Throughout my Marketing career, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a conversation with a client or colleague about insights. How are they defined? How are they developed? What’s the difference between a shopper insight and a consumer insight? What is the role of insights in Marketing? Merriam-Webster outlines the definition of insight as, “the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively.” Uncovering and defining insights plays an important role in Marketing, whether we are working on a new idea or concept, developing strategy for an item or brand launch, going to market with a new product or understanding current mindsets and behaviors of a target audience. True insights are backed by the proper time, effort and methodology that allow us to peek inside the minds of those we are trying to reach. It’s understanding how beliefs drive behavior – more specifically, what your target audience believes about you. It’s bridging the gap between behavior and beliefs.
Methodology techniques for developing insights can range greatly based on a number of factors including brand, category, budget and approach. Both quantitative and qualitative research, along with multiple internal and external data analytics, are studied to develop insights about what your target audience believes and why they behave as they do. Focus groups, shop-alongs, test labs, market basket or transaction data and loyalty program analysis are just some of the tools we use to help build true insights. A good mix of quantitative and qualitative data ensures no one gets too caught up in the numbers and statistics or, alternatively, focuses too much on perceptions and opinions.
I covered the definition of insights along with a topline snapshot of their development, but some of the most compelling conversations I mentioned above have been around exploring the distinction between shopper insights and consumer insights. Brands often try to tease out the differences between these two segments with the belief that consumers behave differently when shopping different retailers and channels. Someone shopping for cereal at Walmart may be driven solely by price, whereas someone shopping for cereal at Target may be driven by the treasure hunt and delight of buying a brand that isn’t on their list. And how is this different from shopping for cereal at Whole Foods? How about Costco? Or the .com channel? The differences lie in that consumer insights care about the brand experience, regardless of where it happens. Shopper insights are focused on what happens during the shopping experience. Shopper insights ask what, how, when and why people spend their money. Consumers insights seek to understand what emotion is evoked, what need state is satisfied or how the brand is perceived – without as much attention as to where that is happening.
Insights are one of the most fascinating parts of Marketing, in my humble opinion. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me, but understanding behaviors and patterns, along with where it happens, is extremely interesting. Marketing without insights is comparable to action without vision. Each purchase transaction, click of the mouse or behavior observed gives us another opportunity to understand the beliefs and behaviors of those we are trying to reach.