A key service we offer at Consumer Intelligence involves delivering exciting insight through consumer research. We ask our Senior Research Executive, Emma, what ‘consumer research’ really means and what benefits it can bring to brands.
Through the power of consumer research, we help brands gain a deeper understanding of what drives customer behaviour to support the development of business strategies that deliver results.
Whilst this sounds like a no-brainer, quite often the term ‘consumer research’ acts as a barrier, with its true meaning being misconstrued. As a result, the opportunity to really listen to and understand customers through qualitative and qualitative fieldwork goes untapped, by even the brands that need it most.
Emma joined Consumer Intelligence in 2017 as a Senior Research Executive, having previously worked in a global research agency. She works closely with clients in the insurance, banking and finance sector to manage end-to-end consumer research projects — from scoping out new projects and turning the client’s research objectives into a workable study design, to analysing the data and presenting the results back to the client.
We asked Emma to explain what consumer research is really about and why businesses should be using it to put customers at the heart of their strategies.
Q. We hear the term a lot, but what exactly is consumer research?
Consumer research is a broad term that covers the collection and analysis of data about and from consumers. In its simplest form, it is talking to ‘real people’ and getting to know the customer to understand their opinions, attitudes, behaviours, and needs. It can range from large scale online studies which provide robust, statistically valid data-based insights, through to face-to-face interviews, workshops and focus groups, which allow for in-depth exploration of themes which are more abstract or complex.
Consumer research can help inform the development of customer strategies, marketing activity, products and propositions, branding, advertising and communications — anything which constitutes a ‘touchpoint’ with your consumers, including the service offering itself. Projects can be ad-hoc to answer a specific question or need, or bespoke programmes of research which track trends and changes over the longer term.
“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”
- Bernard Baruch
Q. Why do businesses need consumer research?
In order to succeed, businesses need to continue to meet the needs of and nurture loyalty from their current customers, while finding ways to attract new ones. Sales figures alone only give you half the picture — they tell you the ‘what’ and ‘how many’, but not the ‘why’, and focus too much on what has already happened. It is vital that businesses are able to see and understand how their brand and service or product offer are seen and received through the eyes of their customers.
Q. Why is consumer research so important to businesses, particularly in today’s age?
It is all too easy to become biased or over-informed working within an industry, and without stepping back and checking in with real-world consumers, businesses may put their focus or get carried away on strategies or developments which don’t necessarily always meet the demands of the customer. For example, looking at the (almost) official Amazon move into the UK insurance market, having filed for an insurance licence back in September — research suggests that from a consumer perspective, it seems a welcomed move indicating they may even make it despite a number of big brands attempting and failing in the past.
Taking the time to understand your consumers can avoid costly mistakes further down the line which are driven by ignorance or misplaced assumptions, by ensuring you hear their voice throughout, and we see businesses increasingly realising the importance of a customer-centric ethos. It also allows you to gain a more comprehensive view of the market in which you operate, by exploring how consumers see your business in relation to your competitors, which helps to strengthen and develop a brand’s sense of identity and positioning in the marketplace.
Q. When it comes to our consumer research offering, what is the biggest thing we help our clients with?
At Consumer Intelligence, we often support our clients with research which focuses on understanding how consumers relate to products which are often perceived as ‘grudge’ or practical purchases, on a deeper and more implicit level. We explore themes such as peace of mind, the home, security, and the freedom that these kinds of products protect. By researching what these services mean to consumers, alongside the customer experience, we gain insight into how people approach choosing their providers and what drives them to buy (or not) from them, which can inform customer profiling, targeting, and sales and marketing strategies.
At the moment, there is a big focus on digital development (think the future of insurance: blockchain, AI, autonomous vehicles as well as open banking and a cashless society). As organisations are developing and launching new products at a rapid pace, we’re seeing an increased need for research which seeks customer input throughout the product development journey — from concept and proposition testing through to market-sizing and post-launch evaluation.
Q. Why is consumer research vital to business survival?
With imminent unknowns becoming a reality and changing the way we live, move, buy and own, digital and the impact of tech innovation is both a huge threat and a huge opportunity for the financial services sector in particular. Challenger brands, FinTechs, InsurTechs, and non-traditional business models and product offerings are disrupting what have historically been stable, traditional industries, and in order to adapt, survive, and grow, it is more important than ever that businesses are self-aware and acknowledge their customers and their attitudes, concerns and needs before they become out of touch.
Q. How do you expect the way consumer research is used by businesses to change in the future?
At the heart of every business are its customers. What we do at Consumer Intelligence is provide a full, 360-view of the market — whether that’s in the UK or in other markets around the world.
Increasingly we are seeing integrated research approaches — so rather than examining data from different sources in isolation, implementing programmes of blended research methodologies which utilise specialisms such as pricing, consumer research, and strategy, to paint a three-dimensional, holistic picture of all the elements which determine business success and create really meaningful insights and direction.
For example, at Consumer Intelligence, we can blend unique insurance pricing data with consumer behavioural research to show what people are selling, what people are buying and why. Additionally, our Advisory consultancy services helps to identify and forecast new strategic opportunities to help businesses grow, improve performance and drive high retention.
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