Customer Inside 3.0

What a Dynamic Time to be Working in Insights

Fiona Gallagher, Head of Insights, EMEA, Akzonobel

In this excerpt from Customer Inside, the buyer’s guide to online insight communities, Fiona Gallagher Hall, Head of Insights EMEA at Akzonobel, explains why it is such an exciting and dynamic time to be working in insights – and gives us her predictions for the future.

From political tensions, socioeconomic uncertainty and global distribution challenges through to the explosion of competition, new channels and the pandemic, it cannot be taken for granted that what’s normal one day will remain normal the next. In this context, customer expectations move faster than many brands and businesses can keep up with. This is particularly true inside larger multinationals, whose systems and processes can lag behind customer expectation.

We are also seeing an explosion of new technology — and the data that these new technologies produce. Thirty years ago, the idea of uploading a photo to the internet was unheard of. Last year, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created on average every day. Ninety percent of the world’s data has been produced in the past 24 months. Google processes over 8.5 billion search requests per day. In North America, Amazon ships around 1.6 million packages every 24 hours, and there are 1.6 billion swipes on Tinder — and all of this only scratches the surface of what’s happening online.

Along with broader cultural shifts, the amount of data we have access to as insights professionals and marketers has exploded exponentially; it’s never been more accessible and simultaneously never been more overwhelming. The data lakes where this kind of information is captured and stored, and the algorithms that search and scan for opportunity, have democratized the “customer” across many organizations — speeding up tactical decision-making and, in the process (perhaps unintentionally), reducing the reach and in some instances the role of the insights function. In this context, we should ask, “What’s Next for Insights?” What are the risks, and where are the white space opportunities?

Twenty years ago, shareholder management was the key to business success — but today the role of a broader set of constituent stakeholders is more prevalent in the commercial landscape. Companies can no longer place the customer at the end of a supply and operations chain.

This is a huge shift. Many businesses talk about a desire to be customer-centric, but few have been able to achieve results. Humans are complex, relationships are difficult. And business transformation takes time. But just because change is hard does not mean it is not necessary. The companies unable to build genuinely equitable relationships with their customers and the communities they serve (including, of course, employees) will fail fast.

So, in a world where change is constant, data is everywhere, and customer-centric relationships have never been more important, what is the role of the insights department — and how can online market research communities help unlock success?

71%

of insights professionals use some kind of community (GRIT Report 2021)

33%

Online communities are the third-most-used medium for both qualitative and quantitative research (GRIT Report 2021)

90%

of practitioners said communities met their expectations (Customer Inside 2021)

Along with broader cultural shifts, the amount of data we have access to as insights professionals and marketers has exploded exponentially; it’s never been more accessible and simultaneously never been more overwhelming.

More than ever, we need to be connected to our customers — and our competitors’ customers too. We need to understand, investigate and interrogate the “why” that sits behind the “what”: the reasons our data tells us specific stories and uncovers certain trends. This is where our online communities become vital. Every day, we have the spaces and the skills to invest in building meaningful, reciprocal relationships based on trust and commitment. The conversations we have and the questions we ask help us become more relevant — and in turn help drive better ideas, surface more meaningful insights and unlock loyalty and advocacy.

Understanding the “what” helps us achieve incremental gains. Engaging with the “why” sets us up for success both Now and Next. When we combine the depth of our qualitative research from our online community with the quantitative data collated from other sources, it allows us to be more strategic and more actionable — ultimately meaning that our insights department has more impact overall, across every aspect of our organization.

Of course, having the community at hand has significant advantages, from agility — we can answer some questions in less than 24 hours — to cost efficiencies, to having a detailed relationship with a supplier who understands our business and our needs. By investing in relationships, with the members in our communities and the agency teams that staff them, we can work faster and more effectively — engaging with deeper human truths, creating greater impact for our internal stakeholders, and getting to more profound, more actionable answers. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this through multiple, ad hoc, one-off relationships. 

When we combine the depth of our qualitative research from our online community with the quantitative data collated from other sources, it allows us to be more strategic and more actionable — ultimately meaning that our insights department has more impact overall, across every aspect of our organization.

Ultimately, this means that our insights function is more strategic, within and across our business. Where a few years ago, we might have been reporting on the benefits of Option A over B, we’re now more fully integrated into the long-term growth strategies, placing the customer at the heart of everything we do. Online communities are allowing our insights function — and indeed, our whole business to be more relevant… and more essential, too. 

Online communities aren’t the only solution — but we have found them to be a Trojan horse in getting to deeper impact across our business.

What’s next? The MROC category is moving fast — and consumer behavior is keeping pace. With advances in technology and greater data integration, the sky is the limit for insights. We’re pleased to have been invited to contribute to this extensive Customer Inside practitioners guide and can’t wait to see how the space evolves. 

Revised and Updated for 2022

Customer Inside

A buyer’s guide to online insight communities and how to make the most of them

The online community category is still young and its constantly disrupting itself. Unprecedented growth leads to an explosion of new terminology and technologies – innovative tools and emerging methodologies appear almost every day. Whether you’re an experienced user, or a newcomer, navigating the current context can prove challenging. What technology? What method? What audience? What types of research? 

With this in mind, we’ve updated Customer Inside, our practitioners guide to online communities.

This report was informed by three separate pieces of original research:

  1. 85x interviews with senior insight leaders from different sectors, around the world – conducted over the course of five years.
  2. 2x global surveys, collecting the views and perspectives of more than 200x insight practitioners and their experiences of using online communities, every day.
  3. Regular Client Connection co-creation workshops, with over 75x client practitioners.