They say the “customer is king.” As far as clichés go, this one is a staple in the world of marketing.
But how do you know when you’re putting the customer first?
The answer: you tap into consumer insights.
In this action-packed guide, you’ll learn how to collect rich data from various sources that span across the entire consumer landscape. From your owned properties to public sources, you’ll learn how to bring your consumer data together to understand your customers fully.
Then, in part two, you’ll learn how to bring this data together to provide a better customer experience – from the very first time they hear your name all the way to buying from you.
But first, let’s start with a definition…
What are Consumer Insights?
Consumer insights use market research and data to inform product, service, and marketing strategies. It links together research and marketing to connect the interests and characteristics of the customer with the features or benefits a brand has to offer.
When you collect the right data, it empowers marketers and brands to use that information to acquire new customers.
Insights don’t come from a single data source. Different data points must be used to generate insights. Furthermore, insights must be actionable. Theoretical information provides little value to the business, and therefore insights must be based upon fact.
With this in mind, this guide will be split into two parts:
- How to generate insight from various sources
- How to use that insight to create better marketing
By the end of this guide, you’ll not only know how to generate consumer insights, but how to apply them to your marketing. Your customers will feel like you truly understand them.
Part 1: Generating Data
Before you can create killer marketing, you need to collect the right data. Without accurate and reliable consumer data, your insights will fuel bad marketing.
Here, you’ll learn which sources to collect data from, how to understand your customers on a more personal level, and how to organize that data into useful and actionable formats.
1. Starting with Data: Go to The Right Sources
Getting your hands on game-changing consumer insights starts with knowing where the right data is.
The question is: where do you find it?
Data sources can be segmented into two categories: owned and external, also known as first party and third party data.
Owned/first party data comes from your analytics, existing customer data, and internal conversations.
External/third party data, on the other hand, is generated from data sources you don’t own. This includes social media and other public sources.
Let’s look at the tools and sources you can use to generate both kinds of consumer data.
Data Source #1: Google Analytics
Let’s start with the most obvious.
Google Analytics is the industry standard for measuring online behavior. This behavioral insight is the perfect source of data to fuel your consumer insights.
For example, you can check out your most popular pages by heading to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Here, you’ll be provided with the content your users visit and how they engage with it:
Setting up goal funnels is where you can get some real insight into how your customers interact with your brand and buy your products. Simply set up a set of URLs that the customer goes through when they begin their purchasing journey. By doing this, you can see how many customers make it all the way to the end, and which steps cause friction.
Data Source #2: Google Trends
Did you know that Google provides data on their users’ interests?
Using Google Trends, you can measure the topics and interests of Google searchers worldwide. Not only will this help you uncover the right topic, but it will also help direct your messaging.
Not sure if you should write about “low fat snacks” or “weight loss snacks?” Compare the two in Google trends:
It will also show you comparative interests by region — perfect if you’re an international company vs. serve a local audience:
Data Source #3: Statista
While mostly a paid-for service, Statista has access to free resources and reports.
Dubbed as “the statistics portal,” Statista provides stats and data behind millions of topics, facts, and statistics. Simply type in a keyword, e.g., “e-commerce,” and you’ll see a list of important statistics, data on shopping behavior, and much more:
Data Source #4: SpotRight
Here’s a quick shout-out to our tool. The SpotRight platform collects consumer data from hundreds of different sources. By tapping into several sources, you’ll understand the interests and affinities of your customers:
Using this data, you can then understand which brands and influencers your customers connect with. This will inform your customer segments and allow you to create better marketing messaging as a result.
2. Building Intimate Customer Relationships
Uncovering consumer data is key to great marketing.
But building relationships with your customers puts this insight on hyperdrive.
Because data only shows you quantitative, surface-level insight on your customers. To truly understand them, you need to have real conversations.
The best way to do this is by conducting customer interviews. Talk to your brand ambassadors and most loyal customers to understand their motivations, challenges, and the reason they do business with you.
Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Who to interview
While you can interview prospects and customers alike, it’s best to start with those who have already done business with you. Your buyers are more likely to give emotionally-driven answers, and therefore stronger insights to fuel your marketing.
Your customers have already been through your customer journey. They have an impression of your brand, the experience, what they’d like to see from you, and any points-of-friction which came to mind when buying from you.
When selecting which customers to interview, categorize them into groups such as:
- The products they purchased
- Purchase frequency
- Recently converted vs. long-time buyers
- Advocates and ambassadors
This will give you a breadth of information to work with.
Don’t worry about incentivizing people at this stage. Most people feel a sense of flattery when being invited to do an interview. But make sure you ask in the right way.
People love talking about themselves. Simply send an email asking to learn more about their experience with your product, brand or service.
Finally, keep these three housekeeping rules in mind:
- Once your customers agree to an interview, make them 100% clear on expectations
- Allow 30 to 45 minutes for each conversation
- Aim for 5 to 10 customers from each persona
Step 2: What to ask
Customer interviews are not like surveys. The objective isn’t to go through a string of questions like a robot to tick the right boxes.
Your mission is to have a conversational interview. Therefore don’t go in with a list of questions. Go into the interview with two or three.
Use “probing questions” to understand the deeper motives behind your customer’s answers. You must listen and guide the conversation towards your goal.
So, what should your goals be? These can include:
- Developing richer and more compelling marketing messages
- Building better customer personas
- Understand more about the customer journey
Knowing your goals will guide the questions you ask.
Although it should be a loose conversation, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some “seed” questions to start things off.
You can ask about their motivations when seeking your product or service, or what about your offering solved their problem or bought them joy.
Ensure you find out what your customers feel, e.g., “when you found our product, how did that make you feel?” Although they may come across clichéd, these questions help direct your copywriting and overall messaging.
Finally, avoid “leading questions” and “why questions.”
Here’s an example of a leading question vs. how you should ask them:
- Leading: How much joy did you feel when you first used our product?
- Correct: What did you feel when you first used the product?
“Why questions” should be avoided as they imply there’s a “right answer” to your questions. Your customers will move from an emotionally-driven mindset into logical thinking. You must aim for insights on the emotions behind your customer’s decisions.
Customer interviews are another way of generating insights to optimize your marketing. While they don’t replace surveys, they certainly give more qualitative insight into the world your customers live in.
3. Use Cohort Analysis
With all this talk of customer groups and personas, it’s important to understand how to categorize your customers.
One method is through cohort analysis. Cohort analysis is simply a method of grouping customers by common characteristics over a period of time. In this case of cohort analysis, these characteristics are their behaviors and activities.
Instead of segmenting by interests, you’re looking at the behavior of a particular group across a certain time frame. An example cohort could be “those who first purchased in April 2017.”
You could then compare this cohort with the cohort “first purchased in April 2016” to identify differences in LTV, customer loyalty, etc.
In this respect, you must categorize cohorts into two categories:
- Time-based cohorts: This includes customer data built around a defined frame of time. This can include cancellation dates, first purchases, and avg. purchase cycle.
- Segment-based cohorts: These are specific characteristics based on your customer data, e.g., product categories and other demographic or psychographic variables.
So, how does cohort analysis contribute to consumer insights? First, it helps you figure out customer behavior. Doing so can direct the products you sell, how you sell them to your customers, and the messaging behind those campaigns.
Here’s a simple four-step process to follow:
Step 1: Define the right questions
Cohort analysis only works when you know which questions you need answering. Most of these questions start with “why?” Why do certain customers behave and buy in a certain way?
The objective is to use this analysis to take a specific action. For example, the question “why does persona X only buy once more after an initial purchase?”
These questions can then lead to follow-up questions, such as “why do these customers only buy from these product segments?”
Make sure the question contributes to a tangible business outcome. Are you trying to increase repeat purchases? Or perhaps overall revenue across product groups? Get clear on the outcome from the beginning.
Step 2: Set the right metrics
Now you know which questions you’re looking to answer, how will you answer them?
Defining your metrics is key. It’s about using the right data and cohorts to reach conclusive analysis.
Metrics may include:
- Avg. purchase value
- How long it takes from first touch-point to initial purchase
- The products that get purchased the most
Step 3: Uncover the right cohorts
This step is as important as choosing the right metrics. Continuing our example, you may wish to decide whether to analyze those who purchase once a year vs. once throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
Identify cohorts who share characteristics that answer the questions you’ve laid out. They must be unique in their own way while based on behaviors or demographic variables. Doing this is how you find shared characteristics that lead to the right answers.
Step 4: Conduct your analysis
Now you have your data in place; it’s time to perform the analysis. There are several ways to do this, and to cover every approach and tool would take an entire guide in itself.
You can use anything from Google Analytics to raw SQL data wrangling. Take this data and visualize it using graphs and tables to provide your teams with a better understanding of what you’ve uncovered.
Look for patterns, links, and other shared characteristics across your cohorts. Once you’ve conducted your analysis, you must use this insight to make decisions that optimize your marketing and lead you to your goals.
Here I just have to give one more shout out to the SpotRight platform. You can upload a customer list divvied up by individual cohorts or segments and let our tool do the visualization for you, while enhancing the data you already have with new insights!
4. Identify & Monitor Communication Channels
Earlier, we covered the importance of customer conversations to uncover consumer insights.
But what about the conversations your customers are already having among themselves?
This is where social media monitoring comes into play. Also known as social listening, this is the practice of listening to what your customers are saying about your products and brand online.
Applying this to your consumer insights strategy not only uncovers the conversations that are happening online, but also helps you understand your customers and their pains, desires, and needs in real time.
Step 1: What should you monitor?
So, what types of content and conversations are worth watching?
Typically, there are two different categories:
- Brand Monitoring: Keep an eye on who’s talking about your company name (or any variation of it). This should include notable thought leaders in your organization, as well as products, campaigns, and catchphrases.
- Industry Monitoring: Pay attention to words that describe your industry, product, or service offering. You should also pay attention to the interests of your personas (as you would have uncovered earlier).
Step 2: Monitoring Tools
Now you know what conversations to listen out for, you need to figure out how to monitor them.
There are several tools out there that can help you do this, all at varying degrees of price and sophistication. Here are a couple of options:
1. Google Alerts
This tool from Google is a simple method of setting up alerts for certain keywords. Simply enter a keyword, and you’ll receive alerts in real-time or as a daily digest.
A popular tool among marketers, Mention provides a more sophisticated platform for managing mentions across the web. Not only can you segment mentions by platform and respond to them straight from their interface, but you can also use it to perform competitive analysis and influencer marketing research.
Step 3: Uncovering actionable insights
Once you’ve started monitoring conversations, it’s time to look for consumer insight opportunities.
Each day provides different opportunities. You may find a potential influencer talking about your product, or an opportunity to make a negative experience someone had with your brand right.
Here’s a list of potential insights you may find throughout your social listening strategy:
- Questions: What are the most frequently asked questions in your industry? Can you use these common questions to fuel your content?
- Feedback: Are people talking about what they like/don’t like about your product? Use this to direct your product design and marketing efforts.
- Sentiment: What’s the positive-to-negative sentiment ratio? Are people mostly reporting positive or negative experiences with your brand?
- Content: What topics and content formats are shared the most? Use this insight to direct your content strategy.
- Influencers: Which influential people are talking about your brand, industry, and topics the most? Find partnership opportunities to help spread your message further.
- Trends: Look for trending content and peaks in the number of mentions around your industry or brand. These mentions are especially useful if your offering is relevant to seasonal festivities.
Once you know which conversations are most valuable to you, it’s a simple matter of optimizing the pipeline. Add new keywords and remove those that provide no value. Create processes that focus on the right channels and personas to ensure you’re getting the most out of your monitoring efforts.
5. Develop Rich Customer Personas
You’ve generated a ton of quality insight — both from various data sources and straight from your customer’s mouth.
It’s time to put it all together. You need documentation to help communicate your customer’s pains, desires, needs, buzzwords, and where they hang out online to all teams and stakeholders in the business.
Which is where customer personas come in.
Customer personas are detailed documentation of your customer groups. Every segment of your audience or target market must be thoroughly documented.
Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Define Your Segments
By bringing all your consumer insights together, you can define each of your customers into individual segments.
You can start with broad definitions, for example:
- American men age 18 to 25
- American men age 26 to 31
- American women age 16 to 25
Using these broad definitions, you can then break them down further. For example, the first definition above can then be broken down into:
- Stylish Young American Men
- Young American Entrepreneurs
- Young American Males Interested in Sports
We can use the data sources covered earlier in this guide to flesh these out further. Using our owned data at SpotRight, we’ll uncover the brands each segment has an affinity with:
Step 2: Making Detailed Persona Documents
Once you’ve collected all the relevant data and insights on your segment, it’s time to organize these within your documents.
These are some of the most common elements your persona documents should include:
- Location: where do most of your customers live?
- Age: what is the average age range of your customers?
- Gender: what is the typical gender of this persona?
- Education: what level of education did they graduate?
- Job title: Which industries do they work in, and which job titles go with them? (Useful in B2B organizations)
- Income: what is the average income range?
- Interests: what are their hobbies, values, and belief systems?
- Relationship status: are they married with children or mostly single?
- Language: which languages do they speak? What’s their mother tongue?
Add even more depth to your personas by including the qualitative data you gathered. These can include:
- Interests: find out what they’re truly passionate about.
- Favorite brands: uncover which brands they do business with most and why.
- Favorite websites: blogs, news outlets, and online communities. Find out where they hang out online.
- Influencers: which online thought leaders and celebrities do they follow?
- Why they buy: what is the true motivation for buying your products or services?
- Why don’t they buy: what concerns them about your product or the way you do business?
From here, it’s a matter of presenting them in a way that makes it clear to each team and stakeholder within your organization.
Here’s an example persona you can model your documents on:
As you can see, they’ve personified this persona by giving them a name and avatar. This style of documentation humanizes your customer segments, helping you create more authentic marketing.
Part 2: Applying Insight to Marketing & Growth Strategy
You’ve gathered data, conducted customer interviews, and brought all that insight together into persona documents.
Now it’s time to put it to use. Here, you’ll learn how to use insights as the fuel for better marketing.
Once you apply these insights to your marketing, your customers will truly feel you understand them when you engage with them.
6. Target Your Best Customers
You now have plenty of insight on your personas.
You should know what motivates them, why they do business with you, and their interests.
The question is, what should you do with all this insight?
First and foremost: improve your targeting.
If you’re running paid marketing, no matter the platform, then optimizing your targeting is often the most effective way of boosting the ROI of your ads.
We see two main methods for targeting. First is to look at the insights you’ve uncovered about your segments or cohorts, and match that as closely as possible to the targeting criteria available in your digital marketing platform.
Another option comes from taking an AI informed approach, in which you allow platforms like ours to dive into thousands of data points about a group of people to create custom audiences based on the characteristics that really matter to your target audience. Then you can send those audiences to multiple platforms at the same time for a truly multi-channel campaign, without having to recreate the audience every time!
7. Enhancing the Customer Experience
Whether you know it or not, your marketing is contributing to your organization’s entire customer experience.
From the very first touch-point to the delight they feel when using your product. You must optimize the customer experience at every opportunity.
And that’s exactly what customer experience is: the complete package made of every interaction your customers have with your brand.
Let’s look at what makes a great customer experience, along with the contribution consumer insights can make.
It Starts with Leadership
You can only provide a great customer experience if everyone is on board. This requires a level of organization that brings in leaders from all teams across the organization.
Many organizations have a dedicated role in overseeing the entire customer experience. Chief Customer Officer or VP of Customer Success are becoming more common in experience-lead companies.
Their job is to take charge of the strategy, not to manage every aspect of the experience alone. Therefore, having c-suite executives involved at every step of the way is critical.
Having thoroughly documented personas can help this stage of the process. By understanding your customers at a deeper level, very little is up for debate in the boardroom. The customer makes the decision, not the HiPPO.
Creating Journey Maps
Mapping the customer journey is key when removing silos within your organization. Every team must be aligned, focusing on one goal: helping the customer reach their desired outcome.
The best way to do this is through journey maps. This is simply a method of illustrating the steps your customer takes when engaging with your company or making a purchase.
You may want to create several maps for each area of your business (e.g., new business inquiry) or a single one, depending on your business.
For the sake of clarity, it’s best to separate the journey as “pre-sale” and “post-sale.” The pre-sale journey, for example, may be broken down into these steps:
- The prospect has become aware of a problem and is interested in solving it
- The prospect has given their problem a name and is looking for tangible solutions
- The prospect is ready to make a decision
The post-sale journey will vary depending on your business type and what you offer. For example, the post-sale journey for an ecommerce business might look something like this:
- The customer is sent an order confirmation
- The customer’s order is shipped, and they are notified
- The customer would like to exchange their product
- The customer is sent follow-up emails with offers on future purchases
While in the SaaS world, you’ll be tackling things like onboarding, training, and ongoing customer support to ensure the customer is getting the most out of your product.
Mapping each stage allows you to align every touch-point with the customer experience. From the first touch-point all the way to user retention, each step must be clear.
Each touch-point must also have an owner assigned to it. Whether that’s marketing, sales, customer service, or even product teams. It must be clear who oversees each stage of the customer experience.
Make communication easier by visualizing the journey(s). In the illustration above, each stage is mapped out, along with an empathic view of what the customer may be feeling during that stage.
8. Use Segmentation to Group Your Customers
So far, we’ve collected a lot of consumer insight and talked about how to apply it.
But what about the practical organization of customer groups?
By segmenting your customers into different granular sub-groups, you’ll get a better understanding of which messages, products, and services will appeal to them the most.
Let’s look at three ways you can segment your customers into groups and the way consumer insight can fuel them.
Demographic segmentation is the simplest way to segment your customers. The data is easy to acquire, thanks to census data, as well as Google Analytics providing insight on your users.
The only downside is that the data is broad. Thankfully, you can enrich this data using psychographic segmentation, which we’ll cover shortly.
The five most common demographic variables are:
- Age: Segment your audience by age groups (babies, children, etc.) or generation (baby boomers, generation x, etc.). Can help direct the language you use in your marketing.
- Gender: Typically segmented into male and female categories.
- Education and Occupation: Your products and services will have different appeal to depending on your audience’s educational background. The same goes for occupation.
- Income: This helps you measure the buying power of your customers. The level of income across your audience will influence the pricing of your offer.
- Family: People’s needs change as their relationship status evolves. This includes marital status and an average number of children in each household.
Using this data, you can fuel all areas of your marketing – from targeting (like we did with our Facebook ads earlier) to the messaging you use.
This example from McDonald’s shows demographic segmentation in action. They’re not going to resonate with the older generation, but millennials and “digital native” segments will get it:
You know the commonalities between your customers. But what about their interests and attitudes?
Psychographic segmentation is how you group customers by their lifestyle, opinions, and beliefs. By understanding these elements, you can provide them with better products and create marketing that resonates with them.
Here are the five most common psychographic segmentation variables:
- Interests, hobbies, and opinions: Covers everything from political views, the sports they take part in, and the books they read.
- Lifestyle: The food they cook and clothes they wear will indicate what lifecycle stage they sit within. A college graduate will have vastly different needs to someone working in an office environment.
- Social status: Income, spending habits, and where they live will define a customer’s spending habits. Those with high “social status” will buy Prada to maintain it.
- Values: Defined by upbringing and their culture. Bankers will be financially savvy, and someone with a high income will enjoy dining out.
- Personality traits: This is fueled by social status and lifestyle. Are they introverted or extroverted? Group similar personality types together to engage with these customers effectively.
With psychographic data at hand, you can supercharge the targeting of your paid media and serve your customers more interesting content.
For example, a brand like Lululemon knows their audience is interested in health and wellness. While they sell yoga mats and attire, they can create content around healthy food and living.
This interest-driven thinking fosters a loyal customer base and builds a community. In other words, when you dig deep to understand your customers, you attract more of them.
9. Personalize All Marketing Touch-Points
By far, the most powerful use for consumer insights is personalization.
Catering your message to individual customers has been one of the biggest marketing trends for the last few years. And for a good reason!
Personalization allows you and your brand to serve hyper-targeted messaging, foster water-tight customer loyalty, and offer the exact products and services your customers want.
But it’s a delicate art. Not enough personalization and your conversion rates can drop. Too much, and you might come across creepy.
With that in mind, here’s a three-step process to using consumer insight to fuel your marketing personalization.
Step 1: Map Your Content
Earlier in this guide, you learned how to build persona documents to visualize each of your customer segments.
Map those interests and needs to different forms of content. The best way of doing this is to attribute them to each stage of the marketing funnel:
- Top-of-funnel: Use blog posts, eBooks, and interactive content to get prospects to visit your website. Distribute through social media and tap into organic Google searches for sustained traffic.
- Middle-of-funnel: Capture your audience and nurture them with more in-depth content. Now they know you, it’s time to build more trust. Use the data you already have on them to send tailored, personalized content based on their needs.
- Bottom-of-funnel: Once you’ve nurtured them, it’s time to get them to buy from you. Case studies, customer stories, and tailored offers will help lead them to the conversion.
Figure out what content will be most useful to each persona. Which triggers will lead them to the next stage of the funnel?
For example, an ecommerce brand selling women’s clothing might create content around style guides, trends, and celebrity fashion. This will allow them to provide relevant content while promoting their products in a value-driven way.
Step 2: Create Personalized Content
Once your content is mapped out, you can create tailored content built around your persona’s desires and needs.
There are two common ways of delivering personalized content:
- Value-driven, how-to content
- Email marketing
The former focuses on the top of the funnel. It focuses on the needs and desires of the broader audience. For example, those looking to buy cooking equipment may be interested in specific recipes that put their new tools to use.
Email marketing is useful for serving the right content based on the data and insight you already have. For example, someone opting into content that teaches them how to choose the right Spanish red wine is likely in the market for – you guessed it – Spanish red wine.
Many email marketing tools now come with this feature out-of-the-box. MailChimp, for example, integrates with WordPress and Shopify to send triggered emails based on user behavior.
On that note, check out our guide on behavioral segmentation for more on this topic.
Step 3: Personalize the Entire Customer Experience
Personalization doesn’t just stop at the sale. The post-sale journey should also be seen as an opportunity to tailor the entire experience a customer has with your brand.
This is especially true when fostering customer loyalty. Do you want your customers to become repeat purchasers? Maintain a strong relationship by offering relevant products based on previous behavior and purchases.
If you’re in the app or software space, personalization is even more powerful. As you collect usage data, use it to guide your users toward their desired end goal.
For example, if they’ve not used the app in a certain number of days, send notifications on what they’re missing out on. Or, if they’re not using certain features, provide content that educates them on why they’re useful.
5 Marketing Personalization Techniques to Foster Customer Loyalty
The steps outlined above is a simple framework to add personalization to your content.
To wrap-up this article, let’s dig into some specific techniques you can apply to all of your marketing, content, and communications throughout the entire customer experience.
- Talk to customers on social media: Social media monitoring tools are super useful for collecting consumer insights. But they’re also critical for communicating with your customers. Reach out to them when they mention your brand, share their content, or complain about the experience. Make friends with your customers on a regular basis.
- Segment your email lists: This is one of the fastest ways to apply personalization to your email marketing. Segment your list by persona, serving them content and offers that matter most to them. This does mean creating separate email copy for each campaign, but it’s worth it.
- Create persona-driven landing pages: This is one of the best, low-hanging options if you’re just getting started with personalization. Take your top performing landing pages and create new variations targeted at specific personas. Couple this with the second technique above and you’re off to the races.
- Localized timing and language: If you’re an international brand, you may want to segment the times and days of the week you send your messages. For example, 8 AM in the US may work better than 8 AM in the UK. You should also look at where the majority of your customers are coming from and consider translating your content for those regions.
- Use data to fuel advertising: This is a nice spin on personalization. In 2016, Spotify ran a campaign titled “Thanks 2016, it’s been weird.” Here, they dug into their user data as an asset to fuel creative copywriting in their advertising.
Consumer insight is only as good as how you use it. But to use it effectively, it must first be accurate.
This isn’t a chicken-and-egg scenario. If you’re using personalized marketing without checking the accuracy of your insight, it’s likely your marketing will flop.
However, if you collect data from the right sources first, fueling your consumer insight with accurate and reliable data, you’ll set your entire marketing strategy and customer experience up for success.