The Three Elements of Customer Intelligence

Oct 27, 2016

Learning everything about your customers isn’t accomplished overnight. Once you’ve designed, executed, and interpreted your market research study, you’ve likely found the answer to your key question. So how does this latest insight fit into your broader knowledge of your customers? As we discussed in a recent blog, it’s important to understand how the research you’ve already conducted and consumer insights you’ve already gathered can help answer questions your company is currently facing. But it takes more than occasionally rifling through the archives to establish a comprehensive understanding of your target audience.

Understanding the Components of Customer Intelligence

Today’s consumer is more empowered than ever, with unprecedented access to information about whatever purchasing decision they face. But brands are just as empowered, able to draw on vast amounts of behavioral data, field studies quickly and effectively, and maintain an organized system of learnings. Where some brands run into trouble is accessing this wealth of knowledge, struggling to identify which source of information holds the answers they need. Data, research, and insight are all separate steps on the road to customer intelligence, and recognizing what info can be gathered from which step will help you solve business questions more efficiently. Understanding how these different phases of customer learning work together can help your insights team more readily draw on the knowledge you already have and proceed accordingly.

1. Data

If data sounds like too broad or unrefined a term, it’s because that’s exactly where we are in the process of customer learning. Data is raw information about customers, presented as facts and statistics. It is often automated, unfiltered, and big, and is a crucial starting point for figuring out which business questions are worth pursuing, as well as who to ask. But without context, data is largely meaningless: just numbers that may or may not indicate a retrospective trend or pattern.

2. Research

Here’s where we give data meaning. Research is the process of contextualizing and expanding upon data. That data can be collected through quantitative or qualitative research methodologies, and in whatever format will be most engaging for participants as well as informative for researchers. The data is used to develop a question and pursue the answer, as well as guide interaction with respondents. Essentially, the goal is to find the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where’ that data provides.

3. Insights

Now it’s time for the in-depth analysis. Gaining an intimate understanding of the attitudes and values that motivate consumer behavior comes from synthesizing the evidence articulated in research with the facts and patterns in data. Remember, insights are more than results. They are findings turned into learnings: knowledge from your target audience that has implications for your business strategy and is applied appropriately.

None of these elements of customer intelligence is effective without the other, so it is important to remember that each one is a separate step that must be thoughtfully completed and built upon one another in order to arrive at holistic customer learnings that can be applied to any number of business questions.

To learn how the product innovation team at Bumble Bee Foods is building an insights-driven pipeline of viable concepts at the speed of business, check out the case study below.

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