In an ideal world, you would start your own business, get your first customers in no time, and watch them not only come back regularly but also bring more people to shop with you.

It's not an ideal world, though, and to achieve this, you have to work hard. Sometimes, you have to work really, really hard and still don’t get to see the results you’d like to see.

So what then, you ask?

Enter customer intelligence, or CI in short.

You might have heard of CI, but you might not be aware of how essential it is for your business, how it can help win your customers over, and, of course, how to build it.

This is exactly what you'll learn in this post if you continue reading it. Let's dig in!

What is customer intelligence?

Customer intelligence, or consumer intelligence, is the process of gathering relevant customer-related data from internal and external sources to better understand customer behavior, motivations, and improve the customer journey.

Simply put, it all comes down to three things: collecting the right information, analyzing it (“connecting the dots”), and acting accordingly to achieve the desired results.

The types of data that go into customer intelligence are:

  • Demographic data – tells you who your customers are.
  • Behavioral data – tells you what your visitors do on your website and how they interact with it (can be tracked using cookies, heatmaps, market research surveys, etc.).
  • Transactional data – tells you what your customers buy.
  • Psychographics data – tells you the reasons behind specific customer behavior, based on their interests, activities, etc.

Why is customer intelligence important?

Customers today, no matter whether they shop online or in-store, have so many different choices that it has become effortless for them to find an alternative in case of any inconvenience.

This is why customer experience plays a crucial role in your business, from the first touchpoint with a customer to the post-purchase stage. It’s now of utmost importance to prioritize customer focus at a company level and not only in your customer service department, as there’s so much more to a happy customer than fast and thorough interactions with your agents.

Therefore, to be able to create a smooth customer journey and provide a top-notch experience, you have to build customer intelligence and keep learning. Put simply, the more you can learn about your customers, the better you can adapt to their needs, wants, react to the changes, and come up with the decisions that best meet your strategic needs.

Customer intelligence benefits for your business

  • You get to really know and understand your customer. Customer intelligence allows you to make important decisions based on data, not guesses. You can learn about customer beliefs, motivations, attitudes, and preferences, and use it to improve not only your products or processes but also your bottom line.
  • You can always be one step ahead. Customer intelligence lets you learn how you acquire customers, answer important questions like who, what, when, how, why; therefore, gain detailed knowledge to predict future customer behavior and attract new people.
  • You can boost customer loyalty. Actionable data allows you to deliver personalized experiences, improve how your business operates, and solve the most common customer pain points. Great experiences -> satisfied customers -> customer loyalty and retention.
  • You can accelerate your business growth. Not much else to add here – if you work hard enough to complete the chain above, it should lead to higher revenue.

How to build customer intelligence?

You can collect customer intelligence data in many different ways, including using customer intelligence tools and software and manually conducting various surveys.

Let’s take a closer look at these and a few more methods to gather this important customer-related information that can truly make a difference.

1. Take advantage of customer intelligence software

Equipping yourself with quality tools to collect customer intelligence data will help you monitor everything easier, see all the important information in one place, and avoid human error.

Commonly used software for such purposes are various CRMs (Customer Relationship Management), DMTs (Data Management Tools), or CDPs (Customer Data Platforms). These tools can give you in-depth insights about previous interactions with customers, transactional data, and help collect and organize data from various online, offline, and mobile sources. Some of them can even turn information from multiple sources into a single, coherent view of each customer.

As an alternative, you can also use several different tools to gain insights into your customers. For example, a help desk can be of huge help when keeping track of customer inquiries and learning what do they usually have to deal with when doing business with you. Or you can use a customer feedback management tool to ask for feedback, collect reviews, and access them in a centralized location, from where you can come to some conclusions.

2. Compile the data from multiple sources

It would be so much easier if all your customers used the same platform or channel to interact with your business, but they don’t and that’s barely even possible. You have them commenting on social media, reaching out via email or live chat, making purchases on your website, and talking with your support team on the phone.

Therefore, collecting data from just one of those sources will not provide you with a detailed image of your customer. For this, you need to bring them all together and not underrate any channel or data collection method that can help you gather more information.

3. Apply different data collection methods

Speaking of data collection methods, similarly to the point above, try not to restrict yourself to just one method of gathering customer-related information.

Some other ways that are not customer intelligence software that you can use to collect important data are:

  • Customer interviews/focus groups. Something you can’t really do using customer intelligence software, but also a great way to directly connect with a customer and get a clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
  • Surveys. What’s also great about surveys, besides collecting data, is that there are many different ways to conduct them, allowing you to use a method that best fits your needs and is the most convenient for your customers.
  • Heatmaps. Using heatmaps lets you see how visitors behave on your website – where and how often they click, how far they scroll, etc. This information can be equally beneficial for improving both site navigation and your sales.
  • Web tracking. Take advantage of Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and some other third-party tools to learn how your customers discovered your website, what brings them there, what pages they visit, for how long, and so on.
  • Lead capture forms. Lead capture forms can help you collect customer contact information and grow your audience, thus increasing your chances of making more sales.

4. Analyze your customer data

Here comes the fun part – once you have gathered all the information you need, it's time to model that data into something useful for your business.

Are you getting too many complaints about a specific product? Long shipping times? Maybe visitors ask the same website navigation-related questions over and over again? Or don’t ask anything at all and simply bounce instead? And what’s up with those marketing campaigns that seemed pretty cool but don’t work somehow?

Use the data you’ve collected to find common issues, something that unites your customers, things that are most often referred to, and identify whether or not you’re reaching your goals.

From here, only one step left – figuring out how you can use this information to your advantage.

5. Take action

So you've collected the necessary data, analyzed it, and come up with conclusions. What's next? What are the actual use cases of consumer intelligence data?

At this point, you should have some patterns and trends that you’d like to maintain, fix, or improve. Depending on your results, every issue may require a specific solution, but there are also general options for how you can put customer intelligence data into practice.

  • Personalization. Having the right data allows you to personalize the customer experience by sending personalized messages, offering the most relevant product recommendations, providing better support, and much more. With more relevance comes better engagement, higher loyalty, and increased conversions.
  • Customer segmentation. Data also allows you to segment your customers based on common characteristics (e.g., age, gender, location, etc.) and better target those specific groups.
  • Geo-targeting. You can use location data to send location-specific information and deals to make your offers more actionable.
  • Improved customer journeys. Based on how your new customers behave (products purchased, amount of money spent, categories visited, etc.), you can create a better communication plan and adjust your offers to their actions.

Build customer intelligence for your business growth

Learning as much as you can about your customers is definitely one of the least questionable tactics for business growth. Customer intelligence data can provide you with valuable insights that you can use to improve customer experience in its broadest sense, from marketing communications to the smooth checkout and everything that happens after.

So hop on the train of businesses that make informed decisions instead of blind guesses and watch your company bloom!