home Customer Experience, Insights and Data Stop guessing, start growing – leveraging customer insights for success

Stop guessing, start growing – leveraging customer insights for success

Customer insights provide the in-depth understanding of your target audience’s needs, wants, behaviours, and pain points. They are the golden nuggets of information businesses can use to propel growth. Generating customer insights business leaders can act on can, however, be a significant challenge.

Techtarget defines, “Customer insight, or consumer insight, is the understanding and interpretation of customer data, behaviours and feedback into conclusions that can be used to drive actions that improve product development and customer support. Insights are the actionable motivations behind the wants and needs of customers that can be used to guide the evolution of features, development of new products and creation of consumer benefits. Collecting customer insights attempts to align customers’ needs with a company’s business goals”.

Emily Paladino, Group Head of Customer Insights at Country Road

Customer insights, a seemingly straightforward concept, varies depending on the company culture, industry, and overall business goals. Emily Paladino, Group Head of Customer Insights at Country Road, says, “Customer Insights can mean different things in different companies. In my current role, I’ve been able to redefine what customer insights means for our company, where we gather insights from a wide range of sources, big and small data alike, encompassing analytics, research, and even desk research”.

Data versus insights

According to Ashley Smith, Marketing and Consumer Insights Consultant, customer insights are more than just data points or observations, “They’re the “aha” moments that reveal the underlying motivations and needs driving customer behavior. These insights can be linked to specific pain points or unmet needs, and they’re crucial for businesses to understand their customers better and tailor products, services, and marketing strategies accordingly”.

Ashley Smith, Marketing and Consumer Insights Consultant

The journey begins with data points – trends, facts, or observations about customer behaviour. This data could come from sales figures, customer surveys, website analytics, or even social media interactions. “To generate a true insight, however, we need to uncover the why behind a trend or an observation. For example, we may observe on an ecommerce site a high rate of customers abandoning their shopping carts. To have a true insight we need to delve deeper to understand the why, ie the checkout-out process is too complicated”, says Smith.

The true value of customer insights lies in their actionable nature. Once we understand the “why” behind customer behavior, we can use this knowledge to improve products, services, or marketing strategies to better address customer needs. Customer insights can empower businesses to:

  • Develop products and services that truly resonate with their target market.
  • Optimise marketing campaigns for better targeting and engagement.
  • Personalise the customer experience to foster loyalty and advocacy.
  • Predict customer behaviour and anticipate future needs.

“Half our time goes into feeding these insights into strategies across business functions like product, retail, brand & marketing, and digital. The other half is dedicated to measuring the success of those very strategies”, says Paladino.

“We monitor the effectiveness of both efforts through ongoing measurement. We have a suite of tools for this, including a Brand Equity Tracker, Voice of Customer analysis, and other analytics tools. These ongoing measurements are crucial for course correction and strategic evolution – to say Customer Insights is vital at our company would be an understatement. My team’s work directly informs all business strategies and then measures their success, allowing us to adapt and improve continuously”.

Turning data into action

Uncovering rich customer insights requires going beyond readily available data. Smith comments, “While internal reports and trend analyses are valuable starting points, a multi-method approach yields deeper understanding. Ethnography is a qualitative research method that involves observing customers in their natural environment. Watching how Mark cooks dinner or how people shop for clothes provides invaluable insights into real-world behaviour, revealing motivations and pain points that might not be captured in surveys”.

Smith also recommends, “Online Research Communitiesoffer a unique way to engage customers. Assigning tasks like recording their next shopping trip or providing video feedback allows researchers to analyse customer behaviour in a more natural setting, leading to richer insights”.

Despite limitations, surveys remain a popular tool due to their ease of use and ability to gather large datasets. However, surveys may struggle to uncover deeper motivations. People might be hesitant to share true feelings or struggle to accurately recall past behaviour.

To turn all the data you collect about your customers into actionable insights, you need to ask it:

  • What are my customers’ biggest frustrations? Analyse surveys, social media comments, and customer service interactions to identify recurring issues and frustrations. This reveals areas where your product or service falls short, potentially leading to new features or solutions. By mapping the customer’s experience from initial awareness to purchase and beyond, you can pinpoint roadblocks. This can expose opportunities to improve specific touchpoints and create a smoother journey
  • What unmet needs do my customers have? Segmenting your audience based on demographics, behavior, and needs allows you to see variations in preferences. This can reveal underserved segments or gaps in the market where a new product or service could thrive.
  • How can I personalise the customer experience to meet individual needs? By analysing customer purchase history and website behavior, you can identify trends and preferences. This allows for targeted product recommendations and informs the development of products that align with customer needs.

By answering these questions, you can transform raw data into actionable insights that can fuel your growth strategy.

The challenges

Uncovering valuable customer insights is crucial for business success, but, as Smith highlights, there are some hurdles companies face in making it a reality:

  • The Inside-Out View Trap: Many companies operate in an “echo chamber,” focusing solely on their own products and internal perspectives. This leads to the misconception of already knowing everything about the customer and their needs.
  • The “Research is Expensive” Myth: The perception of customer research being a time-consuming and costly endeavor discourages some companies from prioritising it. The ongoing evolution of modern tools and techniques, however, is dramatically reducing the costs associated with customer research. Smith advises, “The idea that deeply understanding your customers (customer incitement) was only for large corporations with big budgets is outdated.SMEs, just like any business, crave growth. While they may not have the same financial resources as larger companies, modern tools and techniques have leveled the playing field. These advancements allow even smaller businesses to become truly customer-centric”.
  • The Insight Graveyard: Often, research findings get buried in reports and presentations, never reaching the people who need them most. This disconnect between research and action renders valuable insights powerless.Implement activation workshops to translate insights into actionable strategies. Ensure knowledge sharing across departments, from product design to customer service, so insights can be fully utilised throughout the organisation.
  • Lack of Incentive for Customer-Centricity: In some companies, executive bonuses and rewards are not tied to customer experience metrics like Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS). This lack of incentive weakens the focus on customer needs.

Use the right Tools

Extracting actionable insights from raw data requires strong analytical skills and the right tools. Companies might struggle to translate complex data sets into clear and actionable takeaways. “Building a robust toolkit to navigate the ever-changing cost-of-living landscape was another hurdle. Refining this toolkit has taken two years, and while there’s always room for improvement, it’s a significant leap forward”, says Paladino.

She adds, “I’m fortunate to work in a company that values customer insights and wants to be consumer-driven. Initially, my biggest challenge was shifting the focus from purely reactive measurement to using insights proactively to shape strategy”.

Insights need to be communicated and implemented across different teams. Without clear ownership and collaboration, valuable insights can get buried and fail to translate into action. Getting lost in vanity metrics (e.g., website traffic) can distract from what truly matters. Focusing on customer-centric metrics that tie back to business goals is crucial.

Paladino reflects, “Despite delivering impactful projects, fostering strong internal and external relationships, and adapting our approach to meet evolving business needs, the pressure to constantly deliver is real. You’re only as good as your last contribution. Maintaining a critical eye, pushing my team to avoid complacency, and continuously proving our value are ongoing challenges – but incredibly rewarding ones”.

By embracing a customer-centric approach fueled by insights, businesses can turn data into a powerful engine for sustainable growth. Remember, the voice of your customer is the most valuable asset you have. Start listening today and unlock the secrets to achieving competitive advantage and long-term success.

About our interviewees

About Emily Paladino: Emily is Group Head of Customer Insights at Country Road Group. She is a senior consumer led marketing leader with over 20 years of experience across a range of industry sectors including fashion, retail, FMCG, and service industries. She has a genuine passion in re-shaping business, customer and brand strategy and working on largetransformational projects to drive business growth.

About Ashley Smith: A passionate marketing professional, Ashley began his career in Financial Services but switched to consumer marketing and innovation support over 15 years ago working with large international brands such as Philips, Heineken, Ferrero, Danone, Pernod Ricard, L’Oreal and RB to name a few. Ashley joined leading global market research agency InSites Consulting in 2010, specialising in innovation themed research : insight generation, ideation and concept development, innovation product tracking and campaign testing.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.