Marketing to a dynamic, ever-connected marketplace requires a combination of agility and precision to be relevant and engage your audience. Your customer base is inundated with information at all hours of the day and night, growing immune to messages that fail to rise above the background noise and differentiate from the mundane chorus of life in the digital age.
Immediate, evolving insight into a consumer’s psyche is the best tool a brand has at its disposal to create differentiated messaging, get noticed, and progress the audience down the path to purchase. Of course, short of handling the entire scope of a targeted, well-informed campaign in-house -- not an easy feat given the complexity of digital marketing -- brands are reliant on their consumer insights agency to provide that view into the consumer’s psyche for a critical sense of direction.
It is crucial that an organization collaborates with an agency possessing sufficient expertise and experience to afford their campaigns insights into consumer behavior and the technology to transform those insights into quantitative data and effective action. As innovators in consumer insight and the critical role transformative technologies like AI play in a marketer’s toolkit, Oculus360 (O360) has assembled six questions to ask your current or prospective consumer insights agency.
Collectively, these questions can help you make certain an agency has the processes, technology, and skill set in place to give your message the personalized precision it needs to find and engage each target consumer segment. Anything short of expertise tailored to your specific needs, goals, and expectations is doing your message and organization a disservice.
1. What Is Your Approach for Collecting and Identifying Relevant Consumer Insights?
A well-organized, meticulous strategy is the foundation for effective marketing that defines consumer segments and the best course of action to reach them. Ask your existing or prospective agency what their approach for collecting and identifying relevant consumer insights entails and how that aligns with the underlying strategy.
Remember, the agency works for you, so don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about their methods. Not all data is created equal, so the different reservoirs of information they mine -- along with the criteria and technologies they use to analyze and process that data -- could very well determine how successful they are for your brand and campaigns.
With social media and company websites being the top two sources of influence for shoppers before making a purchase -- with 37% and 34%, respectively, of all shoppers using those channels for purchase inspiration -- there is a treasure trove of invaluable consumer sentiment data that can better inform product design and launch, competitive placement, and overall marketing strategies, if properly leveraged. A consumer insights agency should be providing these data points to your brand.
2. Does Your Approach Include Sources of Unaided, Unsolicited Consumer Perceptions?
If one thing is for absolute certain, marketers aren’t lacking for data. In fact, the challenge of dealing with the voluminous amounts of consumer-based data littered across the digital environment is what makes effectively identifying and analyzing useful data -- as opposed to the mountains of information void of any discernible import -- so essential in better informing a marketing strategy.
To that point, your consumer insights agency needs the ability to distinguish between generic data points and those that can genuinely inform a message. Unaided, unsolicited consumer perceptions are amongst the most beneficial sources of data, never skewed by leading questions or incentivized motivations but, instead, pure and unfiltered wellsprings of brand and product perceptions from the very consumer segments you are pursuing.
For instance, particular social media channels and collections of social influence like product reviews can provide immediate feedback that is unprompted and spontaneous. Such feedback gives your brand unadulterated insights that are difficult, if not impossible, to gather anywhere else, especially through traditional means like consumer surveys and polls. If a consumer insights agency isn’t using these types of thorough and authentic data sources, your campaign likely isn’t as informed as it should be.
3. What Innovative Technologies Do You Use to Increase the Volume of Consumer Feedback and the Quality of Insights?
As an extension of the previous question, finding useful data is the key to creating an engaging campaign that speaks to specific consumer segment affinities. Given the extreme amount of information available in this big data-driven world, innovative technologies that can extract the often nuanced data nearly impossible to gather otherwise should be indispensable to every consumer insights agency.
AI and machine learning are related technologies that are particularly powerful in quickly sifting through the vast digital world to identify consumer trends that have both a current and future impact on your brand. At O360, for instance, our platform uses AI to find the insightful needles in the information haystack that reveal information on consumer perceptions from an unfettered and honest perspective.
If your agency isn’t using such innovative approaches for your campaigns, there’s an excellent chance your competitors are, placing you at a distinct disadvantage in a marketplace that affords little room for error. Over half of consumers have switched brands they were previously loyal to in the past year, a clear indication of how little hold you actually have on your customers. Consumer insights driven by AI and other technologies provide you the much-needed data points to identify, analyze, and address the factors creating customer attrition.
4. Do Your Consumer Insight Reports Include Perceptions of My Company and Products Relative to My Competitors and the Industry as a Whole?
Speaking of your competition, your brand doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It exists in a complex eco-system of competitors all battling for the same fickle and fussy consumer segments as you. Therefore, while a micro perspective will always be the foundation of a successful business, it is also crucial to maintain a macro view to gauge brand and product performance within a marketplace context.
That critical context of your brand, the competition, and the overall landscape go far beyond social listening and online reviews to create a more comprehensive, holistic view of your place within the industry and marketplace. Your agency should be generating and analyzing consumer insight reports to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relative to both continually shifting demand as well as a dynamic field of competitors. How rival companies act and react to market dynamics has a direct, tangible effect on your brand, and vice versa. Consumer insight reports are an indispensable tool in gaining and maintaining that needed perspective.
5. How Do You Consistently Track Changes in Consumer Perceptions and Sentiment Over Time?
An evolving consumer base yields ever-changing data. Therefore, strategies have a shelf life and can quickly lose their efficacy if they don’t evolve in lockstep -- or ideally ahead of -- shifts in consumer segments and preferences. Like it or not, customers come and go, falling off the proverbial radar for stretches of time before reappearing or, other times, disappearing forever. While it may be easy to chalk those dynamics up to a hypercompetitive marketplace, understanding the forces driving them is vital in developing brand and product loyalty in the future.
Consumer insight agencies must understand that consumer behavior and its accompanying data are both fluid, changing with the market tides. Using technology -- particularly AI to identify the pertinent data and analyze it for trends -- is essential to track changes in consumer perceptions and sentiment over time. Even the most successful, trusted brands must keep an eye on the horizon, paying close attention to those consumer trends and shifts in sentiment that could pose significant challenges in the future if strategies aren’t refined to make necessary changes.
Fostering trust in your brand is especially important in this age of increasing scrutiny on privacy, where simply being honest and communicative with a consumer base can increase revenues by as much as 38%. These types of data points can be incredibly valuable in tailoring a message and brand perception, and they are publically available in places like ecommerce reviews and social media -- two of many channels a consumer insights agency must be adept at mining while staying compliant with data privacy regulation.
6. Can You Show Me an Example of an Engagement That Delivered Significant ROI For a Client With Similar Goals to Mine?
As many greats minds have stated, history repeats itself. There is simply too much at stake for you to trust your campaign to a consumer insights agency that lacks a solid history of not only providing demonstrable results but, perhaps most importantly, positive results for clients with similar needs and goals to yours.
To reiterate, the agency works for you as a collaborator, so you have every right to request examples of prior engagements that delivered the ROI you expect from your collaboration. The traditional divide that has separated brands and agencies in the past is now an antiquated notion that impedes positive results. Your relationship with an agency should be transparent, communicative, and open. In other words, the agency should have no issues presenting you with the examples you request. If they refuse, it’s likely a harbinger of a rocky relationship if you opt to work with them.
Successful brands rely on marketing strategies that are nimble, able to flex and shift in any needed direction according to trends in the marketplace and brand perceptions. Those essential abilities depend on harnessing volumes of available data to reveal subtleties in consumer sentiment and changing tides in the overall marketplace.
Just as O360 provides clients with an innovative, illuminating software platform that transforms social influence into concise, actionable insight, your consumer insight agency must leverage digital technology to its fullest in order to properly guide your message through complex waters. Competition is too fierce and consumers too demanding to settle for anything less.