The Secret Sauce to Generating Insights

Customer data is one thing many marketers have in abundance. Yet, to guide sound business decision-making, marketers need more than a series of scores. They need to generate insights based on strategic marketing research. But what is an insight and how is it different from an observation? To put it simply, data observations tell you what is happening, and insights help explain why. Both are essential to tell a complete research story, but they are different types of information and result from very different thought processes.

“An insight uncovers a new learning, helps solve a problem, and answers a question by providing dimension and clarity.”

~Shelley Ahrens, Chief Customer Officer, Senior Vice President, The DRG

For instance, in brand experience research, such as awareness studies, marketers can see whether their brand awareness is increasing, declining, or remaining stable based on data observations. However, marketers need to understand why the numbers are up, down, or flat compared to competitors to make confident decisions in areas like brand positioning, communication messaging, or marketing budgets. That’s the role of a meaningful insight.

Truths About Generating Marketing Research Insights

  • Arriving at an insight takes diligence
  • The best insights don’t act on data at face value alone
  • Insights are rooted in data but make connections beyond what the data says
  • Insights require having a thorough understanding and deep curiosity about the business

True Insights Are Human-Centric Not Product-Focused – Client Story

Marketers need human-centric insights that help them understand customers’ actions and perceptions. That was the case for one of our banking clients. They asked for our help in uncovering the core insight from their mobile app satisfaction tracking research.

Our client launched an upgrade to their mobile app to enhance customer satisfaction. Following the upgrade, satisfaction scores dropped below pre-launch levels. They hypothesized that customers may have needed time to become familiar with the new features, causing a temporary dip in satisfaction. Based on past experience, they expected it to take a few months for customers to adjust. Yet, several months later, satisfaction remained lower compared to the previous app version. Before rushing to conduct further research, they sought our help to uncover the reason behind the decline.

After diving into the third-party data, our consultants discovered there had been a substantial increase in the proportion of Millennial customers participating in the survey. That alone might not have caused a shift in satisfaction, except Millennials report lower satisfaction levels than older customers. As a result, the larger proportion of Millennials in the study was driving down satisfaction levels overall. This deeper insight into the generational differences in mobile app experience armed our client with a clearer understanding of their upgraded mobile app performance.

Meaningful Insights Make Connections – Client Story

Sometimes it can be tempting to focus too quickly on shifts in key metrics before uncovering the insight behind the data. That’s why it’s important not to rely on just a single data source. True insights come from making connections across multiple sources of information, including knowledge of the business and current market forces at play.

One of our clients, a leading health insurance company, began observing month-to-month shifts in some of their experiential tracking metrics across both transactional and relational studies. Seeing these shifts as opportunities to enhance interactions, key stakeholders urged their teams to implement improvement initiatives. However, over time it became clear that some of these monthly fluctuations were just that – fluctuations – not true signs of decline requiring immediate attention. Our client needed to make a recommendation about when is the right time to act on shifting metrics, when to look to other sources to verify trends, and when to wait for additional feedback. We helped them by offering guidance on the key questions to ask and sources of data from which to draw.

After learning more about how our client was using the information, we consulted with them on approaches to analyzing data from a single study while also synthesizing results across several other proprietary studies and syndicated research. Doing so helped them put the point-in-time shifts into greater context. We also recommended they share early findings with their internal stakeholders to help evaluate the results through the business lens. Having ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders helps ensure that the most important and actionable insights are brought forward.

Ways to Make Connections Across Information Sources

  • Look at historical data. Do these shifts lead to downward trends or resolve over time?
  • What factors might be impacting short-term changes in key metrics (sampling fluctuations, point-in-time events in the market, etc.)?
  • Might seasonal business cycles be causing temporary shifts?
  • How quickly can the organization take corrective action?

Generating Insights with the Business Situation in Mind

It’s also important to consider how quickly your organization can launch a new initiative and what amount of time is needed for an initiative to make a measurable impact on your customer experience. In our health insurance client’s situation, the point-in-time data shifts they observed would have smoothed out before the organization would be fully able to respond.

Be Sure Your Research Insights Make Intuitive Sense

There is no single secret to coming up with solid marketing research insights. It takes diligence, an insatiable curiosity, and the commitment to leave no stone unturned. A good way to gut-check a potential insight is to ask yourself if it makes intuitive sense. Just remember, as accurate as your data observations may be, they are only the starting point for generating powerful insights that will guide you on your way to enhancing your customers’ experiences and reaching your business goals.


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