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Illustration showing a magnifying glass over a user profile to gather consumer intelligence

Consumer Intelligence: Definition & Examples

TJ Kiely

Sep 27, 2023

Decades ago, reading the minds of your customers might have seemed like an unrealistic superpower. Today, we have consumer intelligence — which isn’t the same as mind reading, but it’s pretty close.

With increasing competition, staying connected to your customers is becoming more and more necessary. Knowing what they want and need from you allows you to meet them where they are. This helps you to adjust your products and services, reveal and remedy issues, and give your customers a reason to keep choosing you.

Consumer intelligence helps you to learn more about your customers by creating a more holistic image of your customers and their experiences. You can make decisions based on data, not guesswork, so you can maintain a competitive edge.

Let’s explore the role of consumer intelligence and how to go about collecting and applying it in your business.

Table of Contents

Typing on a laptop

Definition: What Is Consumer Intelligence?

We define consumer intelligence as the byproduct of collecting and analyzing customer data. You might also hear it referred to as customer intelligence and customer intelligence analytics.

This intelligence comes from various internal and external sources, including but not limited to:

  • Purchases
  • Focus groups
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Case studies
  • Market Research
  • Website analytics
  • Social data
  • Online media

Consumer intelligence can help brands deliver more personalized experiences across the entire customer journey. It plays a role in marketing campaign planning, audience segmentation, and improved communications.

The goal of consumer intelligence is to gain a 360-degree understanding of your target audience’s needs, preferences, and motivations so you can make informed decisions for your business.

Why Is Consumer Intelligence Important?

Consumer intelligence provides brands with a path to improve their customer experience — including customer service, product and service offerings, go-to-market strategy, communications, and accessibility.

In order to improve each of these, companies need insights into their customers’ behaviors and motivations.

Surface-level “insights” like age, gender, and income level aren’t enough to craft tailored experiences. Understanding what customers need at each stage of the buying journey allows companies to deliver on those expectations.

What Are the Benefits of Consumer Intelligence?

Consumer intelligence uses data and analytics to create comprehensive customer profiles that go beyond the surface. These insights provide actionable recommendations for improving the customer experience and building stronger relationships.

When implemented correctly, consumer intelligence can deliver the following benefits:

  • The ability to choose the right marketing and communications channels to get in front of more customers and increase conversions
  • Improving sales efficiency and marketing effectiveness by creating messaging and offers that resonate with your audience
  • Building stronger customer loyalty by providing programs customers use and improving social media customer service
  • The ability to take pre-emptive action with customers at risk of churning to reduce revenue volatility
  • Helping you introduce new products or services that customers will purchase

These benefits are just a few examples of what consumer intelligence can do for your business.

Consumer Insights vs. Consumer Intelligence: What's the Difference?

Consumer insights and consumer intelligence represent two sides of the same coin. They’re not quite the same, so let’s explore the nuances between consumer insights vs. consumer intelligence and the value they bring to your business.

What Are Consumer Insights?

We define consumer insights as the deep understanding of consumers that comes from gathering consumer intelligence and analyzing it carefully. The result is actionable  data your business uses that takes into account customer behaviors, feedback, and conversations and turns them into conclusions about your customers’ preferences.

To benefit from consumer insights, you need good data quality and reliable data sources, as well as a way to collect, organize, and translate the data. In other words, to gain real consumer insights, you need to first gather real consumer intelligence.

Tip: Take a look at some Consumer Insights Example Reports!

Where Do Consumer Insights and Consumer Intelligence Overlap?

Both consumer insights and intelligence play an important role in developing your products, services, and marketing strategy.

Consumer insights and intelligence can help you learn more about what makes your target audience tick. Insights are built by identifying trends in behaviors and actions throughout the customer journey that help you learn more about sentiments and the drivers behind customer decisions.

The results delivered by insights and intelligence differ from traditional market research in that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Instead of creating specific questions ahead of time, you receive answers to questions you may have never thought to ask. 

The data you receive from an insights and intelligence strategy can answer questions like:

  • How do customers view your brand?
  • How and where should you position your products or services so customers take notice?
  • How do customers feel about your competitors?
  • Is there a demand for your products or services, and how does demand change over time?
  • Are there opportunities to create new products or services?
  • What does your audience like, dislike, need, want, etc. and how can you connect with them wherever they are?

Consumer Intelligence Examples

To get a better understanding of the value of consumer intelligence, it helps to see it in action. Let’s look at a few examples of consumer intelligence and how you can apply it.

Customer's journey

Customized Customer Journeys

Consumer intelligence tools like Meltwater can track customers across the entire customer journey, from how they discover your brand to the content they engage with prior to purchasing.

Pinpoint where customers lose interest or the steps they take that lead to purchasing. These details can help you identify where you might need to improve your sales funnel (for example, you’re losing lots of leads around the same point) or increase your cross-selling and upselling.

Tip: Download our free Buyers Guide: AI Enabled Consumer Insights Platforms

Segmentation of game pieces

Behavior-Based Segmentation

Consumer intelligence can help you segment your audience on factors that might not be visible to the eye. For instance, you might segment campaigns based on products purchased, buying patterns, or new customers that responded to a specific offer in the past.

Segmentation may also prove effective in marketing to audiences who share similar interests that aren’t directly related to your brand. For example, some of your customers might be soccer fans, moms of toddlers, or avid watchers of Love Island. You can tailor your marketing messages to cater to these interests and be more likely to get your customers’ attention.

These resources might be helpful as well: Ultimate Guide to Market Segmentation & Personas, What is Audience Segmentation?, Lifestyle Marketing Guide, Customer Segmentation Guide, The Top Customer Segmentation Tools, Customer Segmentation Examples, Customer Segmentation Models, The Top Audience Segmentation Tools.

Personalized Incentives

Learning more about your customers’ interests and preferences can give you a starting point for personalized marketing. You’ll have a more informed idea of what drives consumer behaviors and decision-making.

Use this data to offer incentives to customers they care about and will want to act on. This might be a percent-off coupon, a free gift with purchase, free shipping, an invitation to a customer loyalty program, or a similar offer. When your offer speaks directly to their needs and wants, potential customers are more likely to convert.

Demand Forecasting

The longer you track your customers’ behaviors, the more valuable this data becomes.

This proves especially helpful with demand forecasting. The more a customer buys from you, the more you can learn about their purchasing frequency and volume. This helps you to maintain a healthy inventory of products to avoid backorders when customers are ready to buy.

Suspicious Activity Detection

Banks and financial service providers leverage consumer intelligence to detect possible fraud or other suspicious activities. They look for patterns in the data to spot risks of bad debt, unauthorized purchases, or identity theft.

This not only prevents financial loss for the organization, but also gives the company a chance to strengthen customer relationships by looking out for customers’ best interests.

How to Collect Consumer Intelligence

Consumer intelligence comes from a variety of internal and external sources. Combining data from multiple sources gives brands the most comprehensive view of their customers.

Consumer insights tools and customer intelligence platforms can ingest data from multiple internal and external sources to create these holistic profiles. Some of the best places to mine for customer data include:

CRM infographic

Internal Systems

Corporate databases (such as an ERP system), CRM, sales software, and call centers can all provide rich details about your customers.

Accessing this data might require cross-department collaboration with IT, customer service, procurement, and sales departments.

Be clear about the type of data you’re looking for, how you plan to use it, and why it could be beneficial to your strategy.

Social Media

Customers are open to sharing personal details on social media. They’re also not shy about airing their grievances with brands and businesses when they have a poor experience. Mining social media to learn more about your customers gives you a more honest view of how they feel about your brand (and your competitors).

Consumer insights platforms like Meltwater can collect these insights on your behalf by monitoring for keywords and analyzing the context behind them.

Market Research

Leveraging industry-specific third-party market intelligence and research allows you to learn more about demographics, attitudes, and general market shifts. This data can be useful in learning about customer buying patterns and preferences within specific demographics, such as income brackets or age groups.

Marketing demographic questions

You can also perform your own market research with your own customers. Focus groups, case studies, surveys, and monitoring online reviews can all reveal helpful insights about your customers’ sentiments.

Tip: Learn more about market research and learn how to conduct sentiment analysis.

Website Analytics

When customers use your website, their interactions are tracked by your website analytics.

Things like session durations, number of page views, bounce rates, exit rates, and dwell time are all logged by analytics tools. These data points can prove useful in improving your website experience and ensuring customers get what they came for.

How to Use Consumer Intelligence

Collecting intelligence on your target consumer is just the first step. Once you have the data in hand, you also need a strategy to apply it to get the results you want.

After collection, the next step is to categorize the consumer data. can do this on your behalf. You might choose to organize the data based on the data source (online reviews, social media, website analytics, etc.), current client vs. lead or prospect, or qualitative vs. quantitative data.

You’ll also need a way to analyze the data you collect. Again, consumer intelligence platforms can make this a low-lift task. These platforms can aggregate results, pull out specific and actionable insights, and give context to the data. Rather than looking at just the raw data, consumer intelligence platforms can help you learn what the data means. It can turn numbers into visuals to put the data into perspective.

Last but not least, to bring about real change, you’ll need to share your findings with the right stakeholders. Once you’ve analyzed the data, make sure that the people who are empowered to make improvements understand the data and what they should do next.

This will likely include multiple departments, such as customer service teams, social media managers, sales departments, operations, research and development, website teams, and content creators. Share your findings and next best actions and why these changes are the way forward.

Make this an ongoing practice to keep your clients and customers at the heart of everything you do.

5 Tips for Consumer Intelligence Success

1) Understand Your Project's Background

This seems obvious, but understanding the context of what you want to research is critically important. It’s much more difficult to find meaningful insights in social data if the people doing the research don’t understand the context and nuances of the market or subject they’re investigating. 

2) Know What Question You’re Trying to Answer

Often businesses embark on Consumer Intelligence projects with no clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve, beyond a ‘fishing expedition’ to see if looking at social data might throw up any interesting information. This is counter-productive and unlikely to yield valuable results. 

It’s better to start these projects with a well-defined problem that you want to solve. This will help the team set everything up properly, in a way that’s much more likely to give you some useful answers. Here are some examples of common use cases, and how you can think of them as questions to be answered:

  • Reputation Monitoring - how do people think of our brand and how is that changing? 
  • Competitive Benchmarking - how do consumers view our brand against our competitors?
  • Content Ideation - what topics interest my audience, what questions do they have? 
  • Influencer Discovery and Vetting - which influencers are most respected amongst my target audience? 
  • Campaign Performance Measurement - how have my online and offline campaigns performed? How can I measure them all on a level playing field? 
  • Brand Equity Tracking - is the value of our brand increasing, decreasing, or stagnant - what’s causing that trend? 
  • Tribes Identification and Activation - who are the main audience segments that are relevant to us, and how do we engage with them effectively? 
  • CX Analysis - what kind experience do customers have at our retail outlets, which are performing well, which need to be improved? Which of our products are people having good/bad experiences with? 
  • Trend Forecasting - what’s changing in our market, what new products and experiences do we need to offer our customers to stay relevant and competitive?

But remember that specificity is powerful. The more focused your question is, the more accurate the answer you’re likely to get.

Tip: Download our free report "Unleashing Consumer Insights in Retail".

3) Identify Which Data Will be Useful

We’re very proud of the fact that we offer the most comprehensive social-data coverage on the market, but remember that not every project requires every data source. One of the advantages of having human research expertise involved in the process is that they will be able to call upon their experience and knowledge of an industry to decide which data sources are most likely to yield the best results in any given context.

4) Structure Data Properly

A mountain of raw, unstructured social data isn’t much use to anybody. You could perform some simple quantitative analysis to get an understanding of trends and keyword volumes, but it’s going to be difficult to uncover meaningful insights. 

Structured Data for Consumer Intelligence

Let’s use these two tweets as an example - they’re both returned by a search on the keyword “Hamilton” and they’re both about very different topics; the Broadway musical, Hamilton, and the Formula One racing driver, Lewis Hamilton. 

With unstructured data, you’ve got this kind of confusion happening at a huge scale and while it’s possible to use well constructed Boolean searches to limit the problem, it’s very difficult to completely eliminate it. So the data is inevitably going to be ‘noisy’ to varying degrees. 

, such as Radarly, structure the data intelligently. For example, we classify the data to three levels of detail, based on topic categories that are widely used across the digital marketing industry. In this example, there would be no risk of false positives in our data, because the platform has classified all of the data points (whether they’re tweets, comments, reviews, or anything else) and can easily differentiate between Hamilton the musical and Hamilton the sportsman. 

We can even do this with images since modern AI is easily capable of understanding the contents of an image file and classifying it in the same way as textual content. 

5) Interpret and Socialize Findings

It’s important to understand that findings and insights are different things. Uncovering patterns and trends in social data is only the first part of the puzzle. It takes human expertise in market research methodologies and experience of the context and nuances of the relevant industries or markets to interpret those findings into accurate, actionable insights. 

Without that relevant expertise or domain knowledge it’s all too easy to jump to the wrong conclusions and make bad decisions. 

It’s equally important to socialize the insights to relevant stakeholders across the business in a way that leaves little ambiguity or room for misinterpretation. The whole point of doing all this work to uncover consumer insights is to create value for your business, and that can only happen if the insights are communicated clearly to the people who are able to use them to make more effective decisions.

Making Meltwater Your Consumer Intelligence Solution

Using a consumer intelligence platform like Meltwater helps you make consumer research an ongoing priority.

collects and analyzes data in real time, allowing you to capture the latest intel on your customers.

With spelled-out insights and context behind conversations, you gain reliable data to create a more complete picture of your business, customers, and competition.

Learn more when you schedule a demo by filling out the form below!