We all know that understanding and listening to your customers is the key to attracting and retaining more of them on a long-term basis.
In a recent Q&A, Ashima Praveen, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bumble, took us a little deeper into that theory by proving that translating consumer insights data into concrete strategies can really drive above-market growth.
Q: I'm in the preliminary stages of putting together a new strategy for 2021, but before I do so, I'm keen to understand your preferred methods for gathering consumer insights? I don't want to rely on guesswork, I'd like to be guided by cold, hard facts. Thanks so much.
A: “Different organizations have different ways of collecting insights based on various factors such as available resources, the maturity of the product, and organizational goals.
“In my case, there are a few really good methods that have really helped me get brilliant insights in the past:
“Product behavioral data: This is unequivocally the best way to get a sense of how users are really driving value from your product. Funnel conversion rates, deep dive on users profiles to identify feature adoption behavior, engaged users/ total users are great metrics to understand what really is going on at the macro level and develop a hypothesis.
“Quantitative Surveys: Quantitative surveys are very popular and for good reason. It is the easiest way to get some qualitative insight while keeping a large enough sample size in order to ensure that the insight/problem is representative of what our customers believe in. You can use surveys to engage with the existing user base or use industry tools out there to get feedback from the potential target audience who are not customers yet. I prefer to have these rolled out on a recurring basis to capture the trend in responses, impact of campaigns over time.
“Qualitative Research/User Interviews: This one is the most in-depth and perhaps the best way to truly get a pulse of the customer. What are their motivations, needs, and desires? This helps you really deep dive into their backgrounds and purchase decisions. Obviously, these interviews don't scale effectively, and always need a quant survey overlay to ensure what's being captured is representative of the audience and not the view of an individual.
“Lastly, research-led insights should always be corroborated with usability testing/in product behavior to not fall into the trap of blindly following what the user is "say they do" vs what they actually "do". More often than not, they're contradictory.”
Q: The benefits of both qualitative and quantitative data have been well documented. But from your perspective, what’s the most effective way to utilize both types of data to understand consumer insights and form a well-rounded strategy? Do you have times when you favor one, over another?
A: “A very valid question, which seems to be a mystery for all of us product marketers.
“So I am going to be a bit controversial here, and say we should NEVER look at quantitative and qualitative data in isolation to come up with an insight.
“In fact, both offer very different kinds of insights. I personally love the relevant and authentic framework (visualize a Venn diagram and an intersection). In other words, true insight lives in the intersection of what's relevant and authentic to your target audience. Qualitative data, gained through interviews etc., provides the relevance of their experience and quantitative data actually supports the authenticity of that insight (enough number of users feel a certain way).
“So the question is never about choosing which one but how do we layer on the feedback from each of these methods to come up with an actionable robust insight to build our marketing strategy on.”
Q: How regularly would you recommend a product marketing team reviews their customer insights and potentially introduces a revised strategy? I imagine in such versatile markets, some company’s plans can be susceptible to becoming stagnant?
A: “Ah, I am not sure if there is a one size fits all kind of answer for this. It truly depends on the pace at which your business needs/consumer preferences are changing.
“Personally, I have been in more dynamic organizations where business planning was done on a quarterly basis and hence it was important for us to review our insights as part of our quarterly strategy reviews. And then adjust our plan/spend for the next quarter based on that. In fact, in one of my roles, I was going through the NPS and customer feedback on a weekly basis to check on any declining trends as we were in the middle of a big PR crisis.
“So I would really recommend using your company's business planning cycle as a proxy to review insights and introduce a revised strategy. There could be two triggers for this:
“1. Time-based review: 3 months, 6 months, or a year based on the company. This also helps in cross-functional alignment when you do come up with a new strategy and want to be rolled out as everyone else is also rethinking their plans.
“2. Event-based review: This happens in case of unforeseen events/situations. Good examples would be a pandemic, or sharp drop in market share, or company acquisition. All these big events which could have a significant impact on business operations/strategy and should be a trigger point where all existing insights are reviewed irrespective of time.”
Q: Which areas do you and the product marketing team at Bumble prioritize when you’re collecting customer insights?
A: “The online dating industry is actually one of few industries where I believe apps have a very deep relationship with its customers. To the extent, we have to be very careful of the user experience that we deliver as it goes on to impact how a person feels about themselves and relates with other people.
“So at Bumble, we have to be really close to the user in order to have a pulse on the behaviors we are encouraging and the overall experience of the customer. For us to be able to build a safe way for women to find meaningful connections, we prioritize deep diving on:
- User experience and behaviors on the platform,
- Emotional Barriers and motivators of our users to find a connection, and
- Perceptions/Affinity around online dating as a category and Bumble as a brand.”
Q: What are some of the barriers you’ve faced as a product marketer when it comes to maximizing the true value of your customer insights?
A: “Oh man, I have faced so many barriers! But rather than sharing my sob story, I'll just share a couple of barriers that I feel have been the most challenging for me.
“When data contradicts your qual insights - This perhaps is single-handedly the biggest barrier (and also a truth checker) for insights. Let's say we get some feedback from users that their primary pain point with dating apps is the lack of enough personal information on the profile page. We share that with the product team and their data shows that most users swipe left/right on the first picture itself and never scroll down to see more information rendering the insight useless! Users are irrational and their behavior is contradictory - hence I always believe in testing and experimenting to validate insights before actioning on them.
“Defining a unified marketing strategy with diverse local insights - This is tough with a not so straightforward answer. How do we find a global insight and inform a marketing strategy when user behaviors are so different based on cultural contexts? Every market can have different pain points and consumer preferences. What I try to do here is find key trends/themes in insights across markets that could be prioritized for global strategy but this is always a complex one to field.
“Internal advocacy with cross-functional stakeholders - Given product marketing is a highly cross-functional role, we actually rely heavily on multiple other teams for execution. Unfortunately, sometimes it happens that even after great work, these insights just sit in a folder somewhere are forgotten about. Typically this happens because the teams who have to act upon its product, channel marketing, sales don't necessarily have a clear view on what needs to be done or don't have the agency to make decisions. I always suggest aligning on the project scope and outcomes with all stakeholders before kicking off any kind of insight work to minimize these situations.”
Q: When entering new market segments what other sources can I use to gather more consumer insights combined with the feedback received from our sales team and initial market research?
A: “Sharing some good methods that have really helped me get brilliant insights in the past especially when venturing into uncharted waters:
“Behavioural data from existing segments: Use your current segments as a starting point. This is the best way to get a sense of how your current users are driving value from your product. Funnel conversion rates, deep dive on users profiles to identify feature adoption behavior, engaged users/ total users, platform activity are great indicators to understand what really is going on at the macro level and develop a hypothesis on how these existing segments might be similar or different from the new segment that you're trying to break into.
Quantitative surveys with potential customers: Quant surveys are very popular and for good reason. It is the easiest way to get some qualitative insight while keeping a large enough sample size in order to ensure that the insight/problem is representative of what our customers believe in. You can use various industry tools such as pollfish etc. out there to get feedback from potential target audiences who are not customers yet. I prefer to have these rolled out on a recurring basis to capture the trend in responses, map out feedback over time.
Competitive research analysis: Truly deep dive into competitor solutions and how the customers are responding to that. This could be done by combing through online community forums, Trustpilot in case of an app, social media, and helps in identifying gaps in existing solutions/potential opportunities. How is the new segment reacting to competitor's products? What kind of social media sentiment is around them. What are themes emerging out of customer support issues being flagged on social media/community forums?
A lot of this information is publicly available and can be easily accessed.
Q: What are the best ways of presenting consumer insights to top executives to always get their buy-in? This will lead to the execution of set product strategies. I am currently using PowerPoint presentations but I’d like to use more immersive ways to get them to feel the customers’ pain points
A: “This is a super interesting one. My view on leadership is that they connect well with things that are on wide ends of the spectrum as they have limited knowledge of day-to-day operations.
“So, something that has worked for me is to be able to share hard facts/data or impact on users (show how big the problem is) which leadership members can validate through their own personal experience with the product to understand why. Meaning you should share both quant and qual when sharing insights. For example, something like that your product is facing high user churn rates because of poor experience with customer support. With this insight, leadership would get both the quant data (which helps them see the size of the problem) and qual because they can try and reach customer support personally and see how frustrating it is!
“Some methods that I use to really get them to understand the experience/insight:
“Imbed short 20-30 sec videos of key customer insights/feedback in your presentations - put a real face to those problems and humanize it rather than making it a laundry list. Leadership will always be intrigued by this as they're so far away from everyday ops. Prioritize sharing customers/user groups (enterprise clients, premium or high paying customers) whose voice is valued by leadership.
“1. Testimonial bubbles to share anecdotes - this is a great way to share specific/interesting feedback from customers which highlights a contrary point of view but might not be immediately applicable/in line with the overall strategy.
“2. Word cloud for all pain points - this is a very powerful way to show the key themes and feelings emerging out of customer surveys/feedback. This supports credibility too as the leadership is able to validate themes themselves and not feel that you're trying to force your insights onto them.
Q: How do the product marketing team at Bumble work with other teams when devising relevant pathways to transform research into tangible results and strategies? Am I right in thinking this process doesn't fall exclusively at the feet of the product marketing team?
A: “You're bang on here! Building a robust customer insight is not possible just by the product marketing team. In fact, the richness of the insight is directly correlated with the number of perspectives that shaped the insight in the first place.
“It's typically the PMs or the PMMs who might identify a problem or want to test an insight. Before actually diving into research the PM and PMMs will get into a hypothesis phase where we would try to come up with multiple explanations based on data, previous research, or market landscape. Based on this discovery exercise, we identify the exact hypotheses and gaps that we want to cover with primary research.
“This is when we brief our killer research team! At Bumble, we have a very strong internal research team that is responsible for conducting all kinds of user and market research. User research looks from a product thinking perspective and market research supports from a brand/competitive view. A lot of projects cut across both kinds of research but some may be exclusive to product or marketing.
“The research team will come up with the best plan to test a hypothesis/explore a question. Based on the scope of the project, there are various teams such as customer support, brand, marketing, sales, etc that input into the research brief and collaborate on the insight extraction sessions to ensure we are looking at the problem/solutions from all perspectives.”