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If there is anything that businesses find hard to pin down as an absolute, immutable reality, it’s consumer behavior. Big Data helps, and so does market research. But beyond facts and figures, statistics and postulations are a deeper amorphous intangible human emotion and what influences it. As such, consumer insights are a significant aspect of getting to know the consumer one caters to. In fact, it could well be the difference between success and failure for a business. 

Making Connections Using Consumer Insights

The seed for this was planted after some consumer insights the brand had received. At puberty, 49 percent of girls are so affected by the fear of failing that they avoid trying new things. While it would have certainly resulted in a spike in their sales, what’s possibly of equal significance is that it resonated on a deeply emotional level with its target audience. That emotional connection with a brand, the ability to get the zeitgeist of the times — maybe even be the brand that brings the change — was possible through some focused consumer insights.

COVID-19 and Consumer Insights

Gaining an insight into what could move a consumer is fast becoming integral to the success and longevity of consumer-goods-centric businesses. This was brought to the forefront during the pandemic. More people began looking at environmentally sustainable options, for instance. Then there was the increase in pet food demand because more people found themselves turning into pet parents. Those that could read the proverbial writing on the wall, would certainly have benefited from such customer insights.

What Customers Want

Consumer insights, therefore, is something that allows brands to gain an in-depth ‘insight’ into consumer behavior. This is done by, first, collecting customer data. It is followed by analyzing and interpreting it and then drawing conclusions that can help with the development of the specific product/service. This holds true across the gamut of products and goods that fall under the consumption umbrella, from food and clothing to homes and appliances. Every segment of consumer goods is better served by gaining in-depth customer insights. 

Given that this activity too is data-centric, customer insights are frequently used synonymously with other data-driven surveys that collect and analyze factual details to enable business development. Customer insights, however, are more nuanced and quite dissimilar. Big Data, for instance, is entirely facts and figures focused; market research looks at a broad-based market, upcoming trends, and competitors to design a development plan. But these methods, while very important, lack comprehensive analysis and understanding of the consumers themselves. 

Data vs Emotions

Consumer insights strive to look at the emotional element of consumer behavior — why they buy what they buy, etc. Knowing this helps create more targeted campaigns that could appeal to customers. That Harvard Business Review identified hundreds of emotional motivators across the consumer journey attests to its considerable heft in making business development decisions.

Advantages to businesses implementing consumer insights

A Microsoft study concluded that businesses that relied on customer insights data outperformed competitors by 85 per cent. While browsing habits, transaction history, and mobile app preferences will certainly provide some amount of insight, that’s just scratching the surface. Comprehensive surveys and research tap into a deeper understanding of the ‘whys’, ‘whats’, and ‘hows’ of consumer behavior. This, in turn, provides a holistic customer insight that will be more helpful to brands. 

The benefits to brands who delve deeper into customer behavior are undeniable:

1: The profit lies in the details

Leveraging this mechanism helps businesses create customer-centric marketing strategies based on details — such as societal and cultural motivators when it comes to consumption —  that could have been overlooked. The move to buying sustainably packaged or manufactured products in recent years, for example.

2: Staying on top of trends

Future-proofing businesses with development plans that are built on the foundation of customer insights by ensuring they are on top of buying trend shifts.

This is how brands get future-ready!

Apart from the obvious benefits to businesses, customer insights are an ever-evolving aspect of data gathering, dependent as they are on something as intangible as customer behavior. There are some broad factors to keep in mind to ensure this:

1: Improve Product Offerings

Any kind of customer insight should be keyed towards providing customers with a great experience, whether it’s a service or product. The information can be used to make changes where required and ensure repeat/loyal customers.

2: Staying the Course

For businesses, staying updated and vigilant about navigating and adapting to this inherent unpredictability is a must. Customer insights simply cannot be a one-time, two-time, or some time strategy. Or something that’s pulled out at the last minute to save a flailing brand. It needs to be embedded into the company’s ethos, as an essential way forward for any business.

3: Customized Marketing

The Buyback and Resell scheme, for instance, allowed customers to sell their old IKEA furniture to the brand, which they would then resell to prevent second-hand pieces from being wasted. It was a great way to combine sustainable action with smart shopping. It also inspires the feeling of giving back among customers.

4: Long-term Planning

It’s never too early to plan. In fact, it’s a necessity in a highly competitive market. Customer insights, with their comprehensive, holistic, and deep-rooted detail-gathering processes, allow brands to do just that. Create a business plan for the future, based on the insights received.

5: Building Loyal Customers

Knowing your customer, more importantly, knowing what they want and why they want it — and endeavoring to give it to them — is a sure-fire way to create and retain a loyal customer base.

Course Correct

For marketers and business development aspirants and executives, gaining information about customer insights, studying its significance for consumer-driven businesses, and understanding its relevance to make future-ready businesses are necessary tools of the trade. And, they can find all this in a comprehensive program with Columbia Business School’s Mastering Consumer Insights.  This Emeritus course is targeted at mid-to senior-level marketing professionals to help understand customer insights and its importance holistically. The course covers everything, from exploring different methods of deriving consumer insights that will help in making better business decisions, to building a customer-centric business model. The modules look upon the psychological and economic aspects of customer behavior. It also looks at both qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

In today’s rapidly changing environment and a highly competitive market, being tuned in to your customer’s needs is a necessity. After all, a satisfied customer is the one who keeps coming back.

By Gauri Kelkar

For feedback or collaboration, write to us at [email protected]

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How To Recruit Top Talent In A Competitive Labor Market

Focus on what employees value

Industry-leading companies will always be able to outbid for employees who are focused primarily on total compensation, so startups and smaller enterprises shouldn’t plan on winning bidding wars. However, smaller and more nimble companies can offer something that can be more difficult for their larger competitors to provide: flexibility.

As you consider the perks you use to lure potential employees, look for low- or no-cost benefits that employees may value highly. Employees who have grown accustomed to working from home may want to maintain that arrangement. Parents may want to take personal time in half days to attend school events without expending an entire day. Staff may want to work on cross-departmental projects to learn and grow or have a guaranteed opportunity to meet directly with company leadership to express their ideas and concerns. Employees who are thinking about retirement may want to know that their benefits package is managed by one of the expert provider firms.

In discussions with applicants, stress that you see the hiring process as a conversation rather than an offer to be accepted or declined, and encourage them to think creatively about and ask for what truly matters to them. You may not be able to give them everything they want, but at a minimum, it may remind them that working for a more entrepreneurial company can mean more flexibility and a greater focus on their needs. 

Look inward

Oftentimes, employers look outward when hiring when they could be looking at their existing talent pool instead. Your business may have junior employees who are well suited for development and promotion.

Though the stereotype is that Gen Z and young millennials jump from job to job, Ryan Jenkins, co-author of Connectable: How Leaders Can Move Teams From Isolated to All In (McGraw Hill, 2023) and founder of chúng tôi said that doesn’t need to be the case. 

“When it comes to attracting, retaining and engaging young workers, the answer is connection,” he said. “Employers have to create environments, whether in-person or remote, where workers feel seen, heard and valued. When you do that, job performance improves by 56 percent.” 

In the right environment, young employees can even become assets for recruitment. “Workers are 167% more likely to recommend their employer when they feel connected to their colleagues,” Jenkins said.

Focusing on improving employee retention rates, not just among junior employees, can be a smart strategy. A Work Institute study found that three-quarters of employee turnover is due to preventable causes and that the No. 1 reason employees leave is for career development. With this in mind, give your highest achievers, and indeed all employees you want to stick around, opportunities to sharpen their skills and move up the ladder.

When an employee asks for a raise or a new title, remember that saying “no” may necessitate replacing them, thereby creating new costs that far exceed the request. However, Jenkins stressed that money is not the only factor in keeping employees happy; it can be just as important to create and maintain the kind of culture that makes employees want to stay. “When individuals have a strong sense of belonging and connection at work, they have 313% less intent to quit,” Jenkins said.


You can track your employees’ performance and determine who might be ready for a promotion by using one of the best HR software platforms, many of which include career development tools to help coach your employees.

Another way to keep employees satisfied is to ensure that human resources functions, including payroll and benefits administration, are efficient and reliable. Working with a top-tier professional employer organization can be a cost-effective way for smaller companies to handle these tasks. When employees do leave, find out why by conducting an exit interview.

Hiring is hard, but it’s not impossible

Talented employees are the lifeblood of a successful company. With smart recruiting, hiring and compensation strategies, many of which are free or low-cost, you can separate your company from the pack and attract top talent.

Google’s New Ad Insights Feature & 7 Tips For Competitive Ad Research

For paid search, this has historically been especially time-consuming.

It has been necessary to use third-party tools – like Semrush, SpyFu, or Google’s Ad Preview tool, which all tend to rely on sample data and often do not yield comprehensive examples.

Well, with Google’s latest features, those days are over.

It’s time to get excited about doing competitive ad text research directly within Google Ads.

Where To Find The New Google Ads Research Feature

Just follow these three steps:

Hover over the hamburger icon next to a paid search ad.

Especially when in a hurry or needing to override the algorithmic ad display customization for your profile, ad format filtering is an excellent way to get just the results you need.

7 Steps To Analyze Paid Search Ad Copy

Whether you’re looking at text-only or non-text copy, follow these steps to create a systematic analysis approach.

This will help you organize insights, detect trends more easily, and create a structure that lends itself to iterative analysis over time.

1. Call To Action

Arguably the most important part of the ad, the call to action (CTA) is what will drive the user to convert.

Take note of any incentives or offers, urgency messaging (e.g., today, now, limited time), the location, and possible repetition of the CTA within the ad.

Sophisticated ad copy should mention the CTA more than once. The first mention may include urgency messaging, with other mentions elaborating to include incentives.

If the product or service is not sold online, as a best practice, the CTA  should include the means to buy it, which typically involves calling or visiting a physical store.

2. Product Or Service Name

This is especially key when the product or service is new, technical in nature, has a colloquial equivalent that is sufficiently different from the official brand name, or if the business encompasses multiple aspects.

For example, a printer manufacturer may find it valuable to analyze shortened product names that do not include the full technical specifications.

Similarly, many travel service businesses have lengthy names to reflect all their services, but it is not always necessary to include them in full (e.g., Melia Caribe Beach All-Inclusive Resort Punta Cana).

3. Product Or Service Features

Take note of what those are and what qualifying descriptions or visualizations are used.

4. Benefits

While features help describe the use case for a product or service, it is the benefits that will convince a user to engage.

Take note of what solution-oriented language or imagery is leveraged, if any sources are cited to back up claims, and if the described benefits are short- and/or long-term.

Sometimes, multiple levels of benefits may need mentioning, when the consumer is not the ultimate (or only) beneficiary.

For situations akin to gifting, purchasing insurance, education, or caregiver services, marketers often forget that one should address the needs of both the purchaser (e.g., the person buying a gift, who may be cost-conscious) and the recipient (e.g., who might be more concerned with a flexible return policy).

5. Branding

Brand inclusion is another key element to test.

Consider everything from spelling to the presence of trademark symbols, placement in headlines and/or body of the text, logo size, when your brand is mentioned within the ad, and where opportunities exist to include your brand name.

However, be sure not to rely on just the URL.

Alas, that URL is too often lost in the clutter of the other ad elements.

6. Tone

This last element is perhaps the hardest to pin down.

A more informative, casual tone would suggest targeting a user earlier in their online research journey.

By contrast, an ad that has more direct language is likely aimed at a user in a transactional frame of mind.

7. Length

Ads that convey the most compelling story or engage users in the most proactive ways often have the highest likelihood of success.

On the flip side, just because an ad has the option to include a lot of text or include a video of a certain length, it is not always the best-performing approach. Oftentimes, less is more.


The tendency is often to mirror what others are doing. However, that can lead to all players having similar messaging. This only makes it harder for users to differentiate the available options.

While it is worth borrowing ideas from your competitors, resist the urge to copy a perceived market leader. Rather, gather insights from multiple players and then systematically test specific elements.

Standing apart from others will often yield the best results.

Systematically tracking the tested elements will position you well to develop a test results calendar.

Unfortunately, in the long run, there is rarely a single best-performing ad. With the ever-shifting competitive landscape, one has to constantly iterate.

If you detect a trend reversal, you will be already armed with past research on what has worked well before in these circumstances,  ready to anticipate your competitor’s moves, and prepared to respond.

More resources: 

Featured Image: eamesBot/Shutterstock

China Is Now The World’s Largest Android Smartphone Market

Just how important is China to the top two smartphone platforms: Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS? The Asian nation is now the largest single market for Android, with the United States a distant second. What’s more, half of the smartphones sold in America next year could be Android-powered unless Apple “makes radical changes to its aging iOS”, one research firm warns Tuesday.

China is rushing to turn in their feature phones for more powerful smartphones, according to Informa Telecoms & Media. Smartphones grew at an 85 percent clip compared to 2011. That’s nearly double the 45 percent year-over-year growth worldwide. Just in 2012 alone, an astounding 786 million smartphones were sold in the 1.33 billion people market…

The rapid growth of smartphones in China is nearly all fueled by Android handsets. A 50 percent penetration of sales during the first half of 2012 will reach 75 percent by year’s end, the researchers estimate.

Apple’s current five percent share of the country’s smartphone market could actually fall in 2013 if the iPhone maker “does not manage to create a TD-LTE variant”.

TD-LTE, or Time-Division Long-Term Evolution, is a radio technology used by China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier with whom Apple has yet to cut an iPhone distribution agreement.

Meanwhile, Microsoft could see its share of China’s smartphone sales double from one to two percent in 2013, thanks to Nokia’s partnership with China Mobile.

While the forecast appears bleak for Apple in China, today’s report does not factor in a number of unknowns which could help Apple compete in a market largely driven by low prices.

Among the unknowns:

the impact of Apple’s record-breaking sales of 2 million iPhone 5 handsets during the first three days in China

whether Apple’s release of a $99 iPhone 4S and a free (with contract) iPhone 4 will counter cheap Android phones in China

the huge customer base available if Apple signs China Mobile in 2013

The research firm also paints a dreary landscape for Apple at home.

According to the findings, it expects Android to “consolidate its position further in the US to such an extent that one in every two handsets sold in country in 2013 will be powered” by the Google software.

The cure: “radical changes to [Apple’s] aging iOS, particularly to the user interface” which the firm said hasn’t changed in six years.

Principal analyst Malik Saadi writes:

Although Apple has upgraded the hardware of the iPhone 5, only a little has been done on the software chúng tôi situation could lead to even the most ardent Apple fans churning as they become disillusioned with using the same UI framework for more than six years.

In fact, iPhone sales in the US could drop to 34 million in 2013, down from 35.5 million in 2012.


I’m reminded of the saying that numbers can be tortured to prove any point.

But Android could have an unlikely Achilles heel both in China and in the US.

According to Informa, nearly half – 41 percent – of  “Android” smartphones sold in China actually use “alternative application frameworks” from local mobile firms like China-based search engine Baidu, e-commerce firm Alibaba and handset maker Xiaomi (in November, Xiaomi acquired an eReader and Apple app creator, according to The NextWeb.

Inexpensive Android handsets and local brands like the pictured Coolpad are slowing Apple’s growth in China.

By comparison, Apple retains its ecosphere of hardware, app stores and iTunes.

Additionally, in the US, Android’s lead could peak by 2023, and even fall due to a “more aggressive penetration” by mobile operating systems like Windows Phone, according to the research firm.

I don’t think Apple (or its supporters) should sweat the much-heralded future of Android ‘domination.’  The percentages are in Apple’s favor.

Rim: Time To Bend The Blackberry To The Consumer Curve

RIM: Time to Bend the BlackBerry to the Consumer Curve

Last week the trackball on my BlackBerry Curve decided to quit on me. The thing couldn’t roll down a hill if it tried and, well, the phone’s dated version of the operating system was starting to make me look like a mobile T-Rex. (I always thought if I were to be a dinosaur, I’d be a T-Rex.)

As a true CrackBerry addict, I had opted to replace my Verizon Curve 88330 with the new Curve 8530. Yes, rather than a Droid, I went with the BlackBerry because I am a Blackberry Messenger fiend, love the speed of the e-mail and my fingers can’t live without the physical keyboards. However, within a few minutes of using the new trackpad equipped Curve, I was just downright disappointed in the Canadian smartphone pioneers.  What used to be a groundbreaking mobile operating system a couple of years ago, has been minimally updated with only new skins and a slightly improved interface.  The attempts to catch up to the Apple iPhones, Palm Pres and Motorola Droids of the world haven’t been executed correctly.

Take RIM’s shot at its own application store. Deemed Blackberry App World, the application store is not even preloaded on the brand new device! In order to get the application portal on the smartphone I had to search for it via Google, and download the application. Yep, I had to download the application to get applications. Counterintuitive, much? I’m not sure how RIM expects its customers to know this store is even available and that it contains hundreds of applications, nonetheless that it compete with application-centric phones like the iPhone and Android that have simple, preloaded application marketplaces.

Once running, the store is actually quite nice and easy to navigate but its inventory is a different story. I couldn’t find a number of applications for my phone, including TweetGenius and TwitterBerry. And don’t think it is just  a coincidence that the two missing applications  were social networking based.

Sure, Facebook makes a decent application for BlackBerry, but unlike the Palm Pre or the iPhone it lacks social skills. There is no integrated contact management with the option to fill in your current address book with different social networking information (though the Facebook app does have an option for that it isn’t integrated in the OS or within other social networking applications). Even when new and promising features like visual voicemail seem to be preloaded, they end up requiring a download and what feels like a 10-step process to configure. Unfortunately, while RIM is attempting to bring these newer features offered by its competitors and the social Web ecosystem to its own operating system, the implementation is halfhearted.

RIM, what worked a few years ago just doesn’t anymore. Although you may continue to attract enterprise customers with superior security and e-mail, to compete today in the consumer game you need products that add simplicity, engage with Internet integration and offer easy access to compelling third-party applications.  Yes, there remains a dedicated group of consumers (eh hem, me) that are still looking for the BlackBerry bread and butter – the strong email support, the speed of services like BlackBerry Messenger and good hardware – but they aren’t willing to deal with lagging features and incomplete experiences.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel (seriously, we don’t want the scroll wheel anymore), but continuing to drop the ball isn’t going to work anymore. Please, get it rolling again.

How Microsoft Surface Tablets Compare In A Crowded Market

During their splashy press conference on Monday, Steve Ballmer and the other Microsoft execs referred to the company’s upcoming Surface devices as tablets. So it makes sense to compare them to other tablets, right?

Actually, that’s only half-right. The ARM-based Surface for Windows RT looks like–and will be priced like–competing tablets, but the Surface for Windows Pro will be too heavy and expensive to compete head-to-head with the iPad. (For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to the two models as “Surface RT” and “Surface Pro” hereafter.) Surface Pro’s natural competition: Windows Ultrabooks.

The tricky thing is that the Surface Pro is the tablet that many Windows users think they’ve been waiting for. It’s the one that can do anything a desktop can do: It can run the apps we have already (like Adobe Photoshop CS6, and Camera Bits Photo Mechanic), graphics-intensive games (like Diablo), and other tried-and-true Windows software; and it has a serious laptop processor, Intel’s Core series, that can power through complicated work.

Evidently the Surface Pro won’t compete with top tablets in display resolution, either. Microsoft has said that the Surface Pro will have a “Full HD” display, meaning a display with a resolution of at least 1920 by 1200 pixels. That would put it on a par with the best Android tablets from Asus and Acer; but because those displays are 0.5 inch smaller, their pixel density should be better. And none of those tablets’ resolutions can compare with the Apple iPad’s at 2048 by 1536 pixels.

Surface RT vs. iPad and Android Tablets

If the Surface Pro isn’t intended to compete directly with the iPad, so be it. But what about the Surface RT? How will it stack up against an iPad or Android tablet? Those tablets, like Surface RT, run lower-power, ARM-based processors.

The Surface RT will give you more ports than most competing tablets, along with the ability to view two apps on one screen. The Surface RT tablets will carry at least 32GB of storage (the iPad and many Android tablets start at just 16GB). Though the Surface RT won’t have the iPad’s high resolution, it will have an optically bonded display, which eliminates the annoying air gap between the screen and the glass for clearer images, improved contrast, and reduced screen glare. Like its more powerful sibling, it will also have a comfortable built-in kickstand. All of those features represent useful improvements on today’s tablets.

But Microsoft’s Surface RT runs into trouble on other metrics. If its weight turns out to be 1.5 pounds (as currently estimated), it will be just 0.06 pound heavier than the current iPad; but iPad itself got heavier this year, not lighter. Android tablets, by contrast, are consistently moving toward lighter weight; for instance, the Surface RT at 1.5 pounds will be about 0.2 pound heavier than the Toshiba Excite 10.1 or the Asus Transformer Prime. Microsoft lists the Surface RT’s display as “HD” rather than as “Full HD,” which may mean a resolution of just 1366 by 768 pixels—and that won’t be competitive with iPad’s Retina display, or even with Android tablets like the Asus Transformer Pad 700, announced at CES, and the Acer Iconia Tab A700 (both with resolutions of 1920 by 1200 pixels).

The Takeaway on the Two Surfaces

There’s no question that Microsoft’s decision to build its own tablets changes the market considerably. But until we know more-precise details about specs and pricing, accurately predicting how well the two Surface models will compete is quite difficult.

In the end, the Surface RT may not quite be an iPad killer. Apps are paramount to tablet buyers, and until we see what kinds of Metro apps Microsoft and its developer partners produce, many consumers may shy away from the Surface RT.

Surface Pro, meanwhile, will challenge the current crop of laptops and Ultrabooks–and there it may well win. Why purchase a classic clamshell-style laptop if you can get a tablet that quickly and elegantly becomes a laptop when you need one–all without sacrificing performance, interoperability, or functionality? The big question here is whether consumers can manage with a 10.6-inch display as their laptop screen; for many consumers, I suspect, the convenience of a tablet/laptop hybrid may be worth the drawback of having to put up with a smaller screen.

If not, just wait: No doubt Microsoft’s hardware partners are kicking plans to design Windows 8 tablets of their own into high gear–including models with bigger screens–to compete with the Surface Pro.

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