The Golden Road to True Consumer Insight

the golden tree

Photo: The Golden Tree by Francesco Martini

True consumer understanding goes beyond simply identifying who your consumer is, where they live and how much of your product they are purchasing.  It pushes information further than brand loyalty scores and likelihood purchase statistics.  It takes this comprehension to a deeper level into the lifestyle and emotional psyche of the consumer.  It allows for brands and products to live and breathe the same air as their consumers.  It provides both the immediate and the long term satisfaction that consumers are looking for in everything that they purchase and consume.

The golden road to consumer insights does not simply go through mainstream market research anymore.  It used to be as easy as a survey to get into the head of the consumer and provide them with a choice that would satisfy these desires.  When consumers were presented with very little choices, companies had the luxury of putting out a mediocre product and people were forced to buy it.  However, since the battleground for brands and products has become overwhelming competitive with multiple media outlets and social media feeds it is critical for companies to put out something that goes beyond simply providing a service, but touches a consumer deeper.

The new golden road of consumer insights takes many twists and turns as it plows along into the consumer mindset.  It stops off at big data and takes a dive into this vast pool of information.  It spends hours and hours analyzing consumer purchase patterns, market basket, scan data, price elasticity, category growth/loss, purchase history and SKU rationalization.  It digs deep into the new census data to see what groups are rising and how the demographic landscape of the future is developing.   Thus path tries to answer who will be the next big segment to target and what are they worth?

The road then often leads us to focus groups and discussing what consumers feel in different situations.  We are looking for their innermost feelings and thoughts on our products or brands.  We carefully moderate these discussions in hope that they are willing to share these truths and personal feelings in a room of complete strangers.  When orchestrated correctly, this qualitative section of the road can be extremely insightful and interesting and provide these nuggets of information that can steer you in the right direction forward.  However, this road must also be treaded on lightly.  Just because a group of ten people tells you something, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Grail has been discovered.  This section of the road can lead you down the path to true enlightenment or true disaster so make sure you have your GPS collaborated correctly and choose wisely. 

The road then veers off into the world of psychographic data that is available and determines where these consumers are going, what they are doing, who they are listening to and how do they live.  This path captures what is important to them, what activities they do; how often they do these activities and how do we reach them in the media world.  It once again can spend hours developing algorithms to determine how likely a consumer will be to do a certain activity and what this activity could be worth.   This path is also extremely critical for the journey, but still only provides a piece of this complex consumer puzzle.

This places us at a critical point in the road.  We have been able to use information to get us here, but is has only provided part of the picture.  This is where many stop and think that they have figured it all out.  This is where the road gets tricky, unclear and vague, but this is also where the road becomes paved with gold.  It is at this point in the road where we start to truly understand the why behind a consumer’s choice.  It is at this point in the road where we become enlightened.  This fork is where new methods of data collection become critical to getting the rich understanding that you need in today’s fast paced and oversaturated world. 

This fork in the golden road takes us on a journey down the information superhighway.  It takes us to the world of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  It provides us with so much information that is even hard to know where to begin.  This also is a tricky path to navigate since you may never meet these consumers personally, but it can be a gold mine of critical information if navigated correctly.  This is where consumers not only share their feelings and thoughts about your product or brand, but everything else in their lives.  What is affecting them right now and how is this impacting their purchase behavior?  How they are feeling about your product or brand and what are they saying to their friends?  How are they influencing their group and how is that influence trickling out across social media?

The road down the technology trail doesn’t stop there, even tough we have these public forums to peek into it still only gives us part of the picture.  So the road make take us into on-line forums, MROC’s and gamification that is capturing these internal feelings and attitudes from a loyal and dedicated group of consumers who live and die for your product or brand.  Now the road starts to be a bit narrower and easier to navigate.  Now the road doesn’t seem so long and winding.

This is where you get into the relationship with the consumer where this true insight can become harvested and cultivated.  This deep relationship is critical in understanding them and getting down to who they really are.  When you have found this part of the road and established this relationship with your consumer, insights are gained and action can be taken.

This portion of the road is often difficult to find, hard to quantify and not smooth.  It is rough; it takes careful navigation and experience to travel down successfully.  It takes the courage to think differently and the anticipation of which direction to turn that comes from experience, knowledge and a core understanding of the culture from which this road has been paved. 

This road to true consumer insight is paved with gold.  However, as marketer’s and researchers we need to understand that it will take you down multiple paths, into different landscapes and have many forks before getting to the promised land.  This road should not be traveled lightly as the path will take time, sacrifice and resources.  Not many have been able to make this journey successfully, but for brands like Apple, Chipotle, Clif, NASCAR, Coke and Mt. Dew to name only a few; this road has been successfully navigated and they have armies of loyal followers awaiting their next move.

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