was the increase in pet food demand because more people found themselves turning into pet parents. Those that could read the proverbial writing on the wall, would certainly have benefited from such customer insights.
What Customers Want
Consumer insights, therefore, is something that allows brands to gain an in-depth ‘insight’ into consumer behavior. This is done by, first, collecting customer data. It is followed by analyzing and interpreting it and then drawing conclusions that can help with the development of the specific product/service. This holds true across the gamut of products and goods that fall under the consumption umbrella, from food and clothing to homes and appliances. Every segment of consumer goods is better served by gaining in-depth customer insights.
Given that this activity too is data-centric, customer insights are frequently used synonymously with other data-driven surveys that collect and analyze factual details to enable business development. Customer insights, however, are more nuanced and quite dissimilar. Big Data, for instance, is entirely facts and figures focused; market research looks at a broad-based market, upcoming trends, and competitors to design a development plan. But these methods, while very important, lack comprehensive analysis and understanding of the consumers themselves.
Data vs Emotions
Consumer insights strive to look at the emotional element of consumer behavior — why they buy what they buy, etc. Knowing this helps create more targeted campaigns that could appeal to customers. That Harvard Business Review identified hundreds of emotional motivators across the consumer journey attests to its considerable heft in making business development decisions.
Pinterest leveraged information from customer insights to launch a rather successful What If campaign, which was all about encouraging people to let go of their fear and try their hand at something new. This campaign was founded on insights gleaned from their users. 84 per cent Pinterest users said that the app helped them learn new things. Simultaneously, other data showed that 70 per cent of the people search, save, or click on the ‘pins’ to learn more. It combined robust insight with clever marketing and pretty imagery to boost self-confidence and help users overcome self-doubt. Everyone got something out of it.
Advantages to businesses implementing consumer insights
A Microsoft study concluded that businesses that relied on customer insights data outperformed competitors by 85 per cent. While browsing habits, transaction history, and mobile app preferences will certainly provide some amount of insight, that’s just scratching the surface. Comprehensive surveys and research tap into a deeper understanding of the ‘whys’, ‘whats’, and ‘hows’ of consumer behavior. This, in turn, provides a holistic customer insight that will be more helpful to brands.
The benefits to brands who delve deeper into customer behavior are undeniable:
1: The profit lies in the details
Leveraging this mechanism helps businesses create customer-centric marketing strategies based on details — such as societal and cultural motivators when it comes to consumption — that could have been overlooked. The move to buying sustainably packaged or manufactured products in recent years, for example.
2: Staying on top of trends
Future-proofing businesses with development plans that are built on the foundation of customer insights by ensuring they are on top of buying trend shifts.
3: The first-mover advantage
Significantly, customer insights also help identify and plug the gap between the supply and the demand. Companies and brands that leverage these insights enjoy the first-mover advantage in such scenarios.
This is how brands get future-ready!
Apart from the obvious benefits to businesses, customer insights are an ever-evolving aspect of data gathering, dependent as they are on something as intangible as customer behavior. There are some broad factors to keep in mind to ensure this:
1: Improve Product Offerings
Any kind of customer insight should be keyed towards providing customers with a great experience, whether it’s a service or product. The information can be used to make changes where required and ensure repeat/loyal customers.
2: Staying the Course
For businesses, staying updated and vigilant about navigating and adapting to this inherent unpredictability is a must. Customer insights simply cannot be a one-time, two-time, or some time strategy. Or something that’s pulled out at the last minute to save a flailing brand. It needs to be embedded into the company’s ethos, as an essential way forward for any business.
3: Customized Marketing
The big advantage to getting to know your customer is that they enable advertising and promotional campaigns that customers can relate to. Well-loved furniture and lifestyle brand IKEA has always put their customer first. And with the explosion of social media and its influence on users, IKEA further deepened their insights into their customers. There was now a constant feedback loop at their disposal that allowed them to track trends, patterns, and consumer behavior. This allows them to create products or schemes that were aligned with the mood of the time.
The Buyback and Resell scheme, for instance, allowed customers to sell their old IKEA furniture to the brand, which they would then resell to prevent second-hand pieces from being wasted. It was a great way to combine sustainable action with smart shopping. It also inspires the feeling of giving back among customers.
4: Long-term Planning
It’s never too early to plan. In fact, it’s a necessity in a highly competitive market. Customer insights, with their comprehensive, holistic, and deep-rooted detail-gathering processes, allow brands to do just that. Create a business plan for the future, based on the insights received.
5: Building Loyal Customers
Knowing your customer, more importantly, knowing what they want and why they want it — and endeavoring to give it to them — is a sure-fire way to create and retain a loyal customer base.
For marketers and business development aspirants and executives, gaining information about customer insights, studying its significance for consumer-driven businesses, and understanding its relevance to make future-ready businesses are necessary tools of the trade. And, they can find all this in a comprehensive program with Columbia Business School’s Mastering Consumer Insights. This Emeritus course is targeted at mid-to senior-level marketing professionals to help understand customer insights and its importance holistically. The course covers everything, from exploring different methods of deriving consumer insights that will help in making better business decisions, to building a customer-centric business model. The modules look upon the psychological and economic aspects of customer behavior. It also looks at both qualitative and quantitative research techniques.
In today’s rapidly changing environment and a highly competitive market, being tuned in to your customer’s needs is a necessity. After all, a satisfied customer is the one who keeps coming back.
By Gauri Kelkar
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