More and more often we hear businesses talk about the customer journey, customer experiences, user experience, and even the ”business of experience”, as put by the Accenture analysts. The past years, given the highly competitive market, especially in the tech industry, have seen emerging more sophisticated customers. With so many options to choose from, they don’t simply look for functionality and good price in a product (be it consumer goods or digital), but for a good answer to their specific, personal needs. For businesses, this means that it’s no longer enough to make proper products and advertise; it means they need to understand customers, learn what they expect, and then deliver.
But how can anyone know what thousands, even millions of people particularly expect from a product or service? This is where customer insights analysis takes the stage.
What is customer insight analysis, exactly?
First, let’s understand what this kind of analysis is and does. We are talking about a set of methods that draw customer data and behavioural data from various forms of consumer insight. The term analysis means that there is more to it than the simple collection of data; we are talking about data analytics, implying organizing and highlighting patterns, pointing out recurrence, and calculating various useful indicators.
The preoccupation with customer satisfaction is no news in the business world, it just evolves continuously, together with the social and cultural transformations. Customer Relationship Management has evolved into Customer Experience Management and it slowly shifts toward the Business of Experience. This means that customer retention is no longer just a job for the sales department, but it becomes integrated into the business strategy. This is why customer insights analysis is valuable for creating the business portfolio and the revenue streams, in addition to an agile marketing mix that is consumer-centered.
Consumer insight is much about consumer behavior and the motivations that drive a particular choice. It is not only about quantitative results (purchase volumes, frequency, customer satisfaction scores, etc.). It is about the customer sentiment and why they feel the way they do when interacting with the business (not only the product or service).
You may wonder if customer insights analysis is just another name for market research. The short answer is No. Here’s why.
While there are similarities and the information from both types of analysis is valuable for any marketing manager, the market research shows mostly what happens in the market - market trends, shopper insights, consumers’ preferences, and their buying habits - mostly through the lenses of numbers (sales data, customer churn, demographics, etc.). Customer insights analysis zooms in and puts the stage light on the why for all that market input. It works with both numbers and customer stories, providing more actionable insights on how to deliver personalized experiences.
To listen to the voice of the customer and make sense of the input, then transform it into actionable insights involves a series of important steps:
1. Gather customer feedback.
2. Analyze data.
3. Measure customer satisfaction and run sentiment analysis.
4. Find the patterns.
5. Prioritize pain points and reveal satisfaction-drawing experiences.
6. Recommend business and operational actions based on the customer insights analysis.
Customer insights analysis - top benefits or what's in for you?
Of course, the entire process requires some considerable effort. So, a reasonable question is ”why bother?”. Isn’t market research enough to deliver useful data? Why invest time and money into a detailed customer analysis?
It probably won’t suffice to just say “it’s good for business in the long term”. Here are the arguments for why it is worth integrating into your business strategy consumer research and understanding customer analytics.
Increase in customer lifetime value
Understanding what clients need and what bothers them results in actions that drive a chain of positive effects: it can increase customer satisfaction and strengthen customer relationships, followed by increased customer loyalty and higher lifetime values. Consumers’ buying habits are transient as their needs evolve. To make sure your clients stay with you means to be ready to deliver what they expect, at any given moment. It may sound unrealistic, but if you pay attention to what clients communicate about your products or services, you’ll see that they speak rather straightforwardly about what they want. And we all know that the secret to a good relationship is good communication, which also involves listening actively.
More effective marketing strategy
The secret of effective marketing actions is to reach the target audience and offer them what they want. For that, you need to know your target audience in detail, to build a realistic and relevant buyer persona. Analysing the consumer insights provides precisely the kind of information you need to build relevant marketing campaigns, increase customer engagement and, ultimately, increase sales.
You know all there is to know about your products, no doubt about that. Still, it is the users who, ultimately, know better how well adapted that product is to their needs and expectations. So, by listening to the voice of the customer, you can learn important details about what you can improve, how, and, very importantly, in which order. Such customer insights analysis can tell you in a glimpse the feature or bug that bothers your clients the most.
Vision and anticipation
You’ll be surprised how much customers can reveal about the changes ahead. By paying careful attention to what they like and dislike, how they behave, or how their use case changes over time you can anticipate future changes and market trends. This allows you to prepare your product and business strategy in due time, staying ahead of your competition. Moreover, you can better project your logistics and operations based on current customer trends.
How to gather customer insights (talk about the tool)
Customer insights can be gathered in a wide variety of ways, many of which are very handy thanks to the mighty online. Many of the methods that were applied offline – observation or interviews – can be very well applied via the Internet, using digital tools. To those, add all the wonders that technology has put on the table: automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Let’s explore the main tools to gather customer insights.
Passive data collection
This is the online version of the classical in-shop observation. With the help of tools like Hotjar – a heat mapping software, Lucky Orange - screen recording software, and classical Google Analytics, you can extract insights about how people interact with your website, app, or platform. Furthermore, you can learn a lot about what people are looking for from keyword analysis, with the help of keyword search tools like Google Trends, SEMrush, or Ahrefs.
Whether your clients leave a review on your Facebook Page, on Google, or on e-commerce platforms, they will speak truly about their shopping experience. Checking online customer reviews is, probably, a key factor in deciding to make a purchase, be it an app, a tech product, a piece of garment, a new cosmetics product, or booking a hotel for the holiday. Reviews pinpoint the match between the client’s expectations and the attributes of your product or service. Even though some may not be flattering and difficult to read, they’ll reveal valuable information: what potential clients really want. As mentioned, you can gather such reviews on Google or Facebook – the best-known generalist platforms – or Yelp, Trustpilot Online platforms, where your products and services can be found, also have reviews sections, so you may want to look there, too. If you’re a software, SaaS, or digital services company, you can gather reviews for your products (or the competition’s) from Capterra or Clutch.
Nowadays, having a social media presence is mandatory for almost any business. The majority part of your customers is probably present on at least one of the social media platforms. Although they may not use them actively, these platforms act as communication windows between your brand and its target audience. Millennials and Generation Z, not to mention the new emerging generation are used to communicating their thoughts, opinions, and feelings, to share their experiences on such platforms. It is worth being present amongst them, with your eyes and ears open to what your customers have to say about your business or your competition, for that matter.
Online surveys are a good way to actively ask for feedback from your customers. You can use survey platforms such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms that automate the process and makes it much easier and fast. You can also apply satisfaction surveys by e-mail or directly on your app or website, after a relevant step in the customer’s journey, to check how it went. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) or the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) can be checked effortlessly with some automated tools like the ones provided by Hubspot Customer feedback software or Feedier.
Direct feedback from chat or help-desk
Another precious resource that you have handy is the integrated chat or a help-desk ticketing system, especially if you’re an app or software development company. Such tools gather very specific information about use cases, features, bugs, product requirements, etc. It is the main source of insight for product or service improvement, provided you also have the tools to organize the customer tickets and draw actionable conclusions from that feedback. This brings us to the next type of tool.
With all that customer feedback software available, it may soon feel overwhelming to deal with so much customer data. What does all that mean? This is when feedback analytics software comes in handy. With the help of AI, such software can automatically run the customer insights analysis on all the feedback received from various tools. Having run through reviews, chat messages, help-desk tickets, and e-mails, it reveals the main pain points, organizes tickets, summarises the clients’ sentiments towards the product or service, and even points out revenue-driving topics.
7 customer insights examples
Here are some examples of how brands took into account the data provided by the customer insights analysis and changed the product or customer experience for the better.
Netflix. The name itself is probably enough to tell you who they are and what they do. No need to explain what Netflix is, right? But it wasn’t like this from the beginning. How they got to this kind of brand awareness is also due to how they used their customer data. They enhanced the customer experience by applying machine learning to the search engine so that the recommendations you get are the closest to what you really like. This kind of data is obtained passively, by what the platform registers in terms of search, time spent watching, the moment of the day, stop and start moments, and so on.
HubSpot. They use a follow-up system to improve customer experience starting with the net promoter score. They use it together with automated email marketing. After having a support ticket solved, they email the customers and ask to rate, in one click, their experience. This way they keep track of how their support services answer the client’s needs.
Nike. By collecting and analysing customer data regarding sports habits, interests, and buying patterns, Nike improves their products and also predicts your next buying choice and moment. This way, they can offer personalized deals. They use the Nike app, combined with the Nike Plus membership rewards. This customer insight approach – the Nike Direct approach - appears to have paid results in terms of sales - $10 billion contribution in sales in 2018, when Nike reached over 36 billion U.S. dollars in global revenue, while in 2022 it registered over $46 billion (with a 2 billion increase compared to 2021).
Carlsberg. E relevant example of listening to the voice of the customer is Carlsberg’s „Probably not the best beer in the world” ad campaign. You might still remember its counterpart, the „Probably the best beer in the world” ads. It seems that clients disagreed. And they went to social media to express their opinions. Carlsberg was smart to listen to that customer insight, analyze and make a change. They actually changed the recipe, the way they presented the beer – not a lager, but a Danish pilsner – and came with the “Probably not” promoting campaign. The readers of Marketing Week voted it as the best marketing campaign in 2019, while Carlsberg registered almost 3 billion Danish kroner in additional revenue compared to 2018.
Here are some use cases from our own „backyard”:
Customer pain point trends – a ClientZen user noticed that 10% of the feedback he received from clients referred to delays in response time from their support team. As a result, they implemented a new, more advanced chat tool that organized better client tickets and notified the client support representatives faster.
Events/Annotations in customer topics – after releasing a new feature of their product, one of our customers noticed, by using the ClientZen sentiment analysis tool, that they received more feedback than before, and it expressed, mainly, negative feelings. This led to the conclusion that their users didn’t need that feature, so they withdrew it.
Advanced Segmenting – one of the ClientZen users noticed that, in the segment area, 3 enterprise accounts with high MRR were approaching renewal in 2 weeks’ time. Our tool revealed that the feedback they were sending in the past months had mostly a negative sentiment. With the help of our tool, the client’s sales team learned which were the topics that triggered negative sentiments for those 3 clients and acted upon the problems.
Why brands need customer insights in 2022/23 more than ever
An old saying states that „change is the only certainty in life”. Somehow, we never seem to get used to change, although it is ever more present in our lives due to the fast-evolving technology we encounter in every aspect of our routines. History has shown that, especially in business, those who were able to foresee change and adapt stayed on the winners’ side.
Change, once again, is the very reason why first-party customer insights are the must-go-to for the following year. We are talking about changes in consumer behaviour, triggered by impactful changes in the society and global economy.
One important change that has a direct impact on how businesses gather customer data is regulations regarding personal information and data collection. If you run a business in the EU, you are surely familiar with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), established in 2018. Since then, plenty of companies were fined for defective compliance with the regulations. Right before the pandemic, California’s Consumer Privacy Act in the US was put into state. Such governmental actions regarding the protection of personal data have driven consumers more conscious about what information they provide and allow companies to collect.
All this affects what is generally known as Cookies Policy, leading businesses to what is called „cookieless marketing” in the following year. The information that was passively collected by the sheer use of a website, platform, or app will soon stop being possible. An increasing number of online users choose to reject „unnecessary cookies” – the exact type of cookies used for marketing purposes. For example, in the US, when they open a website, just 32% of internet users always accept cookies.
On the other side, companies also take action towards eliminating this type of data collection. Already the Firefox and Brave browsers, along with Safari from Apple block third-party cookies automatically. Google Chrome delays the inevitable until late 2023, as announced in July 2021 regarding third-party cookie blocking.
All this means that no later than 2023 companies will have to rely on direct customer feedback to understand what their clients need and expect. Luckily, the tools to run customer insights analysis are already here and evolving. It is a matter of who takes the opportunity and how soon.