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Two brightly colored speech bubbles, a smaller one in green and larger one in purple, with two bright orange light bulbs. Consumer insights ultimate guide.

What Are Consumer Insights? Meaning, Examples, Strategy

TJ Kiely

Jan 3, 2024

Creating happy, loyal customers is simple. Just give them what they want! While you might think the only way to do this is to gain mind-reading superpowers, there is another, more feasible approach: consumer insights.

Thanks to social media, online forums, and other digital media, customers have more ways than ever to speak their minds. They’re increasingly willing to share their thoughts with others, be it their opinions about a brand or company or their need for a product or service. When companies understand the power of consumer insights, they have a one-way ticket to increased sales and customer loyalty.

Let’s explore the official consumer insights definition and how to use consumer insights to your advantage in this Ultimate Guide.

Table of Contents

Consumer insights

What Are Consumer Insights?

Let’s start with the consumer insights meaning — what is it all about?

We define consumer insights as data-driven observations that help businesses to better understand their customers. These observations allow companies to make informed business decisions about how to reach and engage their target market more effectively.

Brands can combine consumer insights with other data sources, such as feedback surveys, market research, and advertising campaigns, to gain valuable insight into consumer needs, preferences, and behavior.

If you’ve ever given your customers a survey, asked for an online review, or hosted a focus group, you’ve seen consumer insights at work. By definition, consumer insights are thoughts, opinions, and experiences shared by people and interpreted by a business to gain a better understanding of how their customers think and feel. 

These insights come in many forms, including:

  • Online reviews
  • Customer surveys
  • Social media comments (social media insights)
  • Forum posts
  • Focus groups or panels
  • Consumer test studies

Any medium where consumers are able to offer feedback to a company or brand qualifies as part of the consumer insight process. Companies can collect consumer insights formally (such as a structured, solicited feedback collection process) or informally (such as scanning your social media profiles for user comments). 

The end goal remains the same: to get inside consumers’ minds and use data to reach specific and actionable conclusions about what to do next.

What Is Market Research?

Market Research illustration

What consumer insights are to individual customers, market research is to an entire industry, area, or population. By definition, market research is the process of capturing market-related data, usually in the form of direct and specific questions. This data may include, but is not limited to:

  • Size of an addressable market
  • Market penetration
  • Demand for an industry, product, or service in a given area
  • Demographic data, such as age, income level, and education
  • Brand competitors
  • Market needs or gaps

Broad market research data offers a high-level view of a consumer population. Brands use this data for a variety of purposes, such as finding new markets to enter or deciding what products to develop next.

Currently, the market research industry as a whole is worth an estimated $73.4 billion. In many cases, dedicated market research firms conduct research and studies on behalf of companies. There are also market research tools on the market. Other information sources can also offer insights into a particular market, such as news outlets.

The Intersection of Market Research and Consumer Insights

Market Research combined with Consumer Insights

Both market research and consumer insights rely on accurate and actionable data to make informed decisions and decide the best way to maximize resources. Both aim to get inside the minds of consumers to figure out behaviors and the reasons for those behaviors. And both can help you make sense of your business’s current position in the market and decide what you need to do next to maintain or scale that position.

Though market research and consumer insights serve different purposes, they don’t always live in their own boxes. In fact, market research projects are often followed up with consumer insights to help add context to market data. 

Casting a Broad Net with Market Research

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new line of kitchenware and tools. You already know the market is highly competitive, so you decide to research the market and find the best places to launch your brand. 

At this point, your market research might include gauging home cooking trends over time, finding trending topics in home nutrition, and discovering potential competitors in the market (well-known and up-and-coming). You might also want to see who is talking about cooking at home (e.g. influencers, celebrities, industry leaders, etc.) and what’s being said in those conversations. See which retailers are being mentioned the most. Dial deeper into specific kitchen categories. See what people are actually buying. This research can help guide your product development and marketing.

Tip: Download our free report "Unleashing Consumer Insights in Retail" and download our free 2024 Consumer Insights Healthcare Report.

Support Market Data with Consumer Insights

Next, you’ll want to support your macro level market research with micro level consumer insights. For example, this might include developing buyer personas based on the influencers or conversations you discovered during your market research. Learn about their cooking experience and needs, their disposable income, their expectations of quality, and other little details that might influence your marketing approach. 

You might dig deeper into conversations about cooking at home, meal prep and planning, and even saving money on groceries. What common themes do you see? Are more people cooking at home? Do they have less time and need tools that make cooking faster or easier, or at least easier to clean up? Isolating these conversations can help you focus on specific intel. Use it to craft your messaging and choose the products (digital or physical) to offer your customers.

The hard part of this process is understanding the many nuances that can affect your consumer insights. There’s a complex ecosystem of genders, generations, professions, interests, experiences, and consumer perception of your brand or category. Creating an accurate customer profile that takes all of these things into account is no easy feat, but it’s one that brands need to get right. 

Why Do Consumer Insights Matter?

Ever tried to cook for someone without knowing what foods they like or if they have allergies? Or maybe you’ve tried to buy a gift for someone without knowing what they like or what they already have? A little more insight into the person’s preferences could help you to make better decisions.

The same is true in the business world. Learning more about what your customers need, want, like, and dislike can help you meet them where they are (e.g. in the customer journey) in ways that matter to them.

Consumer research provides a detailed look at specific aspects of the customer experience, including:

  • The buying decision-making process
  • Shopping habits
  • Feedback on products or services
  • Brand loyalty factors
  • Engagement
  • Referral habits
  • Consumer behavior

Companies can leverage this information to develop marketing strategies that speak directly to their customers, giving businesses a better chance to increase conversions.

Additionally, consumer insights can help businesses identify potential opportunities for product innovation or expansion into new markets. With these insights in hand, companies can make smarter decisions about where to invest resources for maximum effect.

Consumer insights

What Are Types of Consumer Insights?

Consumer insights can take multiple forms. Let’s look at some consumer insights examples you can (probably) already access.

Market research

There’s a bit of confusion when it comes to market research vs. consumer insights. You could say that consumer insights is a smaller piece of the larger market research puzzle.

Market research refers to collecting data about a company’s target audience and larger market. It includes data on market size, geographic areas, customer base, and competitors. The focus here is mainly quantitative, whereas consumer insights are qualitative.

Online reviews

Online reviews give you a glimpse into the customer experience. Customers will leave clues about how they feel about your brand and share their experiences with others.

However, online reviews on their own should be taken with a grain of salt. Anyone can leave reviews on any business, and the number of fake reviews continues to grow. One analysis shares that about 31% of reviews on sites like Amazon and Walmart are suspected fakes.

But when put into context and combined with other data, online reviews can be powerful tools to get inside the minds of consumers.

Purchasing data

Reviewing customers’ buying histories can give insight into how they feel about your business. For example, if they were frequent buyers but then suddenly stopped purchasing from you, you may be able to connect that churn to a certain event or competitor.

The opposite holds true, too. If a customer has been faithfully buying from you for months or years, they may be a great candidate for your brand ambassador program, influencer marketing, or customer loyalty program.

Consumer insights

Website analytics

Website session data may reveal opportunities for improvement in the customer experience. Things like session duration, exit rates, point of exit, referral sources, organic keywords, and number of pages viewed per session can all reveal more about the consumer experience.

If you're running marketing campaigns, you can also look at campaign data to see which sources are driving website traffic and conversions. Knowing where your leads and sales are coming from can help you better allocate resources to improve your results.

Social media data

Social media can provide a wealth of information about your customers. People are more forthcoming on social channels, and they don’t mind sharing their opinions with family or friends.

Even if their comments or posts have nothing to do with your business, you can still glean helpful, actionable insights from monitoring these conversations.

Did you know? Our Meltwater Social Media Monitoring Tool provides you with these insights. Consider taking a look at the top consumer insights tools & companies on the market to choose the best option for your business.

Learn more about your customers’ tangential interests, likes and dislikes, the brands they do business with, how they speak, and other consumer behaviors. This helps you to tailor your messaging and make deeper connections with your target audience.

Consumer sentiment

The value of learning how customers feel about your brand, a competitor, or a product or event cannot be overstated. It helps you know where you stand with your audience and where you may need to make improvements to build stronger connections.

What’s more, using AI-driven consumer sentiment tools (such as natural language processing) helps you learn more about the context behind the words. It’s not just about seeing what people are talking about, but also how they’re talking about those topics.

Tip: Learn more about The What, Why And How of Sentiment Analysis

Customer service data

Your customer service team is on the front lines of communication every day.

They can be a great resource for learning more about the customer experience and providing helpful feedback on what a brand does well and how it can improve.

Competitor data

Just as people are talking about your brand online, they’re also discussing your competitors.

Using competitor data (e.g. via performing a competitor analysis) can help you to create your own benchmarks for consumer insights research and learn how to position yourself to stand out.

What Are the Benefits of Collecting Consumer Insights?

Informed companies are in a better position to make good decisions at impactful moments. It allows you to avoid falling behind competitors, losing customers, or experiencing negative influences on your business.

The benefits of collecting consumer insights include:

Higher customer lifetime value

Learning how your customers feel about your brand and knowing the products they buy can help you maximize the total customer lifetime value.

Use audience insights to send them reminders to reorder products, offer discounts they’re likely to use, or extend a special offer after a bad experience in order to keep their business.

Customer lifetime view

Tip: The Meltwater platform provides you with consumer insights. Get a free demo today!

Lower customer churn

A customer insight strategy may help companies better predict churn, allowing them to intervene before losing customers.

This might include improving customer service, providing special discounts or offers, or having more one-to-one conversations and communication.

Ability to personalize experiences

Customers are increasingly demanding personalized experiences. Getting inside the minds of your customers allows you to meet their high expectations.

Tip: Learn how AI-driven customer personalization is driving the top line

Improved planning

Shifts in buying trends can happen at any time.

Customer insights can help brands get ahead of the curve and better predict when a new trend might occur.

This allows them to prepare accordingly with right-sized inventory. Avoid underbuying and not being able to serve customers, as well as overbuying and having to mark down inventory to make room for new products.

Expansion into new markets

Research into new markets can be a painstaking process.

Consumer insights can help to accelerate your foray into new territories by learning more about customers, demand, sentiment, and market needs.

More effective marketing

Learning about what makes your customers buy from you can help you improve your marketing.

  • Target specific audience segments with offers that are most likely to resonate with them.
  • Know more about the price customers are willing to pay for certain items.
  • Time your marketing messages to meet customers at the right moment and on the right channel (see the best times to post on social media).

Consumer Insights Use Cases

Brands can apply customer insights basics to a range of use cases. Let’s look at some consumer insights examples to inspire your own strategy.

Consumer insights marketing

Mass messaging still has a place in the world of marketing, but there’s a growing demand for more personalized messages. Consumer insights can make it easier to create personalization at scale. It helps brands learn more about what makes people buy and why they choose certain products over others.

Wayfair 3d

For example, Wayfair introduced 3D augmented reality via its app to let customers see how a piece of furniture would look in their space. The company discovered that half of their customers were placing orders via the app, so it made sense to invest in AR technology to improve the customer experience.

Customer service

Customer service plays a big role in the overall customer experience. You can use insights data to improve your service approach to increase customer satisfaction.

For example, consumer insights data might tell you lots of people have questions about a new promotion you’re running. If you anticipate an influx in calls and emails, you can create a dedicated line or call queue prompt to shorten phone hold times. You might also have dedicated team members responding to those emails or even set up an online FAQ or chatbot on social media to handle those requests.

Customer acquisition

If you’re losing most of your leads at a certain stage of your sales funnel, website analytics data may help you to figure out why.

It might be a broken link on your website or language that isn’t compelling or clear, for example. You can use this data to fix the holes in your funnel to convert more customers.

Customer retention

Tracking customer behaviors, pain points, and trends is key to customer retention.

Meltwater customer Pernod Ricard uses Meltwater to identify rising communities and trends to drive product innovation and continue meeting their customers’ needs.

Content marketing strategy

The content marketing landscape is constantly changing, making it harder for brands to know where and how to allocate resources. Consumer insights can provide more direction on content creation, allowing you to create stronger content that connects with your customers.

Digital media firm Brut. uses Meltwater's AI consumer insights to inform its content strategy. By monitoring social conversations, the firm is better able to understand the impact of its content and make valuable connections with the right consumers.

Case study Brut x Meltwater

Tip: Learn How to Create a Successful Marketing Strategy for 2023

Customer engagement

Engagement isn’t everything, but it does signal to brands that they’re making connections and creating content people care about.

Domino’s Pizza France uses Meltwater's end-to-end consumer insights research to grow its online presence and drive engagement. Using this research helps the brand save time and money by narrowing its focus on content creation its fans want to see.

C-suite approval

Social media is still new territory for some upper management executives. Getting approval for marketing campaigns and expenditures can sometimes prove difficult without numbers and demonstrated marketing ROI.

Vans off the wall campaign

Meltwater helped Vans, a well-known sneaker brand, to perform real-time monitoring, analysis, and reporting to gain a better understanding of its marketing efforts.

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

These insights helped to validate social media marketing initiatives with the C-suite and to evidence ROI.

Personalized marketing

Explosive growth can cause many priorities to fall by the wayside, including the need for personalized experiences.

Meltwater helped W Hotels in Singapore to gain insight into guest feedback and tap into the value of their earned media on social platforms.

W Hotels campaign

Communications agency Fifty Acres partners with non-profits to instill change on a range of topics and issues.

The agency uses Meltwater insights to identify the issues people care about. The platform tracks keywords and trends and makes it easy to connect with organizations, governments, and the media to become a part of the conversations.

Fifty Acres campaign

How to Find Consumer Insights

Part of a consumer insights strategy includes tools and technologies to help you uncover and understand what your customers are thinking and saying. A few key tools come to mind.

Tip: Check out the best consumer insights tools & companies on the market, download our free Buyers Guide: AI Enabled Consumer Insights Platforms, and take a look at some Consumer Insights Example Reports.

First, there’s Microsoft Dynamics 365. A go-to-market tool, Dynamics 365 is an enterprise resource planning system focused on business intelligence. Brands can use it to collect consumer data, including behaviors, purchases, and other helpful observations.

Another valuable tool is your existing CRM. You can mine your CRM data to learn more about customer behaviors, lead sources, buying patterns, lifetime values, and other details.

And of course, there’s Meltwater's consumer insights tool. Our AI-powered platform monitors billions of online and offline conversations in real time. We deliver data that matters to you, helping you to tune out the rest. By understanding certain actions and observations, brands can get more context behind the data and make sense of what it means and what they should do next.

Market Research vs. Consumer Insights: Why Brands Need Both

When brands are launching new products, entering new markets, or making decisions that will impact their customers, they need both a bird’s eye view and a “street view” of the territory. A high-level view serves as a starting point by providing general information about a specific challenge. But brands need a detailed view to understand the intricacies of the challenge, too. These details create a clearer picture of the “why” behind the “what” and can help companies make more informed decisions.

However, it’s important to point out that while consumer insights may support what you discover in market research, sometimes the results represent two switches of the same light. Consumer insights may offer a starkly different version of the story compared to market data. That’s because the data comes from two different types of sources. With market research, brands are looking at general industry data from news media and similar sources—not the consumer’s voice. 

Using our kitchen company as an example, we might learn from the media that the cost of groceries is increasing and consumers are eating out more. But in reality, consumers might be cooking just as much and reducing their grocery bills by cooking with fewer ingredients. This helps to save money and reduce complexity in the kitchen. This difference could be significant, and we may only discover it if we compare consumer insights against the market research data.

Taking time to conduct market research and gain consumer insights can help companies minimize the guesswork involved in a decision. Avoid spending money developing a product or service that your target audience won’t buy. Reduce the chance that a poor product fit might damage your brand image and reputation. And most importantly, balance information (market data) with personal feelings (insights) to create the right messaging that connects with your target audience.

Choosing AI-Powered Consumer Insights with Meltwater

Conducting any type of market research or consumer insights project is a sizable undertaking. Of the two, market research is often the easier to manage because it asks simple, direct questions that receive simple, direct answers. Brands can’t say the same for consumer insights, however. 

The emotional aspect of consumer insights creates a number of nuances that brands must consider when using this data to make decisions. Word choices and tones can be interpreted in different ways. Brands need to consider not only what customers are saying, but also how, when, where, and why they’re saying it. Context is everything in consumer insights, which is why more brands are turning to AI-powered consumer insights for greater clarity. 

AI-powered consumer insights use algorithms to comb digital data in real time and turn data points into usable and actionable intelligence. Instead of sifting through conversations on social media, tallying keywords and mentions by hand, and trying to understand the why behind a consumer’s opinion, AI-powered algorithms scan countless data points to pick out impactful insights relevant to your brand. It’s a time-saver, sure, but more importantly, its scalability and reliability can help brands move forward faster with confidence.

Meltwater's Radarly uses AI to improve a brand’s social intelligence, both from a macro level market perspective and a micro level consumer one. Our platform gives you access to real-time feedback from customers so you can make impactful changes to the customer experience. Monitor conversations to measure your brand equity at any given time. Segment your customers and overall audience to support new product ideas. And find new trends in your industry before your competitors. 

Make Meltwater a Part of Your Consumer Insights Strategy!

Having to analyze data and connect the dots between insights is faster and easier with the AI-driven Meltwater customer insight platform. Rich in data analytics and contextual details, Meltwater covers the entire customer journey, from discovery to purchase to post-purchase.

Learn more when you schedule a demo!