Many organizations face the problem of having a ton of data that can’t be easily accessed, let alone getting usable insights out of it. As a starting point, it’s good to have centralized data. But how can companies get there, and what are some of the barriers that come up?
“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.
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 actually 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 to have the right system in place 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.”
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, to how we reach people, to video surveys.
Read next: Best practices for survey design in research
“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
An insight usually becomes necessary in this scenario: Brenna explained that a stakeholder or client comes to you, and they need 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 can 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.
Read next: Do this to be innovative in business
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 answer 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 going on 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 you say that you know everything.”
Read next: How to use video surveys for market research
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.
“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 from partners or vendors with their own 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 go in and see what people think about 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.”
To offer this level of data transparency means data has to be centrally located. It has to be accessible, and it has to be accessible easily 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 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 just know more. Nurture that curiosity.”
Pull the most important nuggets and share them with stakeholders in an easily digestible way. Then offer them ways to dig more into specific areas of the insights.
“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 there’s a centralized team that can help with insights.
How centralized data will help with reach 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.
Ross said there are so many different data sources, and many CEOs have told him they need the reporting in one place.