Whether you are expanding your domestic presence or planning to launch into new global markets, market intelligence is a vital tool to help you plan your marketing and communications activity by giving you invaluable consumer, competitor and market landscape insights. In this article, we look at the main ways of gathering market intelligence and what role social media conversations and social media channels can play in attempting to harness a competitive edge.
The importance of Market Intelligence
Market intelligence is a key decision enabler for organisations as it will help determine market opportunities, give an understanding of potential audiences, including their habits and behaviours, and provide context around the brands or organisations already present in the geography. It is important to note that market intelligence has a focus on the organisation’s external environment and that it will complement internal sources of information, such as shipments and sales to help establish the right strategy.
Market intelligence can be useful at any point in the product/service launch lifecycle. It’s also paramount to understand the standing of an existing product/service and future opportunities for growth.
The different forms of Market Intelligence
Market intelligence can take a number of forms which, although useful in isolation, are most powerful when triangulated and correlated to develop integrated insights. Traditionally, market intelligence is seen as taking four main forms:
These are based on the comparison of industry data over a set time period, designed to recognise any consistent trends or results that could be used to map your business strategy and align it with the general direction of your industry. Market trends tend to be heavily influenced by consumer habits and behaviours.
Understanding the behaviours, needs and attitudes of your consumers/customers is one of the key aspects of making your product relevant. If your product/service is already in the market, knowing your audience will be absolutely key to ensure that they keep buying your product. Why? Because acquiring new customers costs far more than retaining them. If your product is new to the market, then understanding your potential audience is just as important.
Product Intelligence is intrinsically linked to the product or service experience and will encompass how the product is priced, positioned and marketed but also how consumers/customers react to it and whether the product/service meets the needs of consumers in the market.
While the most successful businesses seek to disrupt the market rather than follow it, keeping abreast of what your competitors are doing can often give you a good picture of their market positioning. Forbes highlighted the importance of competitor intelligence in building a successful business and how it can be used to develop ‘competitive differentiation’.
Combining insights from these different areas can provide significant competitive advantages if analysed and interpreted in the right way. For example, you may know that a competitor is promoting its product aggressively (Product Intelligence), but that consumers see these products as lacking the features and benefits that they are looking for in the category (Consumer Needs) and that they would potentially be prepared to pay more (Consumer Attitudes) for a product which is more closely aligned to their needs.
How can you glean Market Intelligence?
Often, and especially for small organisations, collecting published market intelligence is a key way of confirming intuitions or hunches about the approach to take and putting themselves in context. We would argue that starting a market intelligence programme can be as simple as visiting your competitors’ websites, finding published information online or staying ajour of industry developments through specialist magazines. However, while the advent of the internet and search engines has made the process of sourcing market information easier in some ways, it still requires rigorous analysis and interpretation before it can become true market intelligence.
Some sources will readily provide useful market context, such as statistics about demographics gathered by government organisations. Trade bodies and associations will often produce market round-ups as well, so it’s always worth looking at their websites, signing up to their newsletters and following them on social media. Scouring media sources is a good way of picking up market trends too, as journalists will often use published data to build out stories. Specialist organisations such as Mintel and Euromonitor (for FMCG) and Gartner and Forrester (for the technology and telecoms sectors), to name only a few of the options, produce regular reports summarising the state of a specific market or sector for a fee. These reports can be a starting point when trying to identify market trends and delve into consumer intelligence.
Consumer purchase and consumption panel data can be a good source of consumer behaviours and attitudes. These have the advantage of being cost-effective as they are syndicated and nationally representative. It can help uncover insights into overall category behaviours, market share, your penetration, your competitors’ penetration and look at the relative product or service loyalty. Media consumption studies which also collect consumer attitudes and claimed behaviours can also be a useful source of information, both to understand these consumer behaviours and to help plan marketing and campaign activity by highlighting which channels consumers are more likely to interact with. GWI, for example, surveys 17 million digital consumers in 46 countries.
Your existing customer data is an obvious place to start to derive product intelligence that focuses on behaviour and experience data. Surveying your own customers is another good practice so that you can understand where you might focus when thinking about improving your experience and delivery, and to highlight comparative customer feedback against your competitors. Interestingly, The Harvard Business Review argues that the value of customer data depreciates over time and that intelligence gleaned about the market is just as important. If positioning is one of the facets of product intelligence you aim to obtain, then analysing competitors’ advertising spend and creatives will provide invaluable insights, including how their positioning is reflected in messaging.
While competitor intelligence will also stem from the sources outlined above, competitor analysis can also be obtained for free, by simply reviewing your competitors’ websites, social media channels, and their SEM and SEO tactics. This will provide a useful perspective on your competitors’ digital presence.
One source not to be overlooked when gathering market intelligence is the analysis of social media conversations as it provides an unprompted and unbridled consumer view which can complement and enrich many of the sources we identified above.
What can you learn from social media conversations?
Because social media is such a flexible and dynamic medium, social media analysis can help provide insights around market trends as well as consumer behaviours, needs and attitudes. The strength of social media insight is that it allows us to research consumers across a large number of geographies in a consistent manner. It also helps highlight crucial cultural nuances which might be missed through other forms of research. In particular, customer comments and feedback on reviews sites will also help identify where your business can improve its offer or service and how your competitors are being perceived.
Social media analysis provides a unique perspective on the language used by consumers/customers which can then be activated through positioning, messaging and campaigns. And, as explained above, it is also an invaluable source of competitor intelligence, both by analysing earned mentions and understanding your rivals’ digital presence.
Discover how Convopshere can help you uncover actionable market intelligence through nuanced audience insights and create a deeper level of understanding thanks to our experienced native language analysts. Contact us today.
With a background in brand communication and journalism, Moa heads Convosphere’s content marketing and is the editor of the blog.
Before joining Convosphere, Moa worked as a writer and brand consultant for agencies including The Future Laboratory, LS:N Global, Canvas8 and Stylus, with a focus on packaging, retail and technology trends in the UK and Scandinavia.
Prior to this, she formed part of Cision’s Scandinavian research and analysis division, where she worked on PR projects for clients across different sectors, managing a large team of freelance reporters.