There are many examples of Consumer Insights. They have been described exhaustively. Therefore, let us consider a hypothetical but illustrative situation.
Three men walk into an automotive store. Each of them leaves the store with an identical hubcap. You may think that this is a really good hubcap.
You could be convinced that each of the men bought it for the same reason as the other two.
You can also examine (in a strict sense, as in a scientific research) their motivations, and follow their needs and problems. You may find out that the truth is quite contrary to these superficial explanations. For example:
A mechanic could have bought a hubcap for his customer’s car. An older man, a pedantic taxi driver, could have bought it because he doesn’t like untidiness and cannot suffer a missing hubcap in his car.
A set is a set. The hubcaps must match each other. It could also be that the third man simply selected a hubcap that is the most attractive visually. He bought it for his son who had just fallen in love with cars.
So, what determined the choice? Sameness with the hubcaps one already has? Price? Aesthetics? Or maybe something else?
Maybe a completely different motivation was behind the choice? But what? Consider this: hubcaps are automotive fetishes, a way to express emotions towards your car, a message to the outside world that even small boys can ‘sense’.
What is Consumer Insight?
There is nothing both as self-evident and (theoretically) simple, and yet so (practically) difficult as Consumer Insight.
Consumer Insights are essential and are indispensable for most marketing (Insight Marketing), advertising, promotional and image-building activities.
No advertising campaign, marketing strategy or competitive strategy can be highly effective, if it is not based on accurately discovered Insights and reliable research methodologies.
No brand can be a strong brand, evoking intense emotions and inspiring loyalty, if it is not backed by a set of accurate, updated and convincingly communicated Insights.
Today more than ever, gaining market advantage is a skill to perceive customers through the lens of their ‘human’ needs, and to research their emotions, problems and goals.
An empathizing approach allows you to discover Insights, create more effective Value Propositions, and appeal to the customer awareness and emotions with complex arguments.
Not excluding emotional, rational and functional arguments as well as the arguments related to status and social prestige.
Without getting into the heart of the matter, the most significant reason for purchase, something that prompted the customer to act (Consumer Insight), and not just inspired a thought about purchase, we will not be able to increase the sales by a dozen or so percent.
And that is how the sales are growing when we discover Consumer Insight that is both universal and appealing to the (emotionally) most important reason for purchase.
The most spectacular examples of sales surge (preceded by advertising campaigns utilizing Consumer Insight, of course) are the best proof of that. There is a number of reliable studies that support this.
Consumer Insight - definition
To begin with, let us say what Consumer Insight isn’t.
It is not a:
- Result of brainstorming and creative team work
- Market-based measure model to be replicated, copied or imitated (what works for brand X may not necessarily prove successful for brand Y)
- Catchphrase, although Consumer Insight is used in them
- Just a concept, a marketing theory
- Free association.
The word ‘insight’ means discernment, an ability to understand people and situation contexts. Its other meaning is related to conducting observations and noting remarks.
Consumer Insight is a method aimed to find out the reason for purchase, which can be expressed with a simple sentence. It is a method of discovering motivations, i.e. factors that inspired a customer to purchase.
Necessarily, discovering Insights is discovering motivations. These are not always conscious, more often they are unconscious or not considered crucial. Although, in fact, they are.
Consumer Insight prompts to action. It is a behavioral reaction to a proposal, product, service or a brand. Here, it is worth to remember an old principle. It says that what a customer declares, thinks and does are usually three different things. And they are loosely connected.
Customers needs and problems and Consumer Insight
Most probably, it is not surprising that today we are no longer dealing with typical, mass customers, very similar to one another, therefore constituting similar buyers. Such situation is history. Both, in marketing and in commerce.
The times when sales was raised by simply pondering the ‘who else is a potential buyer’ issue are a distant past. Today, the stress is not so much on ‘who else is a potential buyer’, but ‘why the target audience would want to buy it’. And here again, UX research is indispensable.
A simple answer: ‘because they need it’ no longer suffices. It provides no competitive advantage. The same target audience need can be satisfied by many products.
Therefore, it is increasingly urgent to build (emotional and functional) customer relationships, and to search for consumer insight. It determines the sales volume.
Discovering deeper, less obvious, but strongly motivating reasons for purchase is the most effective way to compete.
All the more so because modern customers are increasingly demanding. They expect an individual approach and customized products and services.
They value the companies that can distinguish them, and understand their needs and motivations better than the rest.
And that can offer them more than just a product and a solution to a problem. For the customers, a relationship is value added.
And a way to build a lasting and convincing relationship are Consumer Insights which most accurately address the question: “why a customer is supposed to buy a product offered by us and not by competitors”.
Accordingly, Consumer Insight can be defined as a set of research (in the strict sense: market research), observation, analytical and communication activities designed to discover the strongest purchase motivators and apply them in advertising activities.
Which also means to understand the ‘actual’, or better ‘more convincing’ reasons for purchase. Ones that hit home as regards customers needs.
Keep in mind that it is the emotions that are the most lasting, the strongest and the fastest way to build a relationship between a brand, a product or a service and its fan, buyer, user or a group of consumers.
Often, if not always, it is the emotions that are behind our shopping decisions.
Due to differing variables (from demographic to psychographic to lifestyle-related), for each consumer group in a given market the most convincing reason can be something completely different.
The objective truth does not have to be important for the customers. And usually it isn’t. Their beliefs are more important. If they think that eating a candy bar better relieves the discomfort from being hungry than having a lunch, then that is the way it is. And it makes no sense to convince them otherwise.
Actually, you are not supposed to, as in practice, discovering Insights is not a creative activity, and it should not create new needs in customers. It is a discovery, through various methods and techniques, of the most authentic needs.
Why it is necessary to discover Consumer Insight
You might think that there is a shortcut. All you need to do is to create a purchase need in a given target audience, by means of advertising, and just wait for sales results that will soon appear.
The sooner, the more universal (concerning all) and timeless (not conditioned by changing political and social situation) are the needs you appeal to.
However, this is not how you build lasting and emotional relationships, and appeal to your customers in practice. Sooner or later, your customers will discover the artificiality or the impermanence of the needs induced on an ad hoc basis.
What’s more, in most products of this type, ad hoc motivation becomes more and more marginal for the customers.
The abundance of products and service providers results in customers looking for more specific and individual reasons, close to their experience.
Hence, the need to discover such authentic, strong, real motivation, i.e. to discover Consumer Insights.
Reasons to purchase a product can change quickly. And usually they do. That’s for starters. Secondly, one universal reason for purchase does not exist. There are many of them. For some products, there can be several to several hundred reasons.
The set of Insights (causes, reasons for purchase, their justification, beliefs related to them) for each customer segment can significantly differ.
An Insight is the sum, synthesis, summary of attitudes, expectations, values, needs and views, specific life determinants which are crucial for a given customer segment and a given product.
Therefore, the best method for researching and discovering Insights is the direct listening to ratings, frustration, beliefs, comments and needs of the representatives of different segments of the target group.
Characteristics of a good Insight
Although they require research and analytical expertise as well as proven methods, the value of the discovered Consumer Insights can be estimated.
The classic grid of good Insight characteristics features four of them (4 R Principle).
Good Insight should be:
- Well based in reality, should be factual (Reality)
- Issue-appropriate (Relevance)
- Affecting, response-provoking (Resonates)
- Prompting to act (Reaction).
You can add more to the above characteristics, including:
- Validity, importance, significance, or the a motivator strength
- Emotivity - the potential for stimulating emotions constituting the basis for a bond, a relationship with a brand.
- Popularity - the best Insights are neither excessively specific (understandable to a limited audience) nor excessively generic (they lose their uniqueness)
- Straightforwardness - must be automatically understood, almost obvious, acting by the force of their simplicity
- Directness - cannot employ hints, understatements, metaphors; must be a clearly and precisely expressed ‘truth’ about a problem or a need.
- Credibility - the trust they inspire must be unwavering
- Total acceptability - Insights cannot evoke a reaction of opposition, a defensive response, and cannot generate controversy.
The division of Consumer Insights
In marketing theory and practice, two types of Consumer Insights are distinguished:
Communication Insights are used as the basis for advertisements and all marketing communications. Usually, they are a rating, opinion, belief, stereotype, an emotion expressed verbally, expectation, or more colloquially, ‘a truth about someone or something’.
Strategic Insights form the basis for the development of new products and services which can fill in the markets gaps, meet the needs unfulfilled so far or the needs fulfilled incompletely, in an unsatisfactory manner.
They are also used in brand expansion, and product and service adaptation.
Both types of Insights are of great assistance in the development of ad hoc and long term marketing activities.
Methods for verifying and testing Insights
The Insights which will be used in marketing activities, and definitively confirmed in terms of their sales usability, can be selected in advance.
The selection should be subject to the following criteria:
- Naturalness of tone (language, beliefs, ‘truths’)
- Effectiveness of the response to a problem or a need (WOW effect, Eureka effect)
- Source (the most effective are the Insights provided by the customers themselves)
- Emotional vector (the ‘truths’ based on negative emotions have a stronger impact than the ‘truths’ based on positive emotions).
How to discover the most accurate Consumer Insights?
The above question is not so easy to answer. Although there are proven and effective methods of searching for Consumer Insights, they can also be discovered by chance. But keep in mind that it is incidental.
Definitely, the discovery is promoted by openness and alertness during the research of:
- Consumer rituals
- Ways to react to problems
- Ways to express needs
In the context of the discovery of Consumer Insights, ethnographic research is particularly useful, employing observational methods and techniques.
The most commonly used methods are:
- Desk Research
- Participant Observation
- IDI (Individual In-Depth Interview)
- Mystery Shopper
- Projective methods (e.g. TAT - Thematic Apperception Test)
- Focus Groups.
Finding an Insight is an art of combining methods and utilizing experience. It requires discernment and analytical, synthetic and inductive thinking. A fruitful research is fostered by correct questions.
About, e.g. the research of:
- Purchase motivations (their hierarchy)
- Values and anti-values guiding the customers in life, and important for them at the time of purchase
- Requirements (functional and user requirements, and emotions evoked by their presence and absence)
- Shopping goals (problems to be solved with them, needs they satisfy)
- Aspirations, dreams, hopes, worries, fears, to what they are particularly sensitive and indifferent
- Problems they face
- Professional and private priorities, priorities in life