March 11, 2019

6 Steps to Turn Consumer Data into Useful Profiles: Interview with Attest Centre of Excellence

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What is ACE?

The Attest Centre of Excellence (ACE) serves as a hub of best practice and research advice for those wanting to gather consumer data on Attest. To most people outside of the insight team, gathering and analysing consumer research can seem daunting; a need to prove ROI and make crucial business decisions hangs on getting actionable data, so you don’t want to ask the wrong questions, or ask the right questions in the wrong way.

The ACE team exists to help people get the most out of our platform, and more broadly to educate anyone that is new to research on how to do it well.

Between them, the ACE team has years of experience working with consumer data. Running consumer profiling projects is a day in the life for them, whether for startups, fast-growing challenger brands, or well-established companies that operate around the world.

Naturally, we looked to Attest’s Head of Client Experience, Renata Kashiwaya Pinheiro, to explain the 6 steps you need to take to go from research rookie to profiling professional.

Step 1: “Know why you’re gathering profiles”

The first question Renata and the ACE team ask our clients when they want to start profiling consumers is, ‘What outcomes are you looking for?’. There are so many uses for consumer profiles that knowing the intended outcome from the very start can help to narrow focus when it comes to the scope and scripting of the research.

It’s also useful to ask ‘why?’ in order to weed out the teams who understand the genuine business impact of these profiles, from those who just think ‘consumer profiling’ is a sexy buzz-word. Even if you need just a basic, high-level form of profiling for your team (and the uses extend far beyond marketing, to customer services, strategy and NPD), having a business need, and not just a vague interest, is important to structuring the project to meet those goals.

“Ask yourself: Is it [consumer profiling] just a sexy word, or do we have a genuine business need?”

Knowing why your team is conducting the research will also determine what part of the vast spectrum your project will fall into. There’s a broad range of profiling research, from creating basic demographic profiles of your existing customers, right through to full scale consumer segmentation, and not all use cases call for the most in-depth version of the research. Ask why you’re conducting the research in order to assign appropriate budget and scope to the task and ensure you’re not spending time and effort on research that isn’t particularly relevant for the business.

Step 2: “Start by focussing on 2 variables”

Whatever form of profiling you do, you’ll need to select two variants to test. These will be the variants you expect to polarise your industry; whether that’s price (some people are very price-sensitive, some pay little to no attention to price), familiarity (some consumers will have tried you before and some won’t have noticed you in the market), loyalty (some consumers will only ever buy your brand, some will be influenced by other factors to try a new brand every time) or something else entirely.

“If you were creating consumer profiles for your gym, you might test ‘how frequently do you go to the gym?’ against ‘how do you like to feel when you go there?’. That way you can see who goes every day but only likes to break into a little sweat, and who goes twice a week but likes to work so hard they can barely walk away afterwards.”

The variables might be obvious, informed by your overall goal – for example, if you’re creating consumer profiles to guide your pricing structure, one variant you’ll want to test against is price sensitivity – or they might be personal hunches you can quickly sense check with preliminary surveys.

Step 3: “Make sure the variables are mutually exclusive”

Before you set your survey live, make sure the questions addressing the variables are posed as mutually exclusive answers; you can’t use multiple choice questions to build consumer profiles, though they can be used to flesh out the profiles once the structure is in place.

You can’t have consumers that go to the gym once a fortnight, and also tell you they go every day of the week. Respondents have to choose just one answer that best reflects their behaviour, attitude or demographic, to ensure you get a read on the whole market and the key differences amongst the audience.

Step 4: “Bring the profiles to life”

With Attest you can create surveys that are 23 questions long, so use some questions or Attest’s in-built demographic filters to bring the data to life.

Demographics like gender, age or location, as well as answers to behavioural and attitudinal questions can breathe life into the profiles you’re creating. Suddenly you start to picture what each consumer might look and sound like, ensuring that they’re much more than just figures on a spreadsheet.

Step 5: “Analyse the data to answer your original business need”

Cross-tab the key polarising questions in Attest’s interactive results dashboard, to see the groupings of answers within other variables. This will give you the basic makeup of each of the profiles.

These profiles should be shared with your team and the wider company to use. Make sure to emphasize all stand-out answers to the questions asked, especially focusing on  the consumer responses that differed substantially from the average response of the population.

Applying the results to your original goal should be relatively easy if you’ve followed the previous steps and scripted your questions to answer the business need.

You can cross-tab based on the most important variables to your use case – for instance, if you’re using profiles for NPD, build your profiles outward from a question around problems with current offerings in the market or their brand loyalty.

Step 6: “Repeat”

“The great thing about consumer profiles is that you can re-do it regularly, and refresh the profiles whenever the market shifts. To do this with a full-scale consumer segmentation takes time and a lot of investment, consequently it is not done as regularly, and you can miss important trends that happen at a faster pace.”

Once you’ve created your working customer profiles, repeat – budget and time allowing – every year or so. With new competitors, new influencers and brand new consumers all entering the market, the perceptions and status quos will shift with time. As such, a lighter level of profiling, but reassessed more regularly, can be the best way to create useful consumer profiles in record time.

Renata, and the entire Attest Centre of Excellence team, are here to help. They’re experts in consumer profiling, and dozens of other consumer research needs. Get in touch with Attest today to learn more about consumers and make better business decisions.