What are consumer insights? Three features of good insights


There are differing definitions of what is an insight. Words that often come up include: deep understanding, truth, discovery, unconscious needs, inspiration, and perspective. These are all big, important words and having them will surely help a business succeed. But let us be more clear about what we mean by consumer insights.

An insight is not just a piece of data or a market research finding.

Insights are crystallised forms of understanding that are based on hard analytical research work conducted in the world of the consumer. This understanding needs to be good; otherwise we'll have a false or random understanding that doesn't get us anywhere. Good insights have at least three key features:

1. Good insights explain the world of the consumer by interpreting research data.

They don't just answer the question of what is happening, but why it is happening in a given context and how it is unfolding. To make interpretations, one needs to apply different kinds of viewpoints, which can be based on experience or a gut feeling. At their best, the viewpoints are analytical and based on the traditions of scientific research and theory.

2. Good insights introduce frictions in the world of consumers.

To find these frictions it is important to take a step back and see the big picture. That means we can't only zoom in on a given situation of choosing or using a product or service. We are never just customers or users, but people with various roles which we take on at specific times, with specific people and in different places.  We are mothers, professionals, avid readers, joggers, and lovers.

Our identities consist of a combination of these roles. Our identities are stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves and to others. The changing contexts of our different roles create frictions, which can be uncovered; here lies the most fertile ground for building meaningful insights. Frictions are also inherent in the contradictions between our different stories and in the intersections of our stories and those of others.

3. Good insights are relevant for the business challenge at hand.

Good insights provide a productive direction for creative work. This is where the frictions consumers face are translated into valuable opportunities for businesses and finally useful products or services for consumers. We need to have a way of re-framing or resolving these friction points thereby mitigating emotional distress, solving a concrete problem, or just helping people see the friction in a new light. Productive insights need to improve and support the processes for which they are crafted. If the task at hand is to design a new service concept, the value of the insight is measured by how good a concept it helps produce. This is in contrast to traditional research findings, which are judged by how accurate a description of reality they provide.

The most successful companies know what people want before they know it themselves. This means that great business decisions are based on understanding people better than they understand themselves. It doesn't matter how much research you have done or how much you know. What matters is that you have the right insight that can translate into successful planning, design, and execution in the marketplace.