The cake layers of insight

People have been scientifically looking into human behaviour since the 17th Century, and we are in a situation today where we have unprecedented amounts of data. It’s got to the point where we have to decide what we are going to track consistently and what we leave to one side. The question remains though: how do we make sense of this information about humans and use it to make decisions about products or campaigns?

Consumer Insights and Product Marketing leader, Bérengère Chaintreau Fuchs, is the new Global Panel Director within Kantar’s Profiles division and has previously worked at eBay, Amazon, and extensively as a consultant. She tells us about the craft of finding meaningful data in a world awash with information and change.

How do you find standout insights?

An insight is something that you didn’t know you were even looking for: it’s a hidden gem. To unearth it, I begin by collecting data, analysing that information, drawing conclusions about how humans make decisions, and then forming an insight which goes to the core of why people have done something. It’s a craft.

My natural instinct is to start with the customer needs and try to really understand the different segments, persona, location, intentions. Find the why: why have people chosen something, or not? Then I work back from the data to gain deeper understanding and connect the dots.

Large-scale quantitative surveys often unveil their most valuable insights gradually, as data evolves over time. That’s where you witness meaningful changes in behaviour. Frequently, a revelation will emerge, and the same issue will surface during customer conversations. Blending these sources is remarkably powerful.

How is the industry changing to better understand human behaviour?

We are being much more nuanced about how we segment people, looking at different types of life, backgrounds, history to gain better understanding. We used to think everybody was affected by changes at the same time, leading to discussions about generational differences. However, there’s now a realisation that change varies significantly for different people.

We used to adopt a two-pronged approach, looking at data that brings insight, and using that insight to design further experiences. However, we’ve evolved as a profession, and to make the most meaningful decisions, it’s now about creating various ‘cake layers,’ as I like to call it, consisting of data, learnings, insight, and science.

What societal changes are most impacting the field of consumer insights?

I believe COVID-19 and the lockdowns have fundamentally reshaped consumer behaviour. We find ourselves in a transitional phase and predicting the precise direction of these changes is challenging, but this is what makes our role as researchers and consumer insight professionals so fascinating. It’s where new discussions and future debates emerge.

What excites you about working in the industry today?

Firstly, I love that we’re in a transitional phase. Reflecting on my conversation with you, I couldn’t have foreseen a few years ago that I would be carrying out an interview like this from home. The shift to remote working is a behavioural shift that compels us, as consumer insight and marketing professionals, to rethink how we design products, campaigns, and narratives. In a world where people commute much less, does it change the categories of food we buy and content we enjoy?

The other thing that really excites me is the a renewed focus on empathy. The work we do in research and consumer insights is fundamentally about understanding the human experience. Behind reams and reams of data, real people are providing their input. Whether they’re sharing their thoughts through survey responses or tracking daily activities, we need to approach all data with empathy. These data points represent stories of people moving from work to home, visiting friends and relatives, and caring for their loved ones.

It’s a distinctly human narrative that data reveals. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone working with data to reflect on the humanity within these data points and recognise the responsibility we bear in handling all this information with empathy.

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