Many organizations face the problem of having a ton of data that can’t be easily accessed, let alone getting usable insights. As a starting point, it’s good to have centralized data. But how can companies get there, and what are some barriers?
Brenna Ivey, an experienced insights professional, joined Jenn Mancusi on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” to discuss the topic at length and share ideas you can implement.
“I’ve always been interested in understanding people’s motivations,” Brenna said. “And to understand the choices that they make so, I can help improve the product.”
That understanding is much easier to get when available data points can be analyzed holistically.
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What is centralized data?
At the most basic level, centralized data means that information about customers is stored in one location. There it can be accessed by different stakeholders in a company.
To make the centralized data super useful, analysis and even next steps should be offered, said Diane Haluszka, senior director of customer service at PVH, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.
“Assess the data using text analytics and dashboards and reporting to outline whatever your necessary trends are,” she said. “And then work with your cross-functional business partners to improve what aspects of the journey that they own.”
“But you have to get that data into a system,” she said.
Why do companies struggle with centralized data?
Several reasons come to mind:
- Different departments and people hold different types of data
- Legacy workflows have created silos
- Some gatekeepers hold onto controlling the data
- Others across the company don’t even know the data exists
“It’s a constant effort to find this information, or it’s seen as a gap that has been filled by somebody else,” said Hannah Shamji, a customer research consultant, on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “Communicating is so critical, so you have this shared foundation.”
“I think it has to do with the different sources,” Brenna said. “If you are getting the data in different ways, it’s housed wherever it came from. Then it takes an extra step to move it into a centralized location.”
Think of it this way: “If your report is due on Tuesday, you are not going to turn it in on Wednesday to take the time to move data into the right spot.”
The key is having the right system that works for your team as a whole and makes processes easy.
“It is so hard to manage the long-term goals and the short-term deadlines,” Jenn added. “I can relate to that. You aren’t going to miss a deadline to follow an administrative step.”
Laura Eddy, vice president of research and insights at Realtor.com, put a historical spin on it:
“From what companies used to have available to all the inputs now. It can be really challenging,” she said on “Reel Talk.” “How do I get all these sources to play together to actually tell a cohesive story in a way that can help stakeholders make informed decisions?”
Merging different types of research
“All data is unintelligible with the wrong questions,” Brenna said.
Understand what you are trying to uncover, ask those questions about the data, and start looking for insights that can help you make decisions.
That’s another reason why centralized data is so important. If everything is in one centralized, searchable place, it’s much easier and more efficient to ask those questions.
“It has to come from that specific question, or we are just swimming in this ocean of data, which is overwhelming,” Brenna said. “Hone your questions. You want to be spearfishing and not just cast a wide net.”
Qualitative and quantitative in understanding our customers
Part of centralized data should include quant and qual research.
Quantitative research works well if you want to understand the what. What are people doing?
Qualitative research works better when you want to understand the why.
“Quantitative research gives confidence, and qual gives understanding,” Brenna said. There are reasons to use either, Brenna explained. “And I’ve married quant and qual over the years.”
For example, Brenna said, doing a cluster analysis with surveys and then “bringing that to life with qual.”
When it comes to advances in both areas, there are always new things to learn, Jenn added. From how surveys are done and how we reach people to video surveys.
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“Bringing that all together takes years of experience,” Jenn said. “It’s fascinating to see the evolution of the industry.”
“There’s an intellectual curiosity that I see in my colleagues,” Brenna added. “They are just hungry for more information. And then digest that and share back what they heard. Sharing back the top three things after reading 3,000 open-ends takes practice. I don’t think you can do it unless you are curious about what those 3,000 open-ends say.”
Turning centralized data into usable insights
But centralized data has to go beyond a repository of information, said Global insights expert Jill Burnett on “Reel Talk.” She said that we must ensure the correct information can be pulled out at the right time.
“We were calling it knowledge engagement,” Jill said. “How do we engage the rest of the organization in what we are learning?”
An insight becomes necessary in this scenario: Brenna explained that a stakeholder or client comes to you and needs to solve a business problem. That could include:
- We need more people to remember our name.
- We need more engagement with a particular product.
“Whatever their internal problem is, it’s usually not from the customer perspective,” Brenna said. “The insights’ professionals’ job is to look at ‘what does this look like for the customer.’ And then go out, ask, and find out.”
Brenna explained that you could apply the same dataset of responses to different business problems for various stakeholders.
“Think about the client side. That happens all the time. You have marketing stakeholders and creative stakeholders for the same ad test,” she explained. “They need to know different things.”
It’s a balancing game, of course, of the needs of the customers and the needs of the business.
“The insights function being the translator between those two is fascinating to me,” Jenn added.
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As you jump into the analysis, make sure you are clear about “what you are saying and what you aren’t saying,” Brenna said. That comes back to knowing what the data can answer, what it can’t, and what it means.
Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCo, explained the insights function is at the intersection of psychology and business. What reasons lie behind their actions? What prompted customers to do what they do, and what else is happening in their lives?
Reading between the lines of customer answers is another thing to consider, and that must be done correctly.
“After doing interviews in this space for ten years, I can tell what they are holding back,” Brenna said. “But you also don’t want to come off like you know everything. Remember that you are working with smart people, and some don’t take it well when you come in and say that you know everything.”
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She advises not to be married to your favorite data source but to see what works best to get the insights you need to help you solve problems and learn more about customers.
“As an insights professional, it’s my job to ask people how they feel and what they think,” she said. “And they are the expert on that.”
This especially comes into play when a new product is unknown to a consumer.
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“There’s no way everyone in a company can tell you how customers feel,” she said. “We are just too immersed in it.”
Take Brenna’s example while working at Wayfair, an online home shopping site. “I’ve thought more about home décor these last few years than I ever have.”
When she worked on a cereal account, she spent more time eating cereal, checking out the packaging in the aisles, and more.
“Because I needed to do it for work,” she said. “Most people are busy and are not obsessed with what we are working on.”
Data sources and analysis empowerment
Many companies have a ton of data available — internally from different departments, the insights team, and partners or vendors with their data.
“At Wayfair, I value data transparency,” Brenna said. “People are empowered to run their analysis.”
One way to accomplish that is by having a global search for your centralized data, similar to what’s available in the Voxpopme video survey platform.
“My favorite product development has been the global search tool,” Brenna said. “You can even search across projects.”
Sometimes, when data centralization isn’t available, teams build Band-Aid approaches that can work for a while but aren’t effective and can create more work. Global search and centralized data are better and more accessible.
“You can search all projects, four years of interviews,” Brenna added. “For example, you can see what people think when they talk about ‘home’ or ‘family.’ You can search for any word, and it comes up with all the interviews anyone has ever done.”
When work is completed for stakeholders, insights professionals show their work, and “they can see the answer for themselves, just as we are empowered to find that answer for ourselves.”
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To offer this level of data transparency, data must be centrally located. It has to be accessible, and it has to be accessible quickly and in a meaningful way.
“Just like I can go into the marketing dashboard, I wanted my stakeholders to go in and be able to search,” Brenna said.
“Being transparent with data is a goal of many companies,” Jenn added. “Make it a habit to cross-functionally have other departments interact with the data.”
How to analyze customer data?
Eva Tsai of Google when we talked with her on “Reel Talk” said it’s everyone’s job to understand the customer. To some co-workers looking at the customer insights — through video surveys or any tool that might not come naturally or isn’t part of their routine. Yet.
“Everyone is quite busy, so there’s that tradeoff,” Brenna said. “But there’s that curiosity. People want to know more. Nurture that curiosity.”
Pull the most essential nuggets and share them with stakeholders in an easily digestible way. Then offer them ways to dig more into specific areas of the insights.
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“Marketers are often data rich but insights poor, said Emmanuel Probst, brand thought leadership executive at Ipsos, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “It’s compelling to collect all this data, but then what do you do with it?”
Of course, when the data is not centralized, it can be nearly impossible or at least very cumbersome to mine it for insights.
Basel Fakhoury, CEO of User Interviews, said on “Reel Talk” that it’s also helpful if a centralized team can help with insights.
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How centralized data will help with reaching business goals
Nonetheless, getting data in one place from the start can help your organization get valuable insights and make it easy for internal stakeholders to access and use to build better relationships with your customers.
And more centralized data is something executives want, said Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida – a Voxpopme partner – on an episode of “Reel Talk.”
Ross said there are many different data sources, and many CEOs have told him they need the reporting in one place.
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