With so much effort now being expended by companies to collect electronic based demographic, customer transaction and usage data, it becomes all too easy to neglect one of the most valuable sources of insight - people. Electronic intelligence may record a choice, but it doesn't provide us with any understanding as to why a person made a specific choice. For this precise reason the human element will always remain as one of the key sources for strategic insight.
These human measures can be separated into passive and active methods.
Taking these measures into account, it's critical to recognise that personnel traditionally not considered as guiding strategic vision, can be highly valuable sources for situational awareness. Take Indetex for example, the owner of the successful Zara brand. In an unorthodox approach, they use in-store human intelligence from shop managers and employees to influence design and manufacturing activities.
They also monitor customers? reactions, on the basis of what they buy and don?t buy, and what they say to a sales clerk: ?I like this scooped collar? or ?I hate zippers at the ankles.? Inditex says its sales staff is trained to draw out these sorts of comments from their customers. Every day, store managers report this information to headquarters, where it is then transmitted to a vast team of in-house designers, who quickly develop new designs and send them to factories to be turned into clothes.[acp footnote]Suzy Hansen. (2012). How Zara Grew Into the World?s Largest Fashion Retailer. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/magazine/how-zara-grew-into-the-worlds-largest-fashion-retailer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&. Last accessed 3rd Dec 2012.[/acp]
We must recognise that the human element can be one of the most valuable yet neglected areas of marketing intelligence. In this way traditionally non-marketing intelligence related personnel become the eyes and ears of the company, relaying valuable insights through customer and environmental interaction, that if effectively used can guide a far more intelligent corporate strategy.
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Photo: Melvin Gaal