Customer Insights Team and Strategy

How to Build a Successful Customer Insights Team

Feb 17, 2023

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.

What is the Purpose of Customer Insights?

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.

Developing an Effective Internal Customer Insights Team

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:

1. Set Relevant Research Goals for Your Insights Team

The first step in devel­op­ing a cus­tomer insight strat­e­gy is to deter­mine what you hope to accomplish.

  • What are the out­comes you desire by invest­ing in research?
  • What ques­tions are depart­ments send­ing to your cus­tomer insights teams regularly?
  • What sources of infor­ma­tion already exist that could help you bet­ter allo­cate lim­it­ed mar­ket research funds?

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.

2. Hire the Right People for Your Insights Team

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.

3. Establish a Useful Toolkit and Lines of Communication

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.

4. Apply the Data Collected by Your Insights Team

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. 

Accessing Additional Data to Build Customer Insights

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.

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