What Is Market Intelligence and How Can It Help Your Retail Operations?

Market intelligence—this is one of those fun terms that could mean a million different things to a million different people. Unfortunately, that vagueness makes it easy to overlook how critically important market intelligence is. It also makes it too easy to do basic research into the market and competition and call it “market intelligence.”

Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, understand the value of this type of insights and analysis and use this information to create strong, effective retail strategies that best serve your customers. Here’s what you need to know about market intelligence, and how you can use it to help improve your retail operations.

What Is Market Intelligence?

As we mentioned, market intelligence can have many different definitions. For our purposes, we are looking at retail market intelligence: defined as aggregating multiple sources of information about the competition, shoppers, the economy, and the market as a whole into actionable insights to support your business.

When done right, market intelligence goes deep enough that you can confidently make decisions. It can’t be a cursory Google search or a water-cooler conversation. You need concrete metrics that influence your understanding of customers, prospects, and competitors. It has to be easy to digest and share with others inside your company, especially executives.

Retail market intelligence is defined as aggregating multiple sources of information about the competition, shoppers, the economy, and the market as a whole into actionable insights to support your business.

Why Is Market Intelligence Important?

Market intelligence is so important because it can show you possible paths forward. You have a number of goals for your business—broad ones, like increase sales, expand into this region, launch a new product—and more specific ones like why a specific planogram performs better or which price to set for a SKU.

Without intelligence, you may be guessing the answers to these questions. High-quality analytics is support for all of your efforts. Intel is also so important because many companies spend too much time looking internally, analyzing the subtleties of their organization without thinking big-picture. Market intelligence helps you pause and look outside, at the other players in your space, and gather crucial context for why things are happening.

So, don’t skip market intelligence in favor of business intelligence. You need all types of analysis to best support your business moving forward.

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Types of Market Intelligence Data

You might be picking up on a trend by now: market intelligence can come in a few different flavors and is customizable depending on your business model, customers, and goals. In fact, this is a key reason why it’s valuable. You can build data that works for you.

But what should you be looking at? Here are a few examples of the types of market intelligence data you can capture.

Competitive Intelligence

Start with your competition. What are they up to? What are their strategies? This is the backbone of competitor intelligence. The competitive landscape can tell you a lot, including their strengths and weaknesses compared to your own, how they are planning an expansion or new product line, and how they attract customers and keep them happy.

A few big elements to consider at this stage are prices, promotions, and products. What are their pricing strategies? How do they compare to your prices? Are they lower, higher, roughly equal? How about promotions—which promotional strategies do your competitors use to drive demand? Lastly, products are great to look at because they could expose areas where you don’t have an item that your competitors sell.

Customer Insight

Next up is the customer. Naturally, customer insights can tell you many things about how your business is perceived in the market. Depending on your business model, ratings and reviews are likely a major consideration. How do customers rate your products? Do they even like them? Are reviews excellent and driving more sales?

Overall shopper sentiment is a big one at this stage, too. This can include brand perception, price perception, and other factors behind how shoppers view your company. It could be favorable, negative, or neutral. Then shopper experience comes into play—that covers how the shoppers move from learning about a brand down to making a purchase. Is that process seamless? Are there opportunities for upsells and cross-sells? Are they abandoning their carts? Take this market knowledge and apply it to your own brand.

COVID-19 has affected nearly all areas of market intelligence and serves as an example of how an event can have a ripple effect on retail.

Market Research

Market research is broader, and more focused on the general trends at play in your geographic area. You want to identify whether there are opportunities to expand into new regions or open new stores. You want to see how broad consumer trends are developing, such as changes to shopping behavior. COVID-19 making shoppers more mission-oriented over casual browsing is a great example.

Economic trends are also at play here, including recessions, downturns, stimulus, and other major events. All of these have a direct influence on your health as a business and the desire of your shoppers to buy your products. Again, COVID-19 has affected nearly all of these areas and serves as an example of how one event can have a ripple effect on retail.

Product Intelligence

Finally, you need to analyze products in your market, both your own and your competition. What you’re looking for here are any service areas that can be explored, similar to how you’d look for new regions. Is there a type of product the market needs? Are there inefficiencies in existing products that can be fixed to better serve customers?

A good way to think about this is through the lens of jobs to be done. What are the jobs that your customers are doing? What are their goals? How does your brand complete those jobs? On a related note, this ties into unmet needs if you want another way of thinking about it. Where do your products solve a problem, and where do they not solve a problem. Those gaps are opportunities.

Market intelligence can be many things to many people. That’s actually a great thing—you can create a market intelligence strategy that fits into your business model. Customize it, experiment with it, and use high-quality data to influence your decision-making for the best possible ROI.

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions.

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