What are your customers’ primary preferences when purchasing home improvement products? How do their lifestyles vary? What messaging do they find most compelling? How can you potentially target a new market as you expand product lines or pivot brand audiences?
These are the sorts of questions you want to answer to improve your products and ensure they are actually aligned with your target audience’s array of needs, desires, lifestyles and opinions and that potential customers know from your messaging that your product is the exact solution for them.
To help you gain valuable customer insights and influence decision-making at your home improvement company, you’ll want to put together a team to lead this research internally, that is empowered to leverage outside resources to deliver the most impactful insights and analysis to your company’s cross-functional teams.
Building customer insights (CI) is about transforming data into better strategies for your business. You can use customer insights to improve your operations, enhance your marketing effectiveness, and enable the future growth of your market share.
Customer insights are a collection of both quantitative and qualitative data, including point-of-sale data, digital customer behavior analytics, channel information, and customer purchase behaviors, that help you to better understand your audience and current market trends.
Investing in market research to gather insights minimizes the guesswork involved in decision-making for your company. Rather than investing in various business strategies based on assumptions, you can use quantifiable public, secondary, and primary data, tailoring your services and products — as well as how you market them — to how your customers genuinely think, feel and behave when it comes to purchasing decisions. It’s not just about what your customers are buying, but also why, when and how.
Additionally, collecting robust customer insights allows you to keep ahead of industry trends, stay competitive, improve collaboration, and more effectively tell stories that bring awareness to your home improvement brand and connect people to it in a meaningful way.
There are different ways to gather this data, such as contracting with a third-party market research firm or relying on census data and secondary sources for general insights into industry trends. Many companies also put together an internal customer insights team to lead this process and help collect, analyze and apply the data.
There are no hard and fast rules about how many people to include on your insights team or how they should operate within your organization. Different companies may take different approaches, based on their capacity, needs, and research objectives.
However, there are certain things you can do when building or leading an internal customer insights team to set them up for success.
As your home improvement company focuses on being customer-centric, here is how you can put together a successful consumer insight group to lead these efforts:
The first step in developing a customer insight strategy is to determine what you hope to accomplish.
Setting relevant research goals will give your team a vision and direction, and it will also help you gauge their success and make adjustments if needed. You also need to decide what, if any, power your insights team has.
For example, what company decisions will they get to make, or at least influence? How will their contributions be used? It’s important to give your team some level of authority to make their work more effective and drive the research they are fielding versus analysis they are conducting based on Census data and data already available via industry-specific memberships.
The key to managing a successful, cross-functional customer insights team is having the right people involved. If your company has the capacity, it’s beneficial to pull in individuals with experiences that lend better to the pain points and needs of different departments, so you will be viewing the process to distribute insights and field internal studies better, through a variety of stakeholder perspectives.
For example, your digital marketing team’s way of engaging with customers and collecting data is distinct from that of your sales team or your product development team. Assembling people with an array of technical skills pulls the internal knowledge out of isolation and brings it together so it has more impact.
It’s also important to choose people for your customer insights team who are adept at understanding data and advocating for customers, as well as those who are trusted among their peers to understand information necessary to make companywide decisions.
To build insight, you also need the right tools, communication platforms, and external resources. Different professionals within your organization are probably already collecting some type of customer analytics using various methods. One task for your CI team is to simply pull that data together and synthesize it.
Set up clear lines of communications, so that other people within the company know how to be in touch with the insights team and how to access research they’re conducting. Additionally, give the team the right customer insight tools and platforms to complete their tasks, which means collecting, synthesizing and analyzing data from numerous sources.
You can also better leverage the research completed by your internal CI team by supporting it with research conducted by outside sources. For example, the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) publishes home improvement market, channel, project & product related research that is fully accessible to all individuals employed by member companies.
If you’re already a HIRI member, make sure to include a process in new team member onboarding where the new team member is given access to their HIRI portal and can schedule a demo to understand how to get the most out of the company’s HIRI membership.
To empower your internal insights team to be more effective, make sure they have access to resources such as this, from which they can gather additional data. They may also want the ability to collaborate with an external market research firm to get in-depth data on a specific topic that they do not have bandwidth for.
Finally, customer research and insights are valuable only if you use them and if cross-functional teams have access to use the information effectively for decision making.
Leverage the knowledge your team has collected and integrate their work into the day-to-day operations and long-term strategies of the various departments of your company.
Set up processes and procedures for how the team will interact with the rest of the company, how they share their research, and how the data is applied in real time to impact decision-making.
Give your internal customer insights teams a leg up by becoming a member of HIRI, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to home improvement research.
You’ll have access to data about channel and combine it with your own data and insights to make the best decisions for your business.
Sign up for the HIRI newsletter to stay informed about the research we’re conducting, home improvement industry trends, and information on our upcoming Home Improvement Insights Summit.