What Is Consumer Data and How Can Businesses Leverage It?

Knowing what consumers are thinking, and understanding their behaviour, has long been an important part of marketing, and making strategic business decisions. Without consumer data and insights, businesses make plans in an almost blind-folded manner: doing what they think consumers will want, rather than basing decisions on factual information. Another problem for businesses is making use of incomplete data. For instance, working with data that only cover a small demographic area, or survey an undersized group of the population; and yet taking that data as a reflection of the larger group.

The Difference Between Consumer Insights and Market Research

For the purposes of this article, it would be a good idea to start off by explaining the difference between consumer insights and market research. Market research can be defined as an effort to gather information about customers or markets. It provides information (also known as data) about market needs, market sizes, competitors and customers. Consumer insights, on the other hand, takes market research a step further by including a description on what businesses can do with the research.

How Market Research In Africa Has Been Conducted

Conducting market research is fairly straightforward but, as explained in the introduction, consumer insights from most providers tend to be incomplete. Especially for Africa, most providers only conduct research in 2 or 3 countries and sell this data as a representation of the entire continent. What businesses and marketers need to understand is that although most countries in Africa are considered emerging economies, how consumers in each country behave, or more particularly, the type of products they choose to purchase, are highly different.

When was the last time you received a market research report full of statistics, charts and methodology literature? How often do you leave the briefing asking yourself what to do next? Do you feel you need help to unlock the key takeaways and action items for your specific business?

The Benefits of Consumer Insights

Understanding why consumers behave in a particular manner, and what can be done about their thoughts and feelings, is what allows for better business decisions. Knowing that consumers are buying more takeaways, for instance, is only the first part. Businesses still need to know why that is the case: are more restaurants providing discount codes, or is there a shortage of staple foods making cooking difficult?

Getting insights requires context in addition to current information. Knowing that your customers are buying more products from your competition doesn’t necessarily tell you if you have a serious problem, knowing that it’s been going on for 6 months and worsening provide better visibility into the problem and how quickly it needs to be resolved. To unlock insights, you need breadth (country coverage for example) and depth (historical trend) of data. Most providers in Africa lack both.

Consumer data has other benefits for your business:

  1. It helps amplify your marketing efforts by keeping track of the competition, especially what consumers are saying about the products and se