What Is Product Intelligence?
Product intelligence is the magic that turns everyday products into smart machines. It’s what helps teams build great product experiences.
From Alexa putting on your favorite tunes in the kitchen to Siri setting up your morning alarm, product intelligence is the bridge that connects people to products.
If you’re interested in learning more about how product intelligence can transform your product business, you’re in for a treat.
In this article, we’ll explore what product intelligence is in detail.
- Product intelligence is integrated software that allows teams to use customer data to continuously make smart changes to products.
- A product either needs to entertain, inspire, or inform customers. If it doesn’t, they’ll quickly move on to something new.
- Product intelligence helps product marketers use data to better understand consumers’ relationships with the products they love using.
- Any company that sells products can choose to use product intelligence, but the three most common groups are product marketers, product managers, and product designers/engineers.
- Product intelligence gives companies the insights they need to consistently innovate their product.
- Product intelligence helps encourage product adoption.
- Product intelligence helps companies make informed pricing decisions.
What is product intelligence?
Product intelligence involves using customer data to continuously make smart changes to products.
It’s integrated software that allows teams to better understand customers and products with the goal of improving the product experience to convert and retain users.
One of the best well-known examples of product intelligence at work is Apple.
Apple gathers data about how its customers use the iPhone in order to improve models to keep customers coming back.
Product intelligence is the main strategy that helps Apple stay competitive in the smartphone industry. Without it, they would be at serious risk of losing market share to competitors.
Another example is project management software and other SaaS products. SaaS companies face extreme competition and must prioritize product experience in order to stand a chance at surviving.
It’s also important to note that product intelligence differs from business intelligence (BI), data visualization, marketing analytics, and customer data platforms (CDPs).
Product intelligence doesn’t focus on things like optimizing ad spend, generalized reporting, visual data, and data collection.
Instead, it focuses on:
- How digital teams take action and the insights needed to understand the actions’ impact
- Complex behavioral data from complex user experiences
- How cross-functional product and growth teams collaborate in real-time
Why is product intelligence important?
Product intelligence is crucial because it drives customer loyalty. In fact, 74% of consumers report that the quality of a brand’s products is the most important factor in keeping their loyalty.
Why does product quality matter to consumers? Because it gives them the experience they’re looking for.
To understand why product intelligence is important, we need to explore our personal relationships with the products we use and stop using.
In this day and age, we have more choices as consumers — and we’re also more connected. From phones to tablets to watches, our screens are turning us into experience snobs.
It takes a lot to make someone like a product. A product either needs to make us more effective at work, entertain us, inspire us, or inform us. But if it doesn’t, we’ll quickly move on to something new. Loyalty must be earned.
That’s why companies are offering high-quality products that give us the experiences we want. They’re competing to earn our loyalty. With product intelligence, they’re able to use data to better understand our relationships with the products we love using.
With almost 30 years of experience helping companies understand customers, Annette Franze, author and CEO of CX Journey Inc., says:
“You can’t transform something you don’t understand. If you don’t know and understand what the current state of the customer experience is, how can you possibly design the desired future state?”
When companies don’t focus on experience, they end up spending more money to desperately try to keep customers.
But by that time, they’re often too late, and customers end up leaving. Not only does this lead to the company losing market share and falling further behind, but it also leads to reactive decision-making and a drop in company morale.
Who uses product intelligence?
From logistics and delivery companies using it to plan their routes to banking firms using it to design mobile apps, any company that sells products can choose to use product intelligence.
Product intelligence provides valuable information to any team member involved in product development and marketing.
The three most common groups that use product intelligence are:
- Product marketers
- Product managers
- Product designers and engineers
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
1. Product marketers: Product marketers love using product intelligence to understand why customers like using a product. From alleviating customer pain points to responding to customer concerns, product marketers have essential data at their fingertips to craft powerful campaigns.
2. Product managers: Product managers can use product intelligence to plan their entire development process. The data they collect can guide new features, updates, and improvements.
With less guesswork involved, they have the tools to make informed decisions that can enhance the overall product experience.
3. Product designers and engineers: Product designers and engineers rely on product intelligence to build and design products.
What are the benefits of product intelligence?
The benefits of product intelligence are endless. Here are some of the benefits of using product intelligence:
1. Gives you control: From gauging how users feel about a product at a certain time to allowing them to submit feedback, product intelligence lets you control every aspect of the user experience.
2. Helps you build onboarding experiences users love: Product intelligence has powerful tools to improve onboarding and boost product adoption. From pushing users toward actions to announcing a new feature, you can customize every experience to meet your goals.
3. Identifies consistent flaws: Product analytics helps you identify flaws in the user experience, so you can create better experiences and solve problems before your next update.
4. Reduces customer churn: By measuring user happiness, you’ll be able to custom-tailor features to create the experience customers crave and reduce customer churn in the process.
5. Improves quality management: Tracking product development metrics gives companies greater control over quality management. This ensures that products are manufactured according to the precise specifications of product designers.
Measuring product key performance indicators (KPIs) also gives companies more control over product quality.
6. Accelerates product innovation: Product intelligence gives companies the insights they need to innovate consistently. When you always have a 24/7 view of how people use your product, you can make innovation a consistent priority instead of something that’s done every so often.
7. Helps product companies stay relevant: As we mentioned before, when companies don’t focus on experience, they end up losing customers. Companies can use product analytics to make faster and better decisions, innovate products, and keep up with competitors.
Product intelligence helps companies stay relevant by giving them the insights they need to evolve constantly.
8. Keeps an eye on competitors: Speaking of competitors, product intelligence can help you stay one step ahead of competitors. From knowing when your competitors’ products go out of stock to seeing which of their products perform better than yours, product intelligence can give you the insight you need to identify gaps in the retail process.
9. Improves product adoption: Product intelligence helps you encourage product adoption by treating new features as mini product launches, using targeting to boost feature adoption, and supporting the in-app experience with behavioral emails and questions.
10. Improves pricing: Product intelligence helps you make informed pricing decisions. Data like price volatility, stock availability, and understanding how to price your products right can be crucial to increasing sales.
Guiding principles of product intelligence
To get the most out of product intelligence, there are some guiding principles digital teams should follow.
1. Product teams must be collaborative and cross-functional: While platforms and integrations are essential tools, great product experience comes from helping teams collaborate more effectively.
This means that collaboration must be a top priority, not an afterthought. Modern product teams need to balance exploration, experimentation, and decision-making when working together to improve and create new products.
2. Product teams must have complete access to data: To improve products and make better decisions, product intelligence can’t be bound by information silos — all data must be accessible. From analytics to experimentation to customer data and behavioral targeting, data must be available for all product teams to easily access, monitor, and use.
3. Usage tracking must be done ethically: Product teams must be respectful of sensitive information and acknowledge customer concerns. This means being careful about what you track, how you track it, and what you use it for.
Collecting and analyzing usage data to investigate patterns, opportunities, and trends is important for providing customers with the most value — but make sure your team is protecting users by being transparent about what you track and how you track it.
For instance, make sure your tracking source code and documents are always up-to-date and available to the public. You should also have a privacy control center where users can update privacy settings and see what they’ve opted-in to.
How to implement a successful product intelligence solution
So now that we know what product intelligence looks like, the question becomes: how do we implement it?
Here are six steps to putting product intelligence in motion:
Step 1: Provide teams with the necessary tools
As we mentioned in our ‘guiding principles’ section, product teams must have complete access to customer data.
This includes having direct access to customers and access to qualitative and quantitative insights. Teams must also be free to problem-solve and run experiments to gather more insights.
To provide teams with the necessary tools, be sure to outline policies and procedures that are easy to read, obtain, and teach. Then, create a resource portal that includes necessary tools, tips on conducting experiments, and market research.
To take this even further, consider creating a dedicated problem-solving team.
Step 2: Streamline technical execution
From managing delivery and experimentation to combing through streaming data from various points in the customer journey, teams need systems in place to streamline technical execution.
This means automating as much manpower as possible and giving employees specific functions that together contribute to the overall operation.
For instance, some teams might focus on user management, while other teams focus on product tracking, and repetitive operational tasks (like data pulling) are automated.
When employees are individually responsible for specific functions and don’t have to worry about monotonous tasks, they become experts in those functions.
Step 3: Conduct research
Product research involves obtaining a detailed markup of data, such as:
- Service data
- Manufacturing and test data
- Design data
- Distribution metrics
- Marketing metrics
Product research shows you where to focus your efforts on the market, when to discontinue a line, and when to debut a new generation product. This research is crucial to understanding what customers are looking for.
A common way of doing this is by conducting quarterly business assessments with a tool like SurveyAnyplace to identify strengths, weaknesses, potential threats, and opportunities for your business.
Next, closely scrutinize the information to see if products fail, meet, or exceed customer expectations.
To improve the research process, consider creating a dedicated research team that specializes in obtaining insights and making sense of them.
Step 4: Track products
Product tracking involves monitoring product data in real-time over a period to understand the product’s lifecycle.
Tracking products allows companies to gain insights into product performance and explore product opportunities.
From seeing whether products are realizing returns to spotting product complications early on, product tracking helps you address concerns that threaten product success.
To track products, be sure to keep an eye on search signals, product reviews, and social media cues. This will help you track trends and demand. You can also identify and move your inventory to where the demand is the highest.
Step 5: Analyze competitors
While competition is a threat to any company, digital product companies have even more pressure to keep up with competitors. Technology is a fast-paced game, and not keeping up means falling behind or losing the game completely.
One of the best ways to start competitor analysis is by understanding the competitive landscape and identifying your competitors — including direct, indirect, perceived, and aspirational competitors.
Then, analyze their products, customers, marketing tactics, and sales strategies.
Here are some questions to ask when conducting competitor research:
- Who are they marketing to?
- What campaigns are they using?
- Do they have any unique offerings that other product companies don’t?
- What are their best-selling products and why?
- How many units do they sell per day on average?
- What does their revenue stream look like?
- What technology are they using?
- What are their key product metrics?
Competitor analysis also involves anticipating your competitors’ next moves. Do you think they’ll launch a new generation product soon? Do you think they’re working on a new partnership?
Thoroughly monitoring your competitors is a crucial step in your product intelligence implementation strategy.
Step 6: Track keywords
Product keyword tracking improves product visibility and uncovers which keywords your competitors are ranking high with.
Keyword tracking can be used to monitor how high your products are ranking and which keywords are driving buyers to your product.
Use keywords in your product descriptions, ad campaigns, social media posts, blog posts, and landing pages to get more eyes on your product.
And that’s a wrap on product intelligence. We hope this guide is just what your product team needed to read to boost your products to the next level.
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Axelle Dervaux is a digital marketing expert with a focus on B2B marketing for SaaS companies. She is the Marketing Manager at clicdata.com, a cloud-based business intelligence, and data management platform.
Her marketing experience covers fields like SEO and SEA, social media, lead nurturing, customer retention, and product marketing. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.