What are insights experts and thought leaders talking about?

Editor’s note: Dave Carruthers is co-founder and CEO of Voxpopme, a video survey software company. 

How to understand our customers is certainly always on the minds of insights professionals, but what else are the experts, thoughts leaders and practitioners talking about? What key topics are bubbling up?

I wanted to find out so our team analyzed around 50 episodes of Voxpopme’s podcast, “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

The team analyzed the themes and topics that mentioned by guests. 

  1. Collaboration.
  2. Processes.
  3. Ongoing integration.
  4. Actionable insights.
  5. Technology.
  6. Understanding.

Let’s see what the experts had to say about each topic. 

1. Collaboration.

There are so many moving pieces, trends and changes today that collaboration is essential in organizations.

“Let’s stop pointing fingers and start collaborating,” said Scott Brinker, vice president, HubSpot.

Joanna Lepore, now global foresight lead at Mars Wrigley, said that lack of collaboration at some companies may have been one of the surprises that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams had to do a better job at collaborating. Things were changing so fast, but some teams weren’t necessarily used to the level of partnership needed.

Collaboration also means we include the right people – key stakeholders, of course, but also experts inside the business. And it should be a representation of the audience we are trying to reach, said Kalil Vicioso, board member, Insights in Color. 

“You have to make it intuitive and the only way to do that is you have to have people who have that life experience,” said Vicioso.

2. Processes.

Process – especially agile – was a theme that came up a lot in our analysis. How do we make sure internal processes work to help us get the information we need from external audiences?

“That push and pull between the business side and the outside, the consumer, is natural,” said Nick Graham, global head of insights and analytics, Mondelez.

And customer insights need to be involved in that process. Tara Robertson, CMO, TeamWork, said it needs to be at the foundation in a customer-driven business.

Tchicaya Robertson, senior principal, Accenture, said there even needs to be a process to continuously look at how we ask questions to get better responses. 

3. Ongoing integration. 

The topic of using market research across an organization – especially in marketing – was mentioned many times and is also a sign of the push to make educated decisions.

“What you are seeing is a morphing of consumer insights into marketing, data analytics and data strategy,” said Bianca Pryor, vice president, BET. “Are we trying to move the needle on our addressable market?”

Rick Kelly, chief product officer, Fuel Cycle, said he sees certain tasks of market research move into the hands of non-researchers. 

“Where they can push a button and get results on their own using a validated methodology,” he said. 

Insights professionals can then focus on the bigger picture and integrations across the company, several “Reel Talk” guests said.

4. Actionable insights. 

Insights are most powerful when they can be used to make a business decision. That’s what leaders are asking for and what insights pros are striving for. It was a topic discussed at length in several episodes. 

“You have to figure out how you analyze data and try to separate signals from the noise,” said Eva Tsai, marketing executive, Google Cloud. “There’s so much data out there that you have to conduct disciplined experiments.”

“Know what actions you intend to take once you get the results back,” said Annie Pettit, chief research officer (North America), E2E Research. “Similarly, know what actions you cannot or will not take once you get the results back.”

And keep in mind that “data is fast, insight is not as fast,” said Elisabeth Trawinski, director of insights and analytics, Reckitt. “That doesn’t mean insight is slow, but insight is something you come to that shines the light on something that not everyone knows.”

5. Technology. 

The right technology can make our lives easier. And the wrong market research tech stack can make things harder. Insights professionals examined this topic from various angles.

Insights professional Khary Campbell mentioned it’s hard for mature brands to differentiate on product alone so they need to understand their customers at a deeper level – what they want, don’t want, their desires and even future needs

“How well do you understand them, and can you anticipate what they will need next?” said Campbell.

Technology can help you make that process easier.

At the end of the day, you want to figure out what problems you’re trying to solve and how you are going to solve them with your market research tech stack, said Raj Manocha, CEO, Methodify.

Sebastian Schuliaquer, insights director, Kellogg, reminded us that to use marketing research technology well, insights professionals still need to be involved to give us the context.

“We’ve never had so much data available to the point where it can be overwhelming,” he said.

But as Zappi President Ryan Barry said, there’s no need to be afraid of technology.

“Technology is simply a tool that we use to make things easier,” he said. “People who are scared of using technology should be more scared of losing their jobs.”

6. Understanding. 

To no surprise, understanding customers is the top priority and really the end goal of all the topics discussed. Processes, collaboration and the integration of technology all need to feed into making the understanding of our customers easier and more useful to the business.

“I use this gift analogy,” said Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager, PepsiCo. “Imagine you are asked to buy a gift for a female, who is between the ages of 25 and 40 and she’s a mom, for example. It would be difficult to choose a meaningful gift with just that information. But then when you consider buying a gift for someone who’s really close to you… then it’s much easier to pick a gift they’ll really like because you know them on that deeper level.”

The same applies to brands and knowing their consumers. It’s hard to get people what they want if you don’t know or understand them, she said. 

“There’s a difference between simple and easy,” said Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert. “A lot of what we are talking about is simple to understand but might not be so simple to implement.”

Ross Wainwright, CEO, Alida, even said that customer experience management has moved up the list for many companies in the last two or so years and that’s only possible by truly understanding the consumer.