Consumer intelligence analytics keeps Fortune 500 companies at the top of their game, and other category leaders are quickly following suit. Why does consumer intelligence drive every decision? It helps marketers uncover, understand and predict consumer behavior – and it’s much more sophisticated than most businesses realize.

Key capabilities made possible by consumer insight data include, but are far from limited to:

  • Uncovering unmet needs by way of emerging trends and tracking consumer behavior shifts.
  • Understanding the consumer journey and associated sentiment drivers to head off loyalty shifts.
  • Predicting future behaviors and market movements to set the pace in your category.

The distinction between knowing your market and understanding what drives it is at the heart of consumer intelligence. Let’s explore how that looks.

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” – Charles F. Kettering 

Uncover unmet needs with consumer intelligence

There are many ways to uncover unmet needs with consumer intelligence. Businesses can apply themes to an analysis, identify white space areas (where new ideas are born), capture competitor pain points, discover emerging trends, and monitor shifts in consumer behavior.

Tracking personal narrative statements over time alerts companies to shifts in behavior, as well as new ways to meaningfully connect with consumers – and without brand assumptions about those behaviors getting in the way. Retailers may assume shoppers miss going to stores, but maybe they don’t?

Could this signal an emerging trend – or one continuing due to pandemic-driven online shopping? Tracking the volume of that conversation over time will tell you. And when this consumer intelligence is viewed through the lens of a competitor’s mentions, it takes on an additional element. It can reveal pain points they’re missing and you can pick up on, or ways they’re succeeding that you could emulate.

Consumer intelligence will also lead to identifying opportunities or white space areas with a consumer need that no one is meeting. And this isn’t just about identifying the next big idea. It could be as simple as creating a serene shopping experience. Or it could help address new prospects or threats, keeping your company aware of any industry shifts before they reach a critical point. This past year has certainly shown us the danger of letting something spread too far before taking action. Consumer intelligence helps head that off.

But, this understanding is only half of the story, as we need to understand what drives consumers to shift purchases patterns – and loyalty. And that calls for adding a layer of sentiment analysis to our consumer intelligence.

What drives consumers to purchase – and why?

Sentiment gets to the heart of consumers – literally. Thanks to sentiment drivers that reveal emotions and behaviors, brands can clearly see not only what consumers love or hate – but why. Consumer intelligence sprinkled with sentiment reveals the emotions and behaviors driving actions. And each can be tracked back to a specific stage in the consumer journey to inform what is or isn’t working as consumers progress through your funnel or purchase path.

For each stage of the journey, there are specific consumer intelligence measurements companies should focus on, and corresponding actions to take, considering the outcome of the analyses that apply to each:

  • With the Consideration phase, after analyzing your industry and reviewing competitive benchmarks, messaging should be shared on channels you’ve identified as hotbeds for target consumer activity. This is where you’ll see positive shifts in share of voice, with your target audience mentioning you more often. And if you aren’t seeing this, then it’s time to reconsider those ad placements and sponsorships – and may be time to engage with a relevant influencer or two to give your efforts a boost! And all of this is easy to sort out with consumer intelligence.
  • In the Evaluation phase, knowing your share of desirable conversation and campaign effectiveness is key. Exploring forums and reviews alerts brands to change messaging and positioning or adjust a call-to-action that may be missing the mark. The smallest change could have a huge impact, but you won’t know unless you dig into the consumer intelligence available on those channels.
  • In a perfect world, Purchase Intent would lead directly to Purchase – and it often does. But if you are not using consumer intelligence to analyze buyer behavior and track intentful conversations, you’re likely wasting time on leads that aren’t. Following up on qualified leads becomes a lot less challenging when you learn to separate those with true intent from those just window shopping for hours – and possibly forever.
  • Post-purchase and Loyalty are the most crucial – and most neglected of all, which makes little sense. It’s much less costly to retain a customer than it is to find a new one after all, just review this purchase path to see all of the work you’ve put in! In fact, in the U.S., companies lose $1.6 trillion each year due to poor customer service. This is why it’s so important to have a robust customer care function in place – one that benchmarks customer issues by type and has a follow-up process that connects directly with your R&D. Innovating around new products that your existing customers need and will buy again and again is as easy as listening to them – or listening to your consumer intelligence!

And when customer loyalty changes, it should never be a surprise. With sentiment analysis on your side, partnered with consistent monitoring of your consumer intelligence, companies should be well aware of shifts in a brand’s Net Sentiment as they start to happen.

And they’ll also know (thanks to ongoing consumer behavior analysis) what is driving that shift. Not only that – this consumer intelligence will help predict future behaviors.

Predicting future behaviors with consumer intelligence

We’ve covered some consumer intelligence basics that every brand should have immediately available – the actionable insight that drives in-the-moment pivots to capture market share and win over new customers. But we can do better than that.

With next-generation artificial intelligence aggregating and analyzing data spanning the social web in real-time, brands have access to every relevant consumer intelligence data source organized in one visually appealing dashboard. And scanning insight for outliers in conversational clusters (for example) allows companies to quickly add novel themes to their analyses to inform future planning.

For example, exploring the NFT (non-fungible tokens) landscape, we see the many conversations on the periphery to explore. Questions about NFTs’ value to art and music come into focus here. We see the main conversation (in the center of the cluster) revolves around decentralized finance (Defi) applications as a whole. Although we haven’t heard much about NFTs recently, that doesn’t mean we won’t – and blockchain technology (which powers it and cryptocurrency) is certainly not going away. That’s consumer intelligence you can take to the bank.

Will emerging ideas you investigate for your brand come to fruition? Will the market move in any direction at some point in the near future? That requires a crystal ball, but being aware of these potential avenues allows forward planning and gives companies an informed basis to leap ahead of competitors if/when a shift happens. Knowing something has the potential to transform and what shape that transformation could take is powerful.

And that’s the gist of consumer intelligence – any business can experience astronomical growth in our digital age, and it all comes down to how intelligently they use the data available to them. Knowing your category is a given, but do you truly understand it? That’s the rub. And it’s the critical element that separates brands leading in every category from those racing to catch up.