Customer insight is your strategic companion for business growth

Ian Bramley, Principal (Insight)

Stay curious. It’s an adage that carries more weight now than ever, thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic may feel like old news, but its continuing impact on businesses certainly isn’t. Regardless of your industry, no business has been untouched, and it’s likely that your marketplace has changed too. More than that, it will continue to change along with customer mindsets, behaviours and habits. If there was ever a time to think differently, now would be it. Cue, insight, and not as you understand it.

Traditionally, businesses may have carried out research studies designed to collect data that serves a specific and often limited purpose. But if you want to drive strategic change in response to this post-pandemic world, while also having a sustained impact on business growth, the way you use your data matters. Insight absolutely must be incorporated into conversations around brand and business strategy and direction.

In other words, your curiosity must feed your creativity. Understanding customer pain points, as well as what motivates or excites them, can give you a new perspective on the way you deliver products and services. Delving into people’s experience of the pandemic, for example, can tell you how their lives, attitudes and needs have changed, which helps you to decide if you’re the right business to meet these needs in a post pandemic world. Insight is therefore about much more than increasing sales or product awareness but building empathy and trust. Connecting with customers at this deeper level really does have commercial value.

Power your response to the pandemic

Multiple touchpoints are needed during any exercise to measure and respond well to business performance. Research, creative and strategic input are all essential components, and plugging into these different disciplines offers different perspectives. Insight invites critical thinking from creatives and brand strategists who, in turn, challenge data analysts to push the boundaries and dig deeper. Think of it as cross-pollination, which leads to more comprehensive outputs that are better adapted to an ever-changing customer landscape.

Indeed, customer behaviours may have changed permanently as a result of COVID-19. The way that people shop, communicate, travel, work and play does not look like it used to. What’s more, we’ve lived with the pandemic for almost two years now, and while many behavioural changes were initially enforced and immediate, how we live our lives as a consequence of COVID-19 is still forming and reforming. Which means your business is not just operating in a changed world, but a changing world – and the rate of change is increasing.

The right insight therefore helps your business to stay adaptive. It won’t simply inform a post-pandemic comeback; it will enable your business to continually evolve to drive growth. Say you understand the broader economic and social changes that directly impact your customers, you can then layer this information with an understanding of how customers are interacting with such changes. Layering and filtering multiple data sources in this way informs powerful action that allows you to grow your business as you transform in response to the pandemic.

Take the rail industry as an example. On navigating its vastly reduced post-pandemic customer base, the rail sector faces a world where travel may have changed forever. Home-working measures combined with a reticence to use public transport on a regular basis have taken their toll on passenger habits. Insight is therefore pivotal to the industry’s future. Getting to the core of these changed habits will help rail providers respond in ways that bring passengers back to rail travel. The answer lies in not only identifying behavioural trends but translating them in ways that show customers that the rail industry is listening.  

Lift the lid on customer behaviours

These behavioural shifts have impacted all kinds of businesses in all kinds of ways. Maybe your products or services seem less relevant now. If so, this presents an opportunity to reposition what you do, or to leapfrog into previously unexplored areas of the market. If customers are thinking differently, then businesses must also think differently, and if longstanding customer needs and expectations have changed, then so must any deep-rooted thinking inherent in your organisation – which may hinder necessary evolution.

What matters most for businesses is getting to the core of how people’s lives have changed and then understanding how these changes will inform future life decisions. The Home Truths study is an example of how this can be done. This lifelogging study has taken place across a number of UK households to record people’s actions, reactions and feelings during the pandemic. The depth of insight gained is revolutionising the way brands do business, as it uncovers evolving social and political views that are driving new attitudes and behaviours.

While COVID-19 has smashed the world’s previously held political, economic and social beliefs, the right insight can also debunk any outdated beliefs you hold about your customers, which means you can get to know them all over again. As you discover what they think and feel about this changing world – as well as the role they need your business to play in it – you can cultivate new and fruitful relationships. Yes, this is a turbulent and complex time, but it’s also rich with opportunities for businesses to not just survive but evolve and thrive. 

Confidently predict how audiences will respond to your business initiatives.