The Disadvantages of Only Using Big Data to Discover Consumer Insights.

There’s been a lot of talk around big data and how companies are using analytics to understand their customer buying patterns, but there’s a lot you miss by only looking at the numbers to discover your much needed consumer insights.

It seems like you hardly go a day without reading a news article about how companies are leveraging big data. Big data is often considered the key to consumer insights. Whether it’s for good, or borders on invasive, our appetite for data is insatiable. Even small businesses now have tons of information at their fingertips because it’s free, abundant, and oftentimes being collected by proxy of some of the other systems already in place to do business online. If you have a website, you can track clicks. If you have a blog, you can see who’s reading it. If you have an online store, you can get customer data from the people who bought your product. And that’s just the beginning.

There is definitely power in knowing the stats on your consumers. Data analysis can help you understand patterns and may help you to discover market trends and customer preferences. The thing is, if you’re only looking at the numbers, you may be missing the biggest pieces of the consumer insights puzzle — ones that could help you innovate, make better business decisions and develop products that really resonate.

It’s not just about getting your products in front of the right consumer, in the right place, at the right time. To truly leverage consumer insight you have to go deeper. It’s about creating products, services, and experiences that move the emotional needle. And to be able to do that, you need to mine more than what big data can give you. We recommend pairing big data’s quantitative research power with the more human-centered side of qualitative research.

Pairing analytics with qualitative research can help you in 4 major ways:

1. Use Consumer Insights to uncover emotional “whys” behind customer decisions.

Most buying decisions are not rational, they’re emotional. So, when you think about what will compel consumers to choose your product or brand over another, big data alone will not give you the customer insight that leads to a purchase. In the Harvard Business Review article “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” researchers were able to assemble 300 emotional motivators that drive consumer behavior, from “standing out from the crowd,” to “enjoying a sense of well-being.” Data can’t really tell you anything about these emotions, but qualitative research can.

Qualitative research can augment quantitative research, helping to fill in some of the gaps surrounding your company’s understanding of the larger story of your customer’s experience with your brand, uncovering the emotions behind why a consumer chooses your brand or your product — emotional connections you can then pursue to create greater value for the customer. Together, qualitative and quantitative data can thus become a more powerful combination of how to improve or even reinvent your products and customer experience.

2. Discover the context in which decisions are made.

Like emotional motivators, context also influences decisions. Things like a person’s environment or behavioral triggers can give deeper consumer insight into their path to purchase. For example, if your customer is shopping online, where are they doing it from? At home? Ok…what kind of things might be influencing them, depending on the time of day and who they’re with? Maybe their pet has walked into the room carrying something dirty from the yard, and they need something to clean their floors immediately. Or, maybe they’re just thinking ahead to the next weekend closet-cleanout? You’ll never really understand the context in which someone entered into your purchase funnel without the color and depth of qualitative research.

3. Better understand – or at least account for – irrational behavior.

Because purchase decisions are mostly emotional rather than rational, it also involves a lot of irrational behavior. Psychologists, economists, even epidemiologists have studied this, trying to make sense of human behaviors and why, for instance, some people will run toward a fire rather than away from it, damn the potential consequences.

By looking deeper into consumer behaviors using qualitative research, you can gain insight into perceived anomalies, but moreover, the factors that lead people to act in ways counterintuitive to what data might show. In the chaos, consumer insights might provide new, predictable patterns of behavior that would have otherwise been missed opportunities.

4. Avoid big data bias and seeing segments as absolutes.

One might assume that data and analytics are always objective, but that’s not necessarily the case. In terms of the big data that’s used for developing consumer insight, bias comes into play when we use data to select a target market segment to focus on. What happens is that some people may or may not look like great customer prospects according to their data — they don’t have all of the same lifestyle factors or characteristics that align with the chosen target market — but in reality, those people may indeed be great prospects for you if you look below the surface to understand why their data looks a certain way. Rather than looking at people in a vacuum, qualitative research creates space for compounding factors and external influences that can help better define the target consumer, and broaden the scope of understanding of who might be profitable prospects for your brand.

market insight definition begins with human understanding

At THRIVE, we take big data findings and deepen them through qualitative research to make your stats and analytics actionable for your teams. Why? Because when you harness the power of both big data and qualitative insight, you can create products that people will connect with emotionally and will better serve the needs of your customers — then you’ll be better poised to take your business into the future with confidence.

Contact us today to talk about your data and how our design research expertise can help uncover deeper consumer insights that lead to new value and growth.

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