As someone who works in marketing, chances are you’ve heard mention of “customer insights” before.
However, not everyone is on the same page when it comes to this concept’s definition. So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with a clear, precise definition. Feel free to share with all your colleagues.
Customer insights refer to data gathered on customer behavior which is subsequently interpreted and used to increase the effectiveness of a brand’s products and services, drive sales, and gain a better understanding of customers’ likes and dislikes.
Gathering customer feedback is a great place to start if you’re interested in using such insights to improve your marketing efforts.
But how do you collect this kind of data? And what are some ways customer insights can make a real difference and inform better marketing decisions?
This article will address both questions and — hopefully — by the end you’ll be ready to take on the world of customer insights.
How Do You Gather Customer Insights?
The phrase “customer insights” is often used interchangeably with “consumer insights”. However, they are slightly different.
While consumer insights cover a wider range of people, as they’re not limited only to current or past customers, customer insights are gathered exclusively from your current pool of customers.
While each option has its benefits, this article will focus solely on gathering and interpreting customer insights.
So, how does one go about gathering customer insights? There are a few tried-and-tested methods, such as DIY surveys, NPS surveys, or focus groups. Let’s take a look at each to see which one works best for your brand.
1. DIY Surveys
Relatively easy to set up and offering a wide range of question options, DIY Surveys are an inexpensive way to gather customer feedback for insights.
By creating a survey and sending it directly to customers on your mailing list, you’ll be able to gather insights quite easily. An option like Google Forms, which has little to no limitations in terms of the types of question set-up or structures available, is a good place to start.
From multiple-choice to short answer questions to drop-down, Google Forms allows for a lot of customization. Want to know what customers think of your brand image (logo, colors, etc)? You can ask them here!
However, keep in mind that while this option is free and easy to use, it does have some limitations. You won’t be able to guarantee that your data will be representative or statistically significant, as you have no control over who answers the survey.
One way to increase participation is to offer a reward of some kind, such as a voucher for a product or service your brand provides.
2. Net Promoter Score Survey
A Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey is another great way to gather consistent insights from your active users. A straightforward survey, the NPS asks your customers questions like:
“How likely are you to recommend (Company X/Product Y/Service Z) to a friend or colleague?”
“How pleased are you with the service (Company X/Product Y/Service Z) provides?”
Typically, respondents choose a number from a scale of 0 to 10. The 0 represents “not likely at all” and 10 represents “extremely likely”. Based on their overall scores, customers are categorized as one of three options: Promoters, Passives, or Detractors.
A Promoter is a respondent who gave a 9 or 10 — these are your satisfied and loyal customers. Passive typically customers score between 7 or 8, meaning they’re generally satisfied with your brand. Detractors are those who score a 6 or below — you should keep an eye on their comments.
While most questions on an NPS survey are standardized, you can add in custom questions are the end if you want to use this method to gather customer feedback. Again, keep in mind that it does suffer from some of the same limitations as the DIY surveys — not fully representative, reliable, or accurate.
3. Focus Groups
At first glance, focus groups can seem a bit outdated. However, if done right, you can gather helpful insights from your customers to help improve your marketing efforts.
To set up a focus group, you’ll need to be smart about who you ask to take part. Make sure you include a wide range of people from your customer pool — new customers, loyal customers, churned customers. This way, you’ll be able to collect information from a more representative group.
There are a few methods you can use to entice customers to take part in a focus group. From offering vouchers for your products or services to simply paying participants, you’ll most likely need to include an incentive.
Once you’ve chosen the right group of people, you need to decide which questions you’ll ask them to answer and discuss. Again, you need to be smart about how you ask questions.
Don’t try to sway them to one answer or another with the question’s wording. After all, you want truthful answers that will provide new, useful insight.
Finally, while focus groups can be helpful and provide great customer feedback, like the other options, they do have limitations concerning accuracy and reliability. Keep this in mind if you go the focus group route.
What Can Customer Insights Do For You?
Customer insights can do wonders for your marketing strategy, as they’ll likely provide new ideas and information you yourself might not have thought of.
So, what are some ways customer insights can help you make better marketing decisions?
1. Help Define Marketing Personas
There’s a good chance you already know your target audience’s main characteristics — and that’s a good thing! However, audiences change and it’s vital that you stay on top of your marketing personas.
What is a marketing persona? It’s a fictional representation of your ideal customer, which is based on data from your real customers. Many brands give their personas easy-to-remember names like “Techy Tom” or “Eco-Conscious Eva”.
While defining these personas is something you should do early on, they can’t be neglected. Therefore, you can use customer insights to tweak and refine your personas to ensure you’re keeping up with user needs.
For example, say you’re the brand manager of an ice cream company called “Scooped Delight”, and one of your main personas has been dubbed “Vegan Veronica”. She represents one of your newer target audiences — vegan, eco-conscious females aged 18-45, interested in sustainability and city-living.
For the past few months, although his persona has helped convert a respectable amount of new customers, it’s remained relatively static. After running a focus group and gathering customer feedback, you learn that “Vegan Veronica” is far more interested in the taste of your products than previously thought.
Therefore, instead of focusing primarily on your brand’s sustainability and eco-conscious packaging, you decide to highlight your vegan ice cream’s “great taste” as one of your main USPs going forward.
By listening to your customers and integrating the insights they provide, your job as a brand manager will be a great deal easier.
2. Improve Communication with Target Audiences
Another area customer insights can help improve is your communication. While you may think you’re communicating well with your customers, they might disagree.
But, you’ll never know if you don’t ask. So ask your customers how they view and interpret your communication — from ads to your website to your emails. Is their interpretation of your brand messaging consistent with what you want it to be?
If not, you have a chance to really improve your marketing going forward. Customer insights like this can help you make better, more informed decisions.
For example, say you’re the brand manager of an up-and-coming company, “Cosmo Jewel”, and you’ve been asked to take a look at some recent negative comments on your social media channels.
Upon further inspection, you realize these comments all have a similar theme — consumers are confused by your messaging and don’t think it matches up with your brand. Now, you feel great about your brand communications — you love the informal tone of voice and friendly syntax.
However, to gather more data you decide to send out a DIY survey to ask customers how they view your brand communication. To your surprise, many survey respondents echo the sentiments of your social media haters. They think that a more formal, refined tone would better fit your brand image and products.
Therefore, going forward you decide to change up your style of communication to something more formal in an effort to better meet the expectations of your customers and improve brand loyalty.
3. Zero-In On Products/Features to Highlight in Ads
As a brand manager, there are undoubtedly aspects of your product or service that you feel are worth highlighting. But do your customers agree?
While you may love the sleek look and feel of your brand’s faux leather shoes, customers may care more about the fact that they’re vegan and cruelty-free. So, while you were highlighting one USP in your ads, customers were more interested in another.
Gathering customer insights allows you to align with customer needs and expectations. Plus, you may be surprised which features customers actually appreciate.
For example, let’s pretend you’re the online marketing manager of a grocery delivery service named “Groceryverse”. You’ve been with the brand for a little over a year and you’re seeing a drop in performance for your paid ads.
You’ve tried highlighting all sorts of different USPs in your ads, but nothing seems to be working. So, you ask the Customer Service team to add a few custom questions to the end of their regular NPS survey to gather customer feedback.
From this insight, you’re surprised to learn that a large chunk of your customers think that your refund policy is one of your greatest assets. As you yourself have never needed to try out the refund policy, this wasn’t something you’d ever thought to highlight in your ads.
With this knowledge, you decide to A/B test a new batch of paid ads to see if this USP will increase user engagement and improve the click-through rate.
4. Identify Shifting Needs of Target Audiences
In a similar manner to keeping up with your customer personas, you need to be able to keep an eye on the shifting needs of your customers. Their needs and desires aren’t stagnant, so why should your marketing be?
Customer insights make it possible to identify big shifts in needs or wants. While they may have loved that your brand’s rentable scooters were easy to use before Covid-19, now, they’re far more drawn to the health and safety policy you’re instated — deep-cleaning each scooter twice a week.
Having access to this kind of data is extremely important and will help you make better, more informed choices about your branding.
For example, let’s say you’re the brand manager of a mental health app, “Helpworks”. You’ve been with the company for a few years and are very familiar with your target audiences’ wants and needs.
However, with the recent global pandemic, you’ve sensed a shift in demand and you’re interested in finding out if you need to reconsider your targeting. Before the pandemic, you focused mainly on targeting consumers who had previously shown an interest in addressing their mental health.
However, since the pandemic has changed so many people’s lives so drastically, you have the feeling that there has been a shift in need and you should expand your target audiences. To check, you decide to send out a DIY survey to your newest customers which asks them whether or not they would have looked for help before the pandemic.
The findings confirm your suspicions — there has indeed been a shift in customers’ needs and in order to address those needs, you have to expand your target audiences.
5. Increase Brand Recognition
Do you love your brand’s logo? Are your brand colors just the best? While it’s great if you find your brand image to be pleasing and unique, it’s far more important that customers do as well.
While you may think that your signature colors of lemon yellow and fire-engine red are a winning combination, customers may find them garish and overwhelming. Plus, maybe they remind customers of another brand they didn’t like.
Knowing what customers think of your brand image — your logo, colors, website — is vital. What you may consider memorable and easy to pick out from a crowd may be all wrong — and being memorable matters.
Increasing brand recognition is a huge step toward dominating your industry in terms of brand awareness and loyalty. So make sure you ask customers what they think of your brand image — memorable or forgettable?
For example, let’s pretend you’re the brand manager of a new haircare brand, called “Enrapture”. You’ve been working with your design team to create a logo that really captures the feel and vibe of your brand, and it’s finally ready.
When you launch, all goes well. But for some reason, a very large percentage of the users who land on your website seem to bounce quickly. You know your user experience is great, your website loads quickly, and everything is mobile-optimized — so what’s the catch?
To figure out what’s gone wrong, you decide to host a few focus groups. Interestingly enough, you discover that many customers feel that your minimal, sleek logo doesn’t actually resemble flowing har (like you were convinced was obvious). Instead, they perceive it to be flame-related.
Now, mix that with your ambiguous brand name and you have a recipe for disaster. Customers aren’t 100% sure what your brand name or logo represents — meaning they won’t create an association with your brand and will likely forget you.
In order to remedy this situation, you head back to the drawing board with your design team and focus on creating a logo that better represents your product and brand.
Gathering customer feedback can be a labor-intensive process, but the insights discovered are usually worth the time and effort.
However, if your brand is interested in gathering data on more than just your current customer’s insights (aka overall consumer insights), we suggest using brand monitoring.
With the ability to gather information from a much wider pool of consumers — current and potential customers — you’ll be able to gain more nuanced, reliable insights.