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What Is Customer Intelligence? Definition and Examples

TJ Kiely

Oct 2, 2023

Have you ever had companies send you offers for items you were already thinking about buying? Maybe your preferred automotive shop sends you a coupon for an oil change right when you’re about to hit that 3,000th mile. Or maybe a mailer with an online deal magically appears in your mailbox when it’s time to buy new shoes. Businesses are getting smarter, thanks to customer intelligence — and yours can be among them.

Customer intelligence enables businesses to understand their customers on a deeper level. This means learning more about what your customers like and dislike or what they need and want, and even predicting their future behaviors.

Let’s explore how customer intelligence is reshaping how businesses understand and engage with customers.

Table of Contents:

discussing customer intelligence online

What Is Customer Intelligence?

We define customer intelligence as the proactive process of collecting and analyzing customer data to learn more about them. Companies can use this data to identify patterns and gain insights across various customer touchpoints.

As a result, companies can use customer intelligence to:

  • Predict customer behaviors (especially purchases and churn)
  • Identify new opportunities
  • Improve customer experiences
  • Increase customer loyalty and satisfaction

Turning raw data into meaningful information can help companies achieve all of these goals.

Customer Intelligence is also known as CI and consumer intelligence.

Tip: Learn more about customer experience (CX) by developing a customer experience strategy, conducting customer experience analysis, creating a customer experience design, feeding customer experience dashboards, learning about CX trends and CX examples, measuring customer experience, and using customer experience software.

What Is the Role of Customer Intelligence?

No longer satisfied with basic, surface-level data provided by sales receipts and website analytics, more companies are seeking deeper insights into their customers’ lives. 

Customer intelligence drills down into data from a myriad of sources to reveal what your customers think and feel. It identifies trends, sees what customers respond to or ignore, and analyzes sentiments and feedback to add context to data.

This next-level customer intelligence analytics empowers businesses with actionable insights to drive growth, foster loyalty, and effectively innovate products or services. Ultimately, businesses that leverage customer intelligence correctly can stay ahead in a highly competitive landscape.

coworkers discussing customer intelligence

What Is a Customer Intelligence Strategy?

To get the most out of your customer intelligence, businesses should develop a customer intelligence strategy.

A customer intelligence strategy is a framework that shows you step-by-step how to gather, analyze, and use customer data and ensures your actions and goals align.

What Are the Elements of A Customer Intelligence Strategy?

Here’s what a basic customer intelligence strategy includes:

  1. Data
  2. Technology
  3. Process


The foundation of your customer intelligence strategy, data comes from numerous channels and customer touchpoints to shine a light on who your buyers are. A customer intelligence strategy needs to consider all possible data sources and the types of data available from each source. It also needs to define what types of data you’ll use and what you’ll ignore, as not all data is helpful and too much and can lead to overwhelm.

Reading Tips: The Fundamentals of Data Structuring, A Guide to Big Data for Beginners, How to Prevent Data Isolation with Meltwater's API, Data Lake vs Data Warehouse: Definition and Differences, What Is Data Analytics?, What Is Customer Intelligence Analytics?, Best Practices for Customer Data Management (CDM), How to Use A Customer Data Platform

The Meltwater Customer Intelligence Suite provides a single source of truth and makes your customer intelligence data collection much easier.


Businesses need the right technology infrastructure to collect customer data. First-party options include:

Customer intelligence platforms like the can streamline how you collect and analyze data. It can also pull third-party data from various sources to enrich and expand your first-party intel. Our Consumer Insights Buyer Guide helps you with your decision-making.

Ideally, your customer intelligence technology will allow you to segment customers, identify patterns, and provide real-time insights into your customers’ actions and preferences.


Once you’ve collected and analyzed your customer data, you need processes to turn your findings into actions. Having documented processes allows you to act on new information as it arises, helping you stay ahead of the curve.

In addition, you should also have processes for updating your methodologies, verifying your data’s accuracy, and testing how your actions drive business results.

What Is the Difference Between CRM and Customer Intelligence?

two professionals shaking hands

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) offers excellent insights into the customer experience, but it stops short of what customer intelligence platforms can do. 

Both CRM and customer intelligence help companies understand and manage their customer relationships. CRM manages interactions with current and prospective customers. It provides a central database where companies can store information, track sales opportunities, and automate marketing campaigns. These systems can also analyze data about their customers’ behaviors, preferences, and purchasing history to improve sales performance.

Customer intelligence software picks up where CRM leaves off. It provides in-depth insights into customer behaviors and preferences by analyzing large volumes of data from multiple sources, not just CRM.

Such tools also use predictive analytics to anticipate what customers will need or identify potential issues before they occur. The level of detail is finer and more complete than what a CRM alone can provide.

Or, to put it another way, CRM provides the tools for interacting with customers, while customer intelligence extracts insights from CRM data for better decision-making. CRM is operational, while customer intelligence is strategic. The two tools complement each other and can help organizations adapt to changing customer demands.

What Are the Benefits of Customer Intelligence?

client and customer in a transaction

With well-executed customer intelligence, businesses can develop deeper connections with their customers simply by being more data-driven. Stronger relationships can create a ripple effect across sales, customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and brand sentiment.

In addition to these perks, companies can anticipate a few other benefits:

  • Improved customer segmentation. Learning more about your customers allows you to see patterns, trends, and shared characteristics between customer segments, leading to more personalized offers and marketing campaigns.
  • Higher customer engagement. Better segmentation ensures you’re targeting the right customers with the right messaging, which increases engagement and customer loyalty.
  • Stronger competitive advantage. Customer intelligence can inform everything from products and services to marketing channels, allowing you to better align with your customers’ preferences.
  • Better product development. Companies can use consumer intelligence to develop new products and services, ensuring their offerings meet customer demands. What is more, when you make the most out of customer intelligence, you utilize human capital and optimize processes. This leads to better overall IT efficiency.
  • Lower churn. Identify at-risk customers early so you can intervene and address their needs before they switch to a competitor.
  • Personalized experiences. Granular customer insights allow you to meet customers where they are and market to customers based on their unique profiles, behaviors, and customer journeys.
  • Measurable ROI. Businesses can track the return on investment of their customer intelligence efforts to ensure they’re getting value from their software and strategies.

4 Customer Intelligence Examples

In theory, the benefits and value of customer intelligence are clear. Here’s what using customer intelligence can look like in practice:

1. Purchase History Analysis

Customer intelligence offers insights into a customer’s purchase history, allowing companies to detect trends and patterns.

For instance, a purchase history analysis for a retailer might reveal that most customers shop for clothes every March and November. The retailer might use this data to plan sales, send targeted apparel promotions, or stock up on inventory for these periods.

Tip: Take a look at some Consumer Insights Example Reports and download our free report "Unleashing Consumer Insights in Retail".

2. Social Media Sentiment Analysis

People don’t hold back on social media. It’s a great place to learn how customers really think or feel about a brand, a product, or an experience. Even when customers aren’t posting directly to your page or content, you can glean insights from social conversations that will help inform your next best actions.

Companies can use social listening via social media monitoring tools to monitor social media conversations and sentiment around their brand or related products and services. By analyzing social media mentions, businesses can gauge how customers feel about a certain brand or topic, identify potential issues that might impact their image, and respond to customer concerns. Or, if people are talking broadly about an issue or topic (e.g., a food company monitoring for sentiments around GMO products), the company can prepare a response to show its side.

Meltwater is specialized in social media monitoring. Get a free tour of our platform and set up your advanced social listening strategy today!

3. Website Behavior Tracking

Tracking user behavior on a website can provide valuable insights into what customers are interested in. It can also surface potential issues with your conversion funnel, such as receiving lots of traffic to a product page but few or no purchases.

Customer intelligence plays a role in improving website experiences. For example, companies can use website intelligence to offer personalized product recommendations based on what the shopper has previously viewed or purchased.

4. Customer Feedback Analysis

Feedback surveys, online reviews, and customer service interactions are goldmines for customer intelligence. These are moments where customers are willingly sharing details of their experiences, especially those that could put a brand’s image in a bad light.

Businesses can use customer intelligence software to identify areas for improvement. For example, if multiple customers are sharing the same feedback about poor cleaning standards in a hotel, the hotel manager can offer more training to the housekeeping team, implement new protocols, and conduct quality control checks before guests enter their rooms.

How Meltwater Puts Customer Intelligence in Your Hands

Customer intelligence is critical to understanding your audience and connecting with them wherever they are. By knowing what they’re thinking, feeling, and wanting, you can align your communications, products, and services to satisfy their expectations.

Meltwater Consumer Intelligence Dashboard

Meltwater’s Consumer Intelligence platform puts always-on wisdom within your reach. A single source of truth tracks billions of data points in real time to help you identify and predict customer behaviors so you can respond accordingly. Learn what people are saying, where conversations are taking place, and what your customers expect you to do for them — you’ll always know what your next step should be.

Learn more when you request a free tour by filling out the form below.