As a customer insights enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for emerging trends, market shifts, and new ways of thinking about the future. Through all the content I’ve read, watched, and listened to over the past few years, one key takeaway is that the rate of change is picking up speed. While change has always been a constant in the world of consumer behaviors and competitive landscapes, the accelerated timelines are presenting brands with smaller margins for error, higher risk of losing market share, and a growing need for agile decision making.
The most successful brands seem to share an ability – and willingness – to quickly evolve amidst ongoing change while staying true to their core identities. It can feel like they’re ahead of the game and have access to privileged information which enables them to adapt and adjust on the fly. Or perhaps it’s a matter of resources where a limitless supply of time and team support gives top brands an edge over the competition. The reality is, neither of those are true.
A special databank holding all the answers does not exist. You’re not missing out on an exclusive inventory of universal truths reserved only for the club of top brands. Furthermore, scale and scope of resources aren’t the determining factor either. Think about disruptive startup companies who crash the scene despite a limited budget and lean staff. Sure, limitless resources and privileged information would certainly offer a boost. But there’s no sense in tirelessly looking or patiently waiting for those things when a more realistic, effective, and impactful approach can be taken at this very moment.
Regardless of size or industry, all businesses have customers and target audiences. Therein lies the secret to success. A simple yet powerful truth is that everything needed to support brand evolution and agile decision making within a world of constant, rapid change is right there in front of you. It comes down to a matter of being proactive, strategic, and tactful in leveraging this limitless source of insights, answers, and guidance.
Having established the beautiful simplicity of your customers being the golden geese, the next step is deciding what types of information would be most helpful. This is where a holistic Customer Insights Strategy comes into play because it frames your goals and objectives in a way that clearly identifies what you’ll need to achieve those goals and objectives. If you don’t have a fully baked insights strategy, don’t fret. While I highly recommend making that a priority moving forward – something we’d love to help you with – don’t let that stop you from placing customer insights at the center of your brand.
Be proactive in reaching out to your customers asking for their feedback, input, and opinions. The more you learn about them in the context of their changing behaviors, the better equipped you’ll be to evolve and maintain a position as one of those top brands that stays ahead of the curve. Generally speaking, here are a few of the top insights I recommend gathering from your customers:
I’m listing this insight topic first because of its forward-thinking nature. Rather than focusing on past experiences or present circumstances, we’re asking customers to share what they’re looking for moving forward. Staying ahead of the curve requires a futures mindset, so exploring customer expectations in terms of experience, value, offerings, and any other brand development attribute will support proactive rather than reactive decision making.
RECOMMENDATION: Ask customers about their favorite experiences with brands outside of your specific market or industry. Expectations are shaped by collective experiences. They are not compartmentalized and grouped by brand category. So, gather open-ended comments and feedback about the most innovative, unique, and memorable experiences your customers have had with their favorite brands overall. These insights will help bridge the gap between where you are today and where you’ll need to be to stay relevant tomorrow.
This area is in connection or coordination with understanding consumer expectations. It’s about gaining a broader, more detailed perspective of the customer’s life. Again, brands and experiences are not compartmentalized. Everything fits and flows together. So, by understanding their bigger picture we can better position ourselves in organic, authentic ways. As I mentioned at the start, change is happening at an increasingly rapid pace. The customer profiles and personas from a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago will only fade in relevance moving forward. An ongoing effort is required to stay connected as consumers evolve to ensure messaging is on point, values are aligned, and offerings are competitive.
RECOMMENDATION: Use this insights-gathering effort as a brand engagement and relationship building opportunity. People enjoy sharing about themselves, they want to be entertained, and they’re eager to contribute to the development of their favorite brands. There’s no rule stating market research and customer insights must be drab surveys or conventional methodologies. Think outside the box and have some fun with learning about what makes each customer the unique individual they are.
Brand Awareness & Perception
As standard market research metrics, the importance and value of these insights are often overlooked. Maybe it’s because they lack the sizzle of other topics or maybe because their direct impact potential is unclear, but too often we see awareness and perception left to assumptions, best guesses, or outdated information. However, it’s these insights that should guide marketing, positioning, and competitor analyses; all of which are vital brand development elements. So, unless they are kept up-to-date and within present context, their full value may not be realized.
RECOMMENDATION: Consider brand awareness beyond people having heard of your brand. How aware are customers of your value propositions? Are they aware of your primary differentiators? What is the current level of awareness regarding your brand’s identity, culture, or values? Each of those awareness sub-topics can help identify pressing needs and areas of opportunity for brand development.
In our ever-changing, highly competitive, and unpredictable world, leveraging customer insights to guide decision making is how top brands stay on top. At MacKenzie, we empower brands with the data-driven customer insights needed to achieve their goals and objectives. From ground-level tactical support to strategic development – and everything in between – we have a full suite of solutions to help take your brand to the next level.