Brands with internal customer insights capability will survive and even thrive

Pip Stocks

Pip is the founder and CEO of BrandHook, an award winning Keynote Speaker and Thought Leader. She has worked on both agency and client side having started her career in the UK in 1992. After working in agencies such as Saatchi’s and Grey Advertising in London running Global Proctor and Gamble business, she was appointed as marketing manager for a new Virgin launch, Virgin Energy, a Branson startup. Before starting BrandHook, Pip was the brand and communications strategy director at Carat, where she undertook extensive consumer insight, brand and communications planning for Cadbury Schweppes, Fonterra, Nintendo, Just Jeans, HBA and GlaxoSmithKline brands. Stocks is also the founder of Hearsay.

According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, two-thirds of Australian businesses across all sectors have reported taking a hit to revenue or cash flow due to COVID-19. About one in 10 said they have paused trading altogether. In 70 per cent of cases, this was due to COVID-19.  

You need these stats to know this pandemic has had a shocking effect on business, our favourite brands and the way we like to live.  

Going back to basics and asking your customers about how they are feeling and what they need and want from your brand is even more important today. Businesses that come out of COVID-19 having explored new growth options and pivoted where necessary will be the ‘winners’ as we move into the new world.

In the past, CMOs, CXOs and marketing teams have outsourced learning about the customer and exploring the lives of their customers. But with slashed budgets and limited spending options, it is no longer a luxury. Business need faster, smarter, cheaper options to get strategies right.

The 2019 HBR Study, Beyond Big Data: Why Small Data Integration is Key to Customer Experience Success, showcases the work of The Gap’s head of global consumer insight, Katie Lechner, and her 18-person team. They spend all their time gathering and analysing big and small (thick) data. Conducting in home visits, reviewing customer diaries and having video calls with customers all part of their brand growth evaluations.

According to Lechner, the better The Gap knows the customer, the better the business has performed. Her challenge has been to convince all divisions that having the customer IP sitting inside the business is better than when it sits with an agency. Creating that insight capability inside the organisation has been key.

Interestingly, after temporarily closing its stores during COVID-19, Gap has pivoted to making masks, gowns and scrubs for health workers in the US. It makes sense a company that invests heavily in hearing the stories of its customers would also be smart enough and agile enough to pivot in a crisis.

Our own client, Carlton and United Breweries (CUB), is developing its customer insight capability by working with our Hearsay product to teach the marketing team how to have great conversations. Senior manager consumer and shopper insight, Tessa Whittaker, says:

“Our people loved talking to real consumers and, after every interview, were excited to feedback learnings to the brand team who owned the project. Being able to record and review afterwards meant the pressure was off to take notes.

“As a business, we have wanted to get our teams closer to consumers and having the Hearsay Platform with the support of the Hearsay team, made it happen with structure and purpose.”

Analytics and insights professionals at Proctor and Gamble are also increasingly adept when it comes to do-it-yourself research, instead of depending on outside agencies to undertake this work. At The Market Research Event (TMRE) 2019, a conference held by KNect365, Kirti Singh, chief analytics and insights officer, said: “Every insight professional should be able to conduct DIY research that elicits feedback and insights directly from consumers in little to no time.”

But what if do you don’t have this skill internally? Like CUB, searching out a suitable tech product could help you. Here are a few examples:

  • CMNTY: A community (MROC) type product where you can post up tasks and questions and get feedback to ideas.
  • Attest: A quantitative survey tool where you can build surveys, select your audience and analyse results.
  • Discuss Now: A digital conversation platform with customers in WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
  • Collabito: Online focus group software allowing live chats, build discussion boards and blog with customers.
  • Product Board:A product management system aimed at helping product teams understand what users need and prioritise what to build.

Businesses with internal customer insight capability will be able to pivot quickly now. They will thrive and change direction to take advantage of new opportunities. Those teams that have more limited experience can reach out to the many technology platforms to help them with a do-it-yourself solution.

Tags: brand strategy, consumer insights, customer engagement

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