3 Deep Buyer Insights Must-Haves By The Year 2020

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Tony Zambito

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Being relevant today in a digital world filled with millions and billions of interactions per day is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations today.  Both B2B and B2C (and hybrid) are investing in attempts to capture these interactions.  In the form of data and analytics, organizations are hoping to glean informative insights into the purchase behaviors of their buyers and customers.  With hopes that the new trend of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can serve up exactly what customers want at the right time.

While what is happening today in Big Data and AI can be characterized as “listening”, it is nevertheless artificial listening.  It is listening in a world of bits and bytes.  Without human interaction.

Human-Centric Listening

Deeper buyer insights that are true revelations come from social and human-centered listening.  It involves social and human interaction.  In a world that becomes increasingly digital, the human art of listening is at risk of being marginalized.  Especially within business contexts.

For organizations to sustain within, let alone survive, today’s fast-evolving world, it cannot forgo active human-centered listening.  From an insight’s perspective, the end objectives become drivers for both forms of insights gathering.  Let us take a quick look:

Big Data and AI:  Seeking to interpret

Human-Centric Listening:  Seeking to understand

While the difference may seem subtle, they are enormous.  Since the dawning of data, the aim has been to interpret.  To gain meaning and to help predict.  It is highly dependent on transactions of bits and bytes.  Without some levels of data transactions, interpretations cannot happen.

Deeper insights that help us to understand buyers and customers, come from human interactions.  To understand requires social human-centered dialogue.

What Is Gained

When active human-centered listening happens, organizations can gain significant insights that can offer the understanding needed to get closer to customers.  Here are three powerful forms of deep buyer insights that are must-haves by the year 2020:

Relevancy For All, Not The Few

How organizations maintain being relevant in a world of digital noise is, as mentioned above, one of the biggest challenges facing all types of organizations today. What makes this point essential is that organizations must learn to be relevant to multiple groups, segments, or tribes in a world where one size does not fit all.  The way people think, feel, and behave are hard to discern from data or AI alone.  As segments become more diverse and more personalized, the challenge to be relevant grows. In a world that is becoming increasingly diverse, in part driven by digitization, this point has to be underscored as a must form of insight organizations will need to prepare for by 2020.


Social and human-centered listening offer us a window into the environment in which buyers and customers live.  Big Data and AI cannot provide a three-dimensional view of what surrounds and influences buyers.  A myriad of environmental situations influences how buyers and customers behave and decide.  For example, in an engagement study on behalf of a parts manufacturer serving the mining industry, data pointed to a significant drop in certain parts sales over a two-year period.  They attacked the issue from a perceived belief that they needed to improve their marketing efforts. The revealing insight, however, pointed to a change in how the parts were engineered.  Changes that resulted in the parts not being able to withstand harsh weather conditions for an extended period of time when they were stored in open fields at mining sites.  This environmental issue most definitely began to shape how mining purchasers began to seek other suppliers.

Tribal Understanding Required

The nuance yet deeper understanding of the difference between customer segments may be hard to discern from data alone.  As the importance of personalization grows, understanding diverse differences become deep insights must-have.  The future beholds another significant shift as we approach the pivotal year 2020.  Organizations will require a deeper understanding of their “tribal knowledge” about their buyers, customers, and users.  Tribal knowledge is the often unwritten, unspoken, and unarticulated knowledge that exists in companies, fields, and industries.  For instance, recall the peer experienced employee when you first started a new job and that person knew everything about the “ins and outs” of the job – most of which was not written down or described anywhere.  Gaining insights into “tribal knowledge” is going to matter a lot in the future as organizations seek advantages in a digital-centric world.  Tools, such as buyer personas, will need to be reinvented to be relevant on this element of deep buyer insights.

The Speed of Digital Disruption 

With digital disruption affecting many types of businesses and industries, gaining deeper buyer insights becomes critical for business leaders.  What is making human-centric understanding more urgent, is the speed at which digital disruption will occur in the next few years.  Especially as we approach the pivotal year of 2020 and enter a new decade that is destined to be historic.  A monumental shift in how people and business interact and in how commerce is conducted will undoubtedly happen.

Will you be prepared for 2020 by engaging in active human-centric listening to gain deep buyer insights? 

(In this excellent video, William Ury, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, talks about the power of listening and how listening is essential to understanding.  Enjoy.)