We operate in an increasingly complex and challenging world with suppliers being forced to juggle future plans alongside having to copy with the pressures of today’s trading conditions. This means being able to balance the needs of customers, suppliers and the business itself.

Against this background, genuine insight can help deliver a competitive advantage that will enable suppliers to build empathy with their retail customers; drive innovation in their businesses so that they can offer new and better products and propositions, as well as improving day to day decision making and helping with the execution of plans in a timely manner. This means placing the retailer’s customer as at the heart of every decision, whether that concerns, for example, pricing, range or merchandising, store location, layout or promotions.

The first step in identifying and unlocking the insights your business needs is to be clear about the questions you want to answer. This means being able to understand what’s happening by gathering the right information; by recognising that insight is about more than just understanding what is happening and why, but about identifying what this means for the business. Only then can a business start to build a genuinely insight-based action plan.

So what do we mean by insight? We regard it as “a deep understanding of why things are happening and what might happen in the future.” Insights should present a clear call to action, because if your insight is neither interesting nor stimulating some action, then the chances are that it is little more than a fact.

This will require you to probe further and dig into what is really going on – the root causes of the situation you have identified. You’ll want to know why something is happening; whether it explains a behaviour or a trend that may not have been evident or visible before. To be a true insight, your response should inspire in you a clear set of possible actions that would change something or create a solution to something.

There will also be stakeholder implications to think about. To fully explore all of the potential implications you will need to think about all of your key stakeholders – retailers, shoppers, suppliers, your own business – and review the implications for each of them. This will help broaden your thinking and develop opportunities for new actions.

 I admit it can be very difficult to observe an insight. We observe facts and then have to drill down beneath the surface to uncover the insight but this is what retail buyers and customers are looking for as they bring clarity to what actions will work the best. It’s no longer enough to simply present a fact or observation, which could mean committing time and money trying different ways to activate consumers and shoppers with little success. That’s the difference between data and unlocking the insight from it.


Paul Weiss, Director of Capability Development, Bridgethorne Training Academy