At its core, leveraging customer insights lets your business look into the hearts and minds of current and potential buyers. Tapping into customer insights offers a way to take the pulse of your target audience, and if used properly, these insights can help smooth the customer journey, increase sales and can even open the door to new business opportunities.
For startups and entrepreneurs, customer insights are just as critical as your company’s talent and technology. Follow along as we guide you through the world of customer insights.
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What does consumer insight mean?
Some businesses plod along from day to day and often lose sight of what their target customers want and need. If you hope to better understand your customer base and customer experience, what better way than to gain insights from consumers (both directly and indirectly)?
Trustpilot, a customer review platform, explains that consumer insights enable businesses to get a better grasp of how their audience thinks and feels. The goal is to improve how a business communicates with its customers, which then can lead to desired changes in customer behavior and, ultimately, can lift your revenue.
Among the tools for gaining customer insights are surveys, reviews, analytics and social media monitoring, as well as simple one-on-one conversations. Collecting and analyzing these kinds of data can help grow your business.
Keep in mind that market research and consumer insights aren’t the same. Trustpilot breaks down the difference: Market research delivers the “what,” while consumer insights dig deeper to deliver the “why.”
In other words, market research supplies data about your market and your customer base. To gather consumer insights, you need to go beyond standard consumer research. Consumer insights supply the same data coupled with recommendations that can equip your business to acquire and retain customers, enhance the customer experience and generate more revenue.
Related: 10 Ways to Boost Your Startup’s Customer Acquisition
Why are consumer insights important?
Operating your business without consumer insights is like operating a boat with paddles instead of a motor. Paddles do move the boat along, but a motor enables the boat to move along faster and more efficiently. Sure, your boat probably won’t sink either way you power it, but the ride is certainly much better when the boat is propelled by a motor.
So, do you want your business to simply float, or do you want it to chart new territory and make some waves?
“Understanding your consumers’ needs and wants has become essential to ensure your company is future-proof. Listening empowers you to learn from and talk to your customers in order to create ever-improving experiences,” Trustpilot points out.
Armed with a deeper understanding of customer insights, your business can:
- Attract new customers and do a better job of customer retention
- Enjoy more successful launches of new products or services
- Enable predictive analysis, which helps refine product and service offerings, and can even lead to new offerings
Professional services firm, PwC, makes another case for consumer insights, which are key to improving the customer experience. PwC says businesses that invest in and deliver superior customer experiences are able to bump up the prices of their products and services by much as 16 percent.
Conducting consumer insight research: Start with an inventory of touchpoints
There’s no right or wrong way to conduct consumer insight research. However, a certain research method that works for one startup might not work for another. Just as you have a number of ways to consume news, you also have a number of ways to gather consumer insights.
Before you get started, it’s important to assess your customer touchpoints: How are current and future customers interacting with your business?
Those touchpoints could be your business’ best avenues for gleaning customer insights. As noted by SurveyMonkey, those avenues might include a digital ad, your website, online reviews or your customer service team.
Don’t overlook the fact that these touchpoints appear before, during and after the purchase. For instance, according to SurveyMonkey, a before-purchase touchpoint might be word of mouth, while a during-purchase touchpoint might be your sales team and an after-purchase touchpoint might be a transactional email.
Once you’ve got a good sense of your customer touchpoints, it’s time to develop a plan for collecting customer insights. The plan should:
- Lay out the size and scope of your customer insights program
- Allocate sufficient financial and human resources
- Identify the insight tools that you’ll be using
Types of customer data sources
So, what are some of your options for gathering customer data for you and your marketing team to gain insights?
Here are six examples:
- Focus groups
- One-on-one interviews
- Customer advisory panels
- Ethnography, an in-depth form of market research that offers a comprehensive look at how your customers go about their day-to-day lives
On the analytics front, the Digital Marketing Institute recommends YouTube Analytics, Google Analytics, Google Trends, Facebook Audience Insights, Social Mention and Klout. Fortunately, a lot of analytics tools are free or inexpensive and are pretty easy to use.
“With the right research, you’ll get an opportunity to get an insight into your target customers’ habits and buying behavior,” the Digital Marketing Institute says.
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How do you use consumer insight tools?
Once you pick the appropriate consumer insight tools, make sure they work in concert with one another. A coordinated effort will produce far better results.
In putting together this effort, ask yourself these four questions:
- Is your customer base unaware of your startup? To raise awareness, you might need to cultivate some word of mouth or generate some buzz through PR.
- Are customers considering your startup’s products or services? Marketing your startup through social media ads, beefing up your online-review presence and stepping up your blog content might be in order.
- Are customers ready to buy? Make sure your website and e-commerce platform are in tip-top shape. If customers visit a store or office, look around the space to see where you might want to strengthen the customer experience.
- Is retention your primary goal? Online forums, feedback surveys, FAQs and “knowledge base” articles could help in that regard.
Collecting customer insights in order to maintain your existing customer base, attract new customers and improve the overall customer experience is not a one-and-done proposition. It should be an ongoing project that incorporates a variety of methods — methods that don’t stretch your resources. Along the way, you should regularly measure the success of your efforts. Based on that evaluation, make tweaks to bolster the gathering of insights and to keep up with new technology.
Originally published July 15, 2020.