‘Insight’ surely a leading candidate for the prestigious title of the most overused term of the decade. Everyone seems to have a different view of what it is, but – let’s face it – the word gets applied to almost everything and anything.

So, time for us to weigh in here. To us, shopper insight has to be about finding out something unknown, or even unexpected, that is useful to your business.

Here we suggest the three key steps you need to get from “research” to “insight”:

  • Surprising facts
  • Directional implication
  • Exploitation thinking

First of all, consider the facts – the data. What in the data strikes you, at first sight, to be surprising or unexpected? What facts appear to contradict previous hunches or accepted norms? Does anything jump out? The key here is to make comparisons. Does the % for your brand seem very different to another brand? Is Tesco very different to Asda? Is your category unusual in some respect?

Often, it’s in the comparisons that we see the ‘surprise’ – the springboard to ask meaningful questions.

Once you have some ‘interesting’ facts, the next question to ask yourself is “what does this mean?”, “Why is this happening?”, or even “why does this matter?”. We must push ourselves to select a few data points from the surprising data, that we can see have some directional implication and thus suggest an opportunity.

Finally, we need to get to the final phase of the process – “what could we actually do?”. We have to keep going until we find something that is exploitable by us and our customers. Only if we can point at the possibilities, will any of our audience value what we have just told them. Shopper research, just like anything else in your business, is about working out how to make more profit.

So, to illustrate with a simplistic example: we might identify that our category is far less impulsive than we thought, with 58% of purchases pre-planned in that retailer, whereas a lot of our historic focus has been on displays (which we know achieve sales, so “work”). So, that is an unexpected piece of data.

Now we move on to “Why does this matter?”, and “Why is this happening?”. Displays cost a lot of money, and perhaps we are spending too much money to achieve a purchase that was going to happen anyway (that’s the directional implication). Finally, the exploitation step would be to suggest we should switch more money to market to shoppers at the moment of decision, rather than purchase.

In our experience, the time taken to complete this process is such that 60-70% of the effort is in step 1, 20% is in step 2 and, if you are going well, step 3 should be straightforward at 10% – but, crucially, is often missed. It is remarkable how often research stops at step 1 – and that is what limits its perceived ROI. When conducted properly and effectively, shopper insight can be an indispensable tool.

For more information on our Shopper Insight program, head to https://www.shopperintelligence.com/