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. That’s why, 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?
Brenna Ivey, an experienced insights professional, joined Jenn Vogel on Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show, to discuss the topic at length and share ideas that you can implement. You can watch their conversation on YouTube or listen wherever you listen to podcasts.
“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.”
Qualitative and quantitative in understanding our customers
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, how we reach people, to, of course, video surveys.
“Bringing that all together takes years of experience,” Jenn said. “It’s very interesting to see the evolution of the industry.”
“There’s definitely 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 really curious about what those 3,000 open-ends say. ”
Merging different types of research
“All data is unintelligible with the wrong questions,” Brenna said.
Understand what it is you are trying to uncover, ask those questions of 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 place that’s searchable, 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.”
Turning centralized data into usable insights
An insight usually becomes necessary in this scenario: A stakeholder or client comes to you and they need to solve a business problem, Brenna explained. 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.”
You can apply the same dataset of responses to different businesses problems and for different stakeholders, Brenna explained.
“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 really fascinating to me,” Jenn added.
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 properly.
“After doing interviews in this space for 10 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.”
She advises not to be married to your favorite data source but to see what works best to get the insights you actually need and that actually 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 that have their own data.
“At Wayfair I value data transparency,” Brenna said. “People are really empowered to run their own analysis.”
One way to accomplish that is by having 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 centralization of data 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 is better and easier.
“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 encourage people to dive into customer data?
Eva Tsai of Google previously told us that 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.
Why is getting centralized data so hard?
“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 totally relate to that. You aren’t going to miss a deadline to follow an administrate step basically.”
But 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 it to build better relationships with your customers.