What are actionable insights, and what can you do with them?

Marketers are using data to uncover more insights than ever before — the next step is to make them actionable.

Discovering an interesting data point, like an unusually high site-wide sales day or a point in the customer journey where customers tend to disengage, can be thrilling. But it can also be frustrating if you can’t connect the dots between your insight and a promising action you can take to fix a problem, reach an audience, or capitalize on an opportunity.

That’s why today’s top marketers stress the importance of working with actionable insights. In fact, research suggests that the ability to glean actionable insights from data may be the difference between leading your industry and falling behind. According to Adobe’s 2022 Digital Trends report, 50% of industry leaders have robust data and insights capabilities compared to 20% of mainstream companies and just 6% of laggards.

This post will take a deeper dive into what exactly actionable insights are, how you can unearth them, and why they’re so important.

Actionable insights deliver the “why”

An insight is an interesting fact or observation. But an actionable insight suggests why something unusual is happening — and, by extension, how you can address it. This sounds straightforward, but identifying actionable insights can be surprisingly tricky. And it’s challenging whether your business sells to businesses (B2B), consumers (B2C), or a bit of both.

How to tell the difference between insights and actionable insights

Imagine you’re a marketer at a software as a service (SaaS) company offering accounting solutions to small and medium businesses. Let’s say that you get a report showing that new customer acquisition increased by 50% in the US between February 1 and April 15. This is an insight — and a potentially useful one.

You can make it actionable by tying it back to other data that could explain why new customers signed up on those dates. For example, if a lot of those new customers also opted for a free trial and responded to an intake questionnaire, you could look for a common thread in their answers. Your insight might then look like this: “New customer acquisition increased by 50% in the US between February 1 and April 15. During this time period, 80% of customers started with a free trial and said they were interested in being prepared for tax season.” It’s actionable because it tells you that getting ready for tax season is a powerful selling point for your software.

Or consider an online clothing retailer that notices sales of raincoats seemingly jump and fall unpredictably throughout the month. They could make this insight actionable by pairing sales data with other data describing what was happening on days sales were particularly high, such as special offers from marketing, the weather, and more. In this case, an actionable insight might be something like this: “Sales of raincoats increase by more than 25% on days when it’s raining, and the ecommerce team runs a special promotion.”

How to get actionable insights

At a high level, obtaining actionable insights simply requires analyzing data from multiple sources and looking at it through different lenses like time period, location, customer demographics, and more. Zooming in, this can involve combining data from different channels and stages of the customer journey and using it to build meaningful audiences and segments.

Create actionable unified customer profiles

When you create unified profiles, you combine customer information from multiple sources into single records that are easier to analyze. Depending on your needs, you might pull customer data from your CRM, marketing automation system, loyalty platform, and more. To successfully connect customer data, you need a unique customer identifier, like an email address, that is used to classify customer data in each system. Resolved customer profiles can help you group your customers into audiences and segments and understand how they typically behave. You can also use profiles to dig into how individuals associated with different accounts interact with your brand.

For example, an analysis of all your customer profiles might indicate that managers tend to read the product FAQ when they’re ready to buy your inventory management software while practitioners are more likely to request a free trial. This insight will help you plan campaigns targeting each of these audiences and develop personalized offers for when audience members take actions that signal purchase intent.

Sometimes, it’s important to take the long view. Analyzing historical data can help you tease out real trends and actionable insights from noise and common coincidence. For example, you might look at a few years of retail sales data to understand the true impact of holidays and different types of holiday-specific promotions on different audience segments in different locations.

Combine data from different channels and stages of the customer journey

Most companies connect with customers across a wide variety of channels including email, social media, the company website, and more. And they may have separate systems to manage interactions with customers in each channel. Customers, however, tend to bounce between channels on their journey to purchase.

To obtain actionable insights, it’s important to look at data across all your channels and at every stage of the customer journey. For example, if you sell to business accounts, analyzing data from all your channels will let you see if multiple people from an account are researching your products and if any of them are talking to sales reps. This kind of information will allow teams to better coordinate their interactions with that account and avoid sending contradictory messages.

What you can do with actionable insights

Actionable insights can help you transform and enhance virtually every aspect of your marketing and even your business overall. Literally, the sky’s the limit. Here are just a few ways businesses can succeed with actionable insights.

Personalize experiences for individuals and accounts

Actionable insights can tell you why, when, and how customers prefer to buy and how different audiences progress from one stage of the buying journey to the next. For example, most small business owners may prefer to buy your graphic design solution after they watch a video demo while individual freelancers are more likely to buy after a free trial. Using this information, you can build personalized offers that encourage customers to take the next step that will be most productive for them — and most like to end in a sale.

Make customer journeys more thoughtful and efficient

Another great benefit of actionable insights is identifying bottlenecks in your customer journey and finding out more about why those sticking points exist. For example, your customers might be less likely to complete a loan transaction when their credit application takes more than two days to process. In this case, speeding up the approval process could result in increased customer satisfaction as well as higher revenues.

Invent new product variants

Actionable insights can also steer you toward the development of new products and product categories. For example, your customers might mention in product reviews and on social media that they would like to see your product in a different size or color or be able to get a popular t-shirt pattern on coffee mugs. If these requests match up with repeat or high-value customers, it might be time to expand your offerings.

The actionable insights tech stack

Obtaining actionable insights requires a strong and natively connected data management and analytics tech stack, which many organizations even at the enterprise level lack. A foundational technology for uncovering actionable insights is a customer data platform, which is designed to unite data from multiple internal and external sources to create comprehensive customer profiles.

Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform can do all of this while keeping profiles updated in real time. If you’re ready to obtain more actionable insights from your data, Adobe is here to help.