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What Does a Digitally Transformed Insights Department Really Look Like?

The age of digital transformation is putting more control and choice into consumers hands, forcing companies to adapt or be left behind.

Digital transformation of the insights industry is all the rage right now as the level of sophistication of data collection reaches unprecedented levels. Just look at how AI and programmatic have fundamentally disrupted the way advertising is being delivered, giving advertisers more control over who sees their ads, where they see their ads and how much they spend.

This theme of ‘greater control’ doesn’t stop there, though, as it’s ultimately the reason behind the digital transformation of the market research industry today.

Consumers have more choice and control over brand experiences than ever before. One only has to look to the retail industry to see examples of companies struggling to evolve to a place where they can handle these levels of uncertainty around customer tastes and behavior. Yet it’s also an industry where we’re seeing some of the most exciting advancements as companies step up their game in the face of growing pressure from the dominant disruptor of retail, Amazon. 

“Disruptors don’t have to discover something new; they just have to discover a practical use for new discoveries.”
— Jay Samit

Serial disruptor Jay Samit couldn’t possibly be more accurate with this quote as companies revamp themselves to be more agile and insights-driven. Digital transformation is about more than just adopting new technologies, it’s about reinventing your business to involve the consumer more often in business decisions. It’s about using data to enhance customer relationships. And it’s about making the small, structural changes to your team culture that are necessary for change and to be more adaptive.

So where do you even start?

Understand the process behind your insights:

Start with building a better understanding of your company’s current processes with market research, insights, strategy development and marketing. This way, market research companies can help you understand how research automation can transform the way you do business for the better. With our client BMO Harris Bank, for example, research automation has evolved the role of their research department by allowing them more time to focus on insights consulting internally with their stakeholders.

Identify opportunities for your company to evolve:

What operational changes are needed to make your company more nimble to spot and respond to changing customer needs and habits? For example, we are now seeing overwhelming demand for more and more insights to underpin business decisions, yet too few researchers on the market research team to manage the asks. This naturally results in a research bottleneck that can negatively impact business because it’s embedded in your business process. So what can you do to eliminate the bottleneck?

This understanding of the pain points and opportunities helps companies evaluate the technologies needed to help them become more flexible to provide strategic responses to shifting customer expectations and priorities.

Appoint the right leader to guide the transformation:

Insight-driven companies are dominating their respective industries. According to a 2017 Forrester Consulting study, nearly half of CMOs who used marketing intelligence experienced improved customer satisfaction (47 percent), and almost as many saw improved customer loyalty and retention. The not-so-secret ingredient to success is in having quality leadership guide the transformation. The management consulting firm McKinsey found that companies with senior executives who are able to understand customers’ evolving needs scored consistently superior growth.

Fortunately, there are a number of companies you can learn from that are doing it right.

One only has to look at the work CMO Keith Weed is doing at Unilever to understand the value of insights-driven leadership. Not only is Weed igniting the company’s insights engine, he’s also empowering employees to conduct data-driven experimentations and customize programs like its All Things Hair platform, which positions Unilever at the forefront of consumer trends and drives sales for its highly valuable hair care line.

Retailer Frank and Oak is another great example of a company that uses customer data to create a seamless and personalized omnichannel experience for its client base. From a stylist-curated monthly clothing subscription box available online, to in-store sales recommendations based on purchasing history, Frank and Oak engages their customer frequently to deliver a superior customer experience.

What we can learn from these inspiring examples is that while the definition of digital transformation is unique to each company, one thing is certain—companies need to adapt or be left behind.

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