Have you ever wondered what separates the businesses that last from those that vanish? Is it the right product? Innovative branding? Or a viral marketing strategy?
Maybe. But those examples are just byproducts of what truly makes a business great. The best companies on earth all have one thing in common: they understand their target audience better than anyone else.
When you understand your customers’ needs, you can better serve them. But how can you anticipate your customers’ needs when you have no clue what they are? And, even if you have rich data on your customers, how can you use it to optimize your business?
The reality is that there are various creative ways to use customer insights to your advantage. You just need to know where to start.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about customer insights, why they’re important, how to gather customer data, and the best ways to use customer insights to grow your business.
What Are Customer Insights?
So, what exactly are customer insights?
The short answer:
They are any information you have about your customers to improve your business.
The long(er) answer:
Customer insights encompass the qualitative and quantitative data you’ve collected from your customers through various sources, which are then organized and analyzed to inform your business strategies, such as your sales, marketing, and customer service.
Customer insights are the information you have on your customers and how you can use that information to improve the customer experience so you can grow your brand.
Insights can be collected directly from your customers, as is the case with feedback surveys and reviews. However, you can also gather through indirect sources such as website data and purchase activities.
Why Are Customer Insights Important?
Every year, businesses worldwide invest substantial money into understanding their customers better. In 2021, the global market research industry exceeded 76 billion U.S. dollars.
To improve your business, you need to focus on customer insights. When you understand what your customers want and need, you can make a plan to serve them better. Using insights gathered through data is necessary in today’s landscape.
The market is getting more competitive, and customer expectations and behaviors continue to evolve. To succeed in the modern era, you must constantly focus on improving your customer experience.
Here are a few reasons why you need to zero in on customer insights today:
Proactively Determine What Your Customers Need
Many businesses are out there just hoping what they offer their customers will stick.
And, unfortunately, this isn’t a viable long-term strategy. While some businesses may get away with this temporarily, if they don’t begin gathering and analyzing customer data, they’re going to fall by the wayside to their more insights-driven competitors.
The result of not using customer insights to inform your business strategy is that you’ll make reactive rather than proactive business decisions. One common example is when a business’s sales begin dropping due to a competitive marketplace and they react by heavily discounting their product.
However, if this business had been proactive and focused on their customers’ needs and wants, they could have been better prepared to come up with a better product or improved customer service. This proactive thinking could be the difference between steadily increasing your business revenue over time versus losing out by trying to compete on price alone.
Reduce the Guessing Factor in Business Decisions
Making business decisions based on instinct may garner a few wins here and there. Some companies may even see some short-term success.
However, when it comes to long-term business success, you can’t play guessing games. Data is king. It’s the reason a company like Netflix is so successful. They took on one of the biggest industries in the world and dominated it by leveraging customer data. Not only did they use customer insights to bring in movies and shows that resonated with their audience, but they also leveraged customer data to create their own movies that have seen widespread success.
Plus, third-party data is getting more challenging to capture every year. Regulations like GDPR and CPRA are making it harder for businesses to collect data without explicit user permission. This makes it more important than ever to rely on a first-party data strategy to empower your customer insights.
The better your business is at collecting and using data, the better your understanding of your customers will be, which reduces the risk of a strategy falling flat because it was based on gut feelings.
Improve Business Performance
Forrester recently conducted a study on the characteristics of insights-driven businesses (IDBs) vs. their less advanced peers. They found that advanced IDBs were 8 times more likely to say their businesses grew by 20% or more than businesses without advanced customer insights.
Customer insights can help you be proactive and leave the guesswork behind, but that’s not the main reason they’re so important. The main reason you want to ensure you’re using customer insights is to improve your business performance.
By gathering and analyzing customer data, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement in your business. This could be optimizing your products or services, your marketing, or even your customer service.
By making improvements in your business that your customers want, you’ll be able to keep customer satisfaction high, increase loyalty, and position your business for long-term success.
How to Gather Customer Insights
A recent study found that 70% of consumers admit they will shop exclusively with brands that understand them.
Now that you understand just how important it is to collect and use customer insights to inform your business strategy, it’s time to look at how you can begin gathering customer data.
Guess what one of the easiest ways to gather customer data is? Believe it or not, it’s just asking them what they think!
This is the most direct way to gather customer data. Don’t be afraid to periodically send out a questionnaire or an automated follow-up email survey. It’s an easy win to gain new data on your customers to improve your business.
Customer Sentiment Surveys
Customer sentiment surveys are another way to directly ask your customers how they feel. However, they’re not as in-depth as customer questionnaires.
Instead, you can use sentiment surveys to better understand how customers feel about your brand. These are simple pop-ups and forms you can use to ask customers to rate you on a scale system or simply click a “like” or “dislike” button.
One of the most valuable ways you can collect customer data is through your website.
With apps like Google Analytics, you can gather website visitor data. This could be the channel (such as a social media platform, email newsletter, or link on a third-party site) that led them to your website, the paths they took once they got there, what products they added to their cart, and more.
If you want to be even more proactive with your website data, you should begin A/B testing, or “split testing.”
This is where you test out two versions of a digital experience for your customers. Then, you look at the data to see which version performed better. For instance, using a new headline for your homepage could result in a reduced bounce rate, increased time on page, and more clicks to your product page.
Instead of directly asking your customers to tell you what they like, you can use behavioral data to show you what they like.
One of the most effective ways to gather customer insights automatically is by collecting online reviews. This is an effective and passive way to gather information from real paying customers to help you improve your business.
Another passive behavioral method to gather customer data is through social listening. This is a data-gathering technique businesses can use to track social media conversions, including brand mentions and conversations related to your brand.
Your customer support team is a valuable source of customer data. When your customers have an issue, a question, or a problem with your business or your website, one of the first places they’ll go is to your support team.
Your customer service team should be on the lookout for common themes in tickets. If certain questions or issues keep popping up, these are likely key areas for improvement within your business.
Just as live agents can help gather customer data, so can non-human agents. Chatbots aren’t just great for providing customer service in the modern age. They can also help you improve your overall customer experience. Take time to monitor common questions and issues that arise through your chatbot data.
What’s more valuable? Data from buyers or lookers?
If you answered “buyers”, then you’re correct. While the vast majority of people who land on your site won’t buy, you should be paying close attention to the small percentage that do.
Your customers’ purchasing patterns can give you valuable insights into which of your products or services are the most popular. This can also give you insights into what products you should upsell or cross-sell. You should try and identify seasonal patterns and other purchasing insights. Then, use these to personalize your marketing campaigns to optimize sales.
Focus Groups and Customer Interviews
If you really want to get down to business with gathering customer data, then interviews and focus groups are great options. Unlike customer feedback surveys that are sent in a bulk manner to a large portion of customers, customer interviews are done one-on-one or in a small group setting.
These can be done in person, over the phone, or via video call. This can be even more insightful than feedback surveys as you’ll get even more in-depth responses from people. Remember that one downside to this is that you’re only capturing a tiny percentage of your audience’s feedback: the more people you can interview, the better.
User Experience Testing
User experience testing, or usability testing, is another way you can gather feedback on your website or a digital product. You’ll recruit users to test out your website or software product and give you in-depth feedback on the digital experience.
This is great if you want to improve the digital experience of your site, or if you have software or an app that you’re looking to optimize.
What Are the Different Ways to Use Customer Insights?
Gathering customer data is only half the battle. Once you’ve started collecting customer insights, it’s time to turn them into business growth. Here are several ways to use customer insights to improve your business.
Provide a Seamless Customer Journey
Your buyers all go on a customer journey. The question is…is it a good ride? Or are your customers forced to take a bumpy road to get there?
You can use customer insights to create a seamless customer journey for your audience. And while you can’t make the road perfect for everyone, there are certain things you can do to smooth out the bumps in the road. Whether your prospects are reading your latest email, asking customer support a question, or visiting your website, you can use customer insights to enhance each part of the journey so customers leave satisfied.
Improve Product Functionality & Quality
Another way you can use customer insights is to improve your products or services. Think about it. When you need to improve your product, who’s better to turn to than your customers?
By determining how your customers are using your products and services, and asking them for ways to improve them, you’ll be able to optimize your product functionality. This, in turn, will improve your overall customer experience.
Providing Better Service to Your Customers
Your service department is one of the most important areas you can improve with customer insights. In fact, you should look at your customer service as an extension of your product. How you treat your customers is a significant part of the brand experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask your customers how you can improve your customer service. People love to share their opinions. You can then use information from interactions with your service team to provide a better customer experience.
Want some more ideas on how to provide better service? Be sure to check out our blog post on great customer experience examples!
Decide on Your Marketing Strategy
Remember, the better you understand your customers, the better you can serve them. While this is true when it comes to your product and customer service, it is also true in how you communicate with your customers through targeted marketing efforts.
Take the time to read reviews and feedback. Look at how your customers talk. Using the language they use in your marketing can help you connect with them and drive conversions. Also, look at indirect customer feedback like behavioral data and purchasing decisions. These are all valuable information assets you can use to adjust your marketing strategy to better serve your customers.
Leveraging customer insights is the key to success in any organization. Whether you’re looking to optimize operational efficiency, improve your customer experience, or introduce new products, you can leverage insights from your customers to grow your business.