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Market Research vs. Consumer Insights: Why You Need Both

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You can learn a lot from market research and your target audiences’ thoughts and feelings about your company. But what makes market research and consumer insights so different? More importantly, how do each of these information sources help you build a stronger brand?

Companies often use the terms ‘market research’ and ‘consumers insights’ interchangeably. Both are rich wellsprings of information that can help you make better business decisions. In many cases, the two also overlap in terms of how they can help your brand. 

However, the fact remains that each serves a distinct purpose. Defining the line between market research and consumer insights can help you know when to rely on each and how to get the most out of both.

Consumer Insights: A Definition

A man looking through a magnifying glass

If you’ve ever given your customers a survey, asked for an online review, or hosted a focus group, you’ve seen consumer insights at work. By definition, consumer insights are thoughts, opinions, and experiences shared by people and interpreted by a business to gain a better understanding of how their customers think and feel. 

These insights come in many forms, including:

  • Online reviews
  • Customer surveys
  • Social media comments
  • Forum posts
  • Focus groups or panels
  • Consumer test studies

Any medium where consumers are able to offer feedback to a company or brand qualifies as part of the consumer insight process. Companies can collect consumer insights formally (such as a structured, solicited feedback collection process) or informally (such as scanning your social media profiles for user comments). 

The end goal remains the same: to get inside consumers’ minds and use data to reach specific and actionable conclusions about what to do next.

What Is Market Research?

An illustration of a market research plan

What consumer insights are to individual customers, market research is to an entire industry, area, or population. By definition, market research is the process of capturing market-related data, usually in the form of direct and specific questions. This data may include, but is not limited to:

  • Size of an addressable market
  • Market penetration
  • Demand for an industry, product, or service in a given area
  • Demographic data, such as age, income level, and education
  • Brand competitors
  • Market needs or gaps

Broad market research data offers a high-level view of a consumer population. Brands use this data for a variety of purposes, such as finding new markets to enter or deciding what products to develop next.

Currently, the market research industry as a whole is worth an estimated $73.4 billion. In many cases, dedicated market research firms conduct research and studies on behalf of companies. Other information sources can also offer insights into a particular market, such as news outlets. 

The Intersection of Market Research and Consumer Insights

A graphic representing insights being extracted from a large audience.

Both market research and consumer insights rely on accurate and actionable data to make informed decisions and decide the best way to maximize resources. Both aim to get inside the minds of consumers to figure out behaviors and the reasons for those behaviors. And both can help you make sense of your business’s current position in the market and decide what you need to do next to maintain or scale that position.

Though market research and consumer insights serve different purposes, they don’t always live in their own boxes. In fact, market research projects are often followed up with consumer insights to help add context to market data. 

Casting a Broad Net with Market Research

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new line of kitchenware and tools. You already know the market is highly competitive, so you decide to research the market and find the best places to launch your brand. 

At this point, your market research might include gauging home cooking trends over time, finding trending topics in home nutrition, and discovering potential competitors in the market (well-known and up-and-coming). You might also want to see who is talking about cooking at home (e.g. influencers, celebrities, industry leaders, etc.) and what’s being said in those conversations. See which retailers are being mentioned the most. Dial deeper into specific kitchen categories. See what people are actually buying. This research can help guide your product development and marketing.

Support Market Data with Consumer Insights

Next, you’ll want to support your macro level market research with micro level consumer insights. For example, this might include developing buyer personas based on the influencers or conversations you discovered during your market research. Learn about their cooking experience and needs, their disposable income, their expectations of quality, and other little details that might influence your marketing approach. 

You might dig deeper into conversations about cooking at home, meal prep and planning, and even saving money on groceries. What common themes do you see? Are more people cooking at home? Do they have less time and need tools that make cooking faster or easier, or at least easier to clean up? Isolating these conversations can help you focus on specific intel. Use it to craft your messaging and choose the products to offer your customers.

The hard part of this process is understanding the many nuances that can affect your consumer insights. There’s a complex ecosystem of genders, generations, professions, interests, experiences, and consumer perception of your brand or category. Creating an accurate customer profile that takes all of these things into account is no easy feat, but it’s one that brands need to get right. 

Market Research vs. Consumer Insights: Why Brands Need Both

When brands are launching new products, entering new markets, or making decisions that will impact their customers, they need both a bird’s eye view and a “street view” of the territory. A high-level view serves as a starting point by providing general information about a specific challenge. But brands need a detailed view to understand the intricacies of the challenge, too. These details create a clearer picture of the “why” behind the “what” and can help companies make more informed decisions.

However, it’s important to point out that while consumer insights may support what you discover in market research, sometimes the results represent two switches of the same light. Consumer insights may offer a starkly different version of the story compared to market data. That’s because the data comes from two different types of sources. With market research, brands are looking at general industry data from news media and similar sources—not the consumer’s voice. 

Using our kitchen company as an example, we might learn from the media that the cost of groceries is increasing and consumers are eating out more. But in reality, consumers might be cooking just as much and reducing their grocery bills by cooking with fewer ingredients. This helps to save money and reduce complexity in the kitchen. This difference could be significant, and we may only discover it if we compare consumer insights against the market research data.

Taking time to conduct market research and gain consumer insights can help companies minimize the guesswork involved in a decision. Avoid spending money developing a product or service that your target audience won’t buy. Reduce the chance that a poor product fit might damage your brand image and reputation. And most importantly, balance information (market data) with personal feelings (insights) to create the right messaging that connects with your target audience.

Choosing AI-Powered Consumer Insights with Linkfluence

Conducting any type of market research or consumer insights project is a sizable undertaking. Of the two, market research is often the easier to manage because it asks simple, direct questions that receive simple, direct answers. Brands can’t say the same for consumer insights, however. 

The emotional aspect of consumer insights creates a number of nuances that brands must consider when using this data to make decisions. Word choices and tones can be interpreted in different ways. Brands need to consider not only what customers are saying, but also how, when, where, and why they’re saying it. Context is everything in consumer insights, which is why more brands are turning to AI-powered consumer insights for greater clarity. 

AI-powered consumer insights use algorithms to comb digital data in real time and turn data points into usable and actionable intelligence. Instead of sifting through conversations on social media, tallying keywords and mentions by hand, and trying to understand the why behind a consumer’s opinion, AI-powered algorithms scan countless data points to pick out impactful insights relevant to your brand. It’s a time-saver, sure, but more importantly, its scalability and reliability can help brands move forward faster with confidence.

Linkfluence’s Radarly uses AI to improve a brand’s social intelligence, both from a macro level market perspective and a micro level consumer one. Our platform gives you access to real-time feedback from customers so you can make impactful changes to the customer experience. Monitor conversations to measure your brand equity at any given time. Segment your audience to support new product ideas. And find new trends in your industry before your competitors. 

Learn more about how Linkfluence merging market research and consumer insights with the power of AI; request a demo

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