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The difference between findings and insights

There’s a simple truth about human behavior: consumers buy when the act of buying is simple, easy, and convenient. Amazon has figured this out, and at $80B a year, they have become the most relevant brand to Millennials. By focusing on three consumer-first digital strategies—easing the purchase process by prioritizing social proof; shortening the amount of effort required for repeat purchases, and tightly connecting experiences across devices—Amazon and other online retailers have driven significant sales while growing and retaining their customer base.

For online retailers, this is easy to do at scale. But I can imagine ways brick and mortar retailers learn from this too. It starts with collecting the right data, then rather than sorting it and forgetting about it, or running campaigns on autopilot, we need to be mining for the insights, not just findings.

Findings are based on hard and fast observations, and things we observe, that help us put all the data in buckets, and people in categories. But findings alone don’t lead to the why. They just call out and help us categorize the what. Insights are penetrating, discerning understandings that unlock an opportunity. They cut to the chase and get to the why. And finding them takes listening, quiet observation, and active participation. There’s a reason Philip Kotler called marketers the first behavioral economists. Our job is to understand people. Their motivators, wants, needs, self-perceptions, and provide them with products and services that make life easier, more fun, more engaging.

Those basics have not changed. But in the era of Big Data, we need to slow down, stop the data crunching and first look and listen for the insights that might contain the nugget of an idea or a pain point we can remove for our customers. X% said this, Y% said that. X% of customers are in this segment, Y% are in that. All are important findings, but what are the consumer insights—the penetrating, discerning understandings about why people behaved that way—that can help us create better, more relevant and responsive products and services?

Amazon has figured out how to make the act of buying simple, easy, and convenient. In even the most complex of businesses—selling new-home construction—we can do much better.

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