Remember when “fidget spinners” were a thing? That was so last year. Yet, when they were all the rage, they were all consuming – spurring checkout stand display cases, licensed character iterations and frenzied kids who absolutely HAD to have one (or five). They were so ubiquitous that many teachers banned them from classrooms. The Economist reports that 19 million were sold in the first six months of 2017, during the toy’s peak popularity. Even the most savvy toy industry and retail trend spotters were late to the game, and many retailers were left scrambling to get inventory from manufacturers to shelves. So, what do fidget spinners have to do with consumer insights?

The introduction and surge in popularity of this trend cycled at about six months. Keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer behavior can mean the difference between capitalizing on a massive and lucrative trend and missing out entirely. And this all boils down to speed. Studying consumer behavior is one thing, getting the insights quickly and accurately enough to make nimble business decisions is another. Only the fastest access to insights will do in a world where trends change faster than a rotation of a fidget spinner.

This is just one example of the speed at which the overall marketplace is operating, and consumer insights are being pushed to follow suit. This means not only accessing and analyzing data in near real-time, but also making that data accessible enough that it can become part of day-to-day decision making. Retailers wouldn’t have come so late to the game – stocking the fidget spinners only after they fell in popularity – if they had faster access to a complete data picture. They obviously could see sales data but understanding the power of the trend was another thing altogether.

It’s clear that quick access to insights is essential and this means implementing new technology. There’s simply no way that outdated, manual methods of consumer research can meet these demands. So, what exactly do we need to ask these new technologies to do for us?

In addition to ease of use and intuitiveness, find something that will:

  1. Integrate data from multiple sources. Access to massive amounts of data like business metrics such as distributions, sellout and sell-in volumes, plus more traditional market research data on consumer behavior, gives us equally massive opportunity to truly understand customers. The ideal technology platform is ‘data agnostic’ and will allow the integration of all different kinds data from different sources and suppliers.
  2. Analyze the data. Machines give us an unprecedented ability to efficiently analyze data from multiple sources. Rather than having to piece together a big picture as new data is added, new innovations drive the machine (or computer) to remember basic tasks and do them automatically. Because the machine is doing this grunt work in the background, the researcher has more time to dive into the data and find out what it is really telling us. This is where a marriage of technology and humans can start to work toward better outcomes and insights.
  3. Make the data widely available. Find a system that allows customizable views for relevant stakeholders to quickly see what data is available to them. You’ll build stronger connections across the organization. Plus, it will create opportunities to highlight the work of the insights team and the value it brings to the business.

Stop going in circles trying to prove the value of consumer insights. The first step in the right direction is to meet the demands of a marketplace that is demanding speed, and the only way to meet those demands is by taking a careful look at how specialized technology hold all the available data, as well as integrate, process, analyze, visualize and share it.