In a time when anyone can freely talk about their buyer experiences on social networks and review sites, consumers have more influence than ever before. However, while the power is now squarely in the hands of consumers, businesses have access to the information needed to drive smarter decisions. So, exactly what are consumer insights, why do they matter and how brands can use consumer insights platform to achieve success?

Understanding the needs of your customers has always been important, but thanks to the rise of online media, brands no longer have to stumble around in the dark. Consumer insights go above and beyond conventional market research to provide recommended actions that help brands better understand how their target audiences think and feel.

The power of online communities makes them the obvious venues for gathering feedback and developing an intimate profile of your target customer. While market research delivers raw statistics, insights tell you why things happen as they do. A consumer insights platform can deliver that narrative to help brands improve customer satisfaction, retention and success across every stage of the customer journey from awareness to advocacy.

Customers in a shop

Empower your customers with a community voice

Consumers have always had opinions, but modern media has given them a space to voice them. Social media provides the means to recommend favourite products or warn others about bad experiences. Consumer review sites provide a more trustworthy platform where people regularly carry out research to base their purchase decisions on. Private brand communities offer a space where people can go beyond just sharing their opinions to actually feeling like they’re a part of the brand and have a more direct influence on the actions it takes.

Some brands still consider consumer review sites and communities a threat to their existence. They’re afraid of placing all that power in the hands of consumers, but fear is no way to do business. Today, transparency is what it’s all about, and by actively giving your customers a voice and welcoming their feedback (both good and bad) is key to making their experiences better and developing lasting relationships. A consumer insights platform gives otherwise passive customers the means to leave feedback right at your doorstep. It gives people a voice instead of a feeling that they’re being ignored.

An effective community puts the power in the hands of customers while giving brands a way to demonstrate that customer success is their number-one priority. By contrast, when people leave feedback on mainstream social media and consumer review platforms, they often do so assuming that brand representatives will never read them. Often, they don’t. It’s a different matter with company-owned communities, which are driven by two-way conversation.

data dashboard from the Community Hub

Combine different methods of research to get consumer insights

Whereas traditional market research is all about statistics and knowledge, consumer insights let you combine both qualitative and quantitative research. For example, online discussion boards can turn one piece of feedback into a conversation that allows you to glean insights from a wide variety of different perspectives. Brand representatives can also create polls and surveys to get the conversation started. Competitions can bring some fun into the equation, increasing engagement rates and creating a raft of actionable data in the process. A lot of the time, people will be more than happy to share their thoughts and express unique ideas that you can feed directly into the ongoing development of your brand.

Community insights are broader and, in some ways, more abstract than market research. On one hand, you can quickly gather quantitative research through polls, questionnaires, and competitions. If you make it quick and easy for people to leave feedback in this way, without them having to wade through several pages of tedious forms, you’ll be able to carry out a thorough inspection of your customer base. These methods generate actionable data that you can use to establish a stronger footing in the direction of your brand, but it doesn’t stop there.

While there’s no denying the enormous power of data, it’s important to remember that insights are about more than just numbers and figures. They’re also about stories and relationships. A consumer insights platform can also support idea contests. In the same way ideas compete for funding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, communities can serve as hotbeds of ideation where customers can talk about the next big thing they’d like to see. Add some extra incentives into the mix, such as the spirit of competition or more tangible rewards for participation, and you can take engagement to a whole new level.

Member list and profiles from the Community Hub with customer insights

Build meaningful connections through social interaction

The absolute worst mistake you can make with a consumer insights platform is let the conversation dry up. A community that’s the digital equivalent to a ghost town will only become a liability to your brand, since it will give people the impression you no longer care about their opinions. That’s why it’s better to avoid mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter entirely unless you’re prepared to put the time and effort into them.

Less is more when it comes to building meaningful relationships. A good starting point here is Dunbar’s Number, which is the suggested cognitive limit with which one person can maintain stable relationships. The number averages out at 150, which means you’ll need at least one brand representative, such as a forum moderator or account manager, per each 150 people. That’s a lot easier to achieve with a private community and a consumer insights platform as opposed to the enormous followings many brands have on social media. Remember, it’s not about likes and followers; it’s about people and conversations.

Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to hire a full-time employee every time your audience increases by increments of 150. Again, one of the best ways to build strong connections is to hand the power to your most active members. These are your brand ambassadors, a core group of people who participate in just about every activity and inspire conversation with authority and enthusiasm. One example is Blizzard Entertainment, developers of World of Warcraft. By recognising certain members as ‘most valuable posters’, they have an army of ambassadors who aren’t employees, but loyal customers who serve as spokespeople for the brand. Yet another popular method is to inspire participation and advocacy using gamification tactics such as points, badges and ranks.

data dashboard from the Community Hub

Wrapping it all up into a community insights platform

Far removed from all the noise of mainstream social media or the anonymity of online review sites, a consumer insights platform serves as a one-stop shop for research and development, customer success and support. Your customers will have a place they can call home and be closely involved with the direction of your business, while brand representatives will have the means to build lasting relationships and monitor customer sentiment with member analytics. Beyond relying on traditional methods of market research, consumer insights put you in the shoes of your customers, thereby fostering a brand culture of continuous improvement. It will be hard work, but there’s no better way to future-proof your brand in the Age of the Consumer.

Disciple community management platform helps people build independent, valuable and trusted communities in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your consumer insights platform today with our fully customisable mobile app.