What Exactly Are Customer Insights?
An insight is a data point about your customer that can be used to help you position yourself as a value add. Things you want to know about your customer:
- Where they’re accessing you from geographically
- What time they’re interacting with you
- If they’re a previous customer
- Where else they shop / visit online
- Psychographics like attitude, values, ambitions and culture
The Customer Journey Has Changed
You want to know where you’re gaining and retaining customers along the customer journey and funnel. The path to purchase is now non-linear because we’re always shopping and comparing. It used to be that the customer’s journey was fixed from point A to point B, in this order:
- Awareness: customer becomes aware of you (before there’s a need to purchase)
- Consideration: has a need for your product
- Purchase: self-explanatory
- Retention: they make repeat purchases
- Advocacy: gladly sharing and recommending your brand
It’s still the case that companies want to attract customers and then converting them to returning, loyal brand advocates. However, these steps don’t follow any particular order. Instead you have to always have your ear to the ground and look in unexpected places.
Start with What You Know
One of the best things about doing business online is how much data is generates. You don’t have to track foot traffic into your store or hope people take home a survey. Everything about your business interactions, from how your customer finds you, how long they stay and even their behavior across other sites is recorded and quantifiable. So take advantage of this data where you can.
If you’re a Google Merchant or on Google AdWords, you already have a world of insights available to you you might not even be using. In Google Analytics, take an audit of where people are bailing on your funnel. Focus your attention on your top exit pages and the pages with the highest bounce rates. Every purchase comes down to human wants, needs and fears. Insights help you find the story in your business development.
Reviews can be an untapped resource for customer insights. If you treat them as simply an inevitability or obligation, you’re missing out their full potential. These are proven, paying customers coming to you with their opinions. You can look to them for guidance about what you’re doing well, where to put your effort and what language real people are using to describe your product. In the same way, negative reviews can be just as important as good ones. A lot of this work will require individual brainpower, reading, and interpreting each review, then extrapolating insights. If you can believe it, there are now tools available that use natural language processing to extract keywords from customer reviews, revealing emergent themes.
Quantitative vs Qualitative Data
One drawback of reviews is they can be prone to selection bias. That being said, this is another case where you don’t have to stick with old ways of doing things. To future-proof your brand, your consumer research has to allow for a mix of research methods. Customer reviews, while not quantitative, can be a rich source of qualitative data. You can spend lots of time crafting personas and scenarios, but there’s nothing like hearing it in your customer’s own words.
Social media is another resource for customer insights that older research models may overlook. Consumers are more empowered than ever, speaking. They also love to identify themselves with their favorite brands and show their loyalty through glowing posts and reviews. By the same token, customer convos about other brands will teach you about your own. You need to get a lay of the land to know where you’re starting and how far you have to go.
Automate Your Insights
To know what’s being said about you online, you’d have to hand-pick every @, every tagless mention, and every misspelling. That’s why there are services devoted to social media monitoring. Also called social listening, platforms like Hootsuite scan for your customer on social media. Anytime you can automate this kind of data collection is good for your bottom line. It’s the difference between hunting for gold with a metal detector and a treasure map (and a giant horseshoe magnet, for good measure).
Next Level Surveys
One way that social media can be transformative to your business is by running development ideas by your customer. Also called cocreating, companies have started fielding product ideas on Twitter and web forums. Some might feel resistance to this in favor of more traditional survey methods. However, this a faster, more dynamic way to collect insights (and costs less than recruiting for a focus group). Social media has pulled back the veil on business development, and consumers welcome the humanizing view into their favorite brands.
Make the Most of Your Customer Insights
Today there are many options for automating your customer insights analysis, and you want to think purposefully about how to delegate your company’s resources. Marketing is now truly a two-way conversation, and your customers are always talking - so you need to always be listening.