The Frightening Truth: Consumer Insight’s Blind Spots
Chad Hinkle

Chad Hinkle
Engagement Manager
Proactive Worldwide, Inc.

Published: June 19, 2023

Consumer Insights departments worldwide play a crucial role in helping businesses understand the wants and needs of their customers. Billions of dollars are invested annually in surveys, focus groups, and data mining through consumer insights departments, all with the aim of keeping “a finger on the pulse” of customers. However, despite extensive research efforts, consumer insights professionals are plagued by a persistent fear—that they may have overlooked something significant.

This fear is not unique to me; it permeates the entire consumer insights field. In my experience working in various consumer insights departments, I witnessed firsthand how we all grappled with the same blind spots, knowing that any gaps in our research could potentially invalidate our findings. However, there is a way to address these blind spots and alleviate our fears. By integrating competitive intelligence research with consumer insights work, we can uncover what is typically hidden in these blind spots.

Let’s explore three blind spots commonly found in consumer insights departments and how integrating competitive intelligence can eliminate them:

Blind spot 1: Inability to predict how the world will change around your customer.
Relying solely on consumer insights research restricts our perspective to understanding the customer without providing an objective view of the world beyond them. Unfortunately, this narrow focus often leads to a failure in anticipating emerging trends, disruptive technologies, and changes in competitor strategies. By incorporating competitive intelligence research, we can eliminate this blind spot. Competitive intelligence allows us to analyze the performance, product offerings, pricing, and marketing strategies of our competitors, offering an objective view of the external world surrounding our customers. This broader perspective enables us to understand not only what our customers want today but also how their wants and needs will evolve as the market undergoes changes.

Blind spot 2: Inability to see emerging opportunities and threats.
Without the aid of competitive intelligence research, valuable opportunities and competitive threats often go unnoticed until they have already taken root in the market. By conducting ongoing monitoring of competitors and industry developments, competitive intelligence helps us overcome this blind spot. Continuous monitoring empowers consumer insights departments to identify new opportunities and emerging threats before or as they emerge. The greatest advantage of this monitoring is the gift of time—time to think, plan, and make informed decisions for our companies.

Blind spot 3: Inability to know competitors’ true capabilities.
Consumer insights research can only reveal the information that competitors choose to share. Annual reports and marketing materials provide a limited perspective on what truly happens within competitors’ organizations. Competitive intelligence research seeks to gain firsthand knowledge about competitors’ actual manufacturing capabilities, supply chain issues, leadership changes, and future strategies. By combining this intelligence with publicly released information, consumer insights professionals gain a more accurate view of what competitors can truly deliver versus what they claim. Armed with this information, consumer insights departments can confidently plan and guide their companies.

Overcoming Fear
The antidote to fear is knowledge. By harnessing the strengths of consumer insights research and integrating it with competitive research, consumer insights departments can effectively eliminate blind spots resulting from an overreliance on consumer insights alone. Understanding where these blind spots exist within any consumer insights department and employing strategies to combat them enables us to provide the best guidance to our companies while transcending fear.

If you desire assistance in uncovering your blind spots, we at Proactive Worldwide would be delighted to collaborate with you. Please reach out to Nando Scola to explore how our expertise can help shed light on your consumer insights landscape.