The working world is facing one of the biggest and swiftest transformations we’ve ever seen.

Remote working has become normalized for many, direct-to-consumer models are flourishing, ecommerce is booming for some (Unilever and RB reported over 50% growth) and budget cuts have forced businesses to focus on driving efficiencies.

Change brings its challenges, but also fresh opportunities. One of which is being able to take ownership of audience research by moving analysis teams in-house.

Here we explore why more and more brands are doing just that, and how this improves ROI.

The changing consumer mindset

Before delving into how brands are becoming more efficient with in-house audience research, knowing why they’re making the leap is important for context.

Our guide to brand survival in the new consumer landscape lays out key shifts in consumer behaviors, attitudes and perceptions we’ve seen in the last few months.

Here’s a snapshot:

the new consumer landscape: behaviors and attitudes

These stats are deliberately wide-spanning, highlighting that no matter your sector, these consumer adjustments will have an impact. 

The speed of change is challenging businesses to be agile, both in bringing products to market but also reacting to (and anticipating) movements in attitudes and behaviours. 

This, in combination with budget cuts, is the core reason behind bringing insights in-house; ensuring brands can align as closely as possible with their audiences.

Now let’s focus on how it drives businesses forward.

1. Speed up the audience research process.

In today’s changeable climate, instant access to consumer insights means brands can extract what they need, when they need it, powering more strategic day-to-day decisions.

Picture this. A social movement is taking place and your market is heavily invested in it.

Turning to your agency for insight into the sentiments, channels and platforms that are most appropriate to your audience’s new mindsets adds an extra step, delaying your response and lessening its impact.

Move in tandem with trends, sidestep time-sapping communication barriers, and kick off your data-led campaign in less time.

2. Minimize risk with data-led budget allocation.

Pressure is rising for marketing departments to deliver against strict targets and to prove ROI on every single campaign and investment.

To achieve this, strategy needs to be central to everything they do. Not only that, it needs to be data-driven.

Launching a campaign or content initiative means investing in several social and digital channels to see what works, which means budget is often wasted through trial and error.

But with insight at hand into the channels and platforms that work best for your target audience at every stage of the customer journey, brands can start from the opposite end:

Insight first, investment second.

This way, you’re less reliant on guesswork and budget allocation is streamlined to avoid any unnecessary waste. 

That means there are no trade-offs or concessions; it’s now possible to get it right the first time, so there’s no reason not to.

3. Own the purchase journey from start to finish.

Brands often complain about not having enough visibility into the work their agencies are doing and the processes they follow.

This is especially true when it comes to consumer data and insight. They’re getting second-hand knowledge on their target consumers, often developed using different sources with varied methodologies making it a challenge to join the dots and create a holistic audience understanding across the business.

Having global and local consumer data at your fingertips that’s all collected using the same trusted method is worth more than you may think.

Think about all the things you want your agency to find out about your target segments.

Let’s take an example. Imagine you’re looking to generate hype in your core market, the U.S.

Collecting data on how and where they normally hear about new products and services, and where they carry out audience research lays the groundwork for your content and media strategy.

Chart showing audience research results.

With an eye on overall brand awareness patterns in your region, you can then build out your audience in detail, pinpointing exactly how and where they’d be most likely to discover and research your brand.

With data that’s easy to generate insight from, it means you’re able to shape a purchase journey that reflects exactly what they need at each stage, without any outside help needed.

That’s putting control back in the hands of marketing teams, as they can understand more about their audience, along with what’s working and why.

4. If you need outside help, ensure it’s hyper specialized.

For too long, agencies have been on boarded by marketing teams to cover everything and anything they lack resource or expertise in.

Now, agencies are branching out into more focused and specialized areas. This is because marketers are becoming more empowered with the tools they’re using.

Let’s take media planning as an example. It’s a fundamental aspect of marketing that’s often left in the hands of external teams.

But if internal teams have access to insight that tells them which channels, tactics and methods to invest in, the need for outside help diminishes.

With the fundamentals handled internally, there’s room for hiring highly specialized agencies that can propel your offering to the next level.

Overall this means less wasted spend, while empowering agencies to become more tailored to the skills they have, giving brands a far better return.

5. Getting more done in less time by knowing how to optimize.

Bringing resource in-house means marketers are getting more done, in less time.

Instead of having to wait for performance reports from external agencies and agree on new strategies or approaches, they can tweak and optimize their marketing activity in flight to fit the audiences they’re targeting.

Take influencer marketing, for example. By staying on top of fast-moving trends among their specific target segments, they’ll know whether or not the direction they’re going in is the right one.

By regularly exploring their audiences’ interests, how they discover brands, what celebrities they engage with and what encourages brand advocacy, they’ll know exactly what to tap into, and how.

This allows teams to stay clued into their target consumers at all times, leaving less room for guesswork.

Don’t just tick the box, own it.

When it comes down to it, consumers are adapting to changes so fast now that brands are struggling to keep up. And for many, letting agencies handle their audience research is the comfortable option.

But with the current pace of change, relying on third parties for information on your audience could mean missing out on key opportunities, tone-deaf messaging or wasted spend at a time when pennies count. 

Investing in understanding your audience is the right thing to do. But when they’re constantly adjusting their behaviors and mindsets as they are today, it pays to know you’re the first to hear about it.

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Written by

Sandy is Head of Consumer Products at GWI. Sandy has long experience in global marketing strategy and especially in the use of consumer data to inform better business decisions. His career spans a number of roles consulting with world’s biggest consumer goods companies on strategic projects from segmentation and loyalty to new market development and ecommerce optimization.

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