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When it comes to your business' success, customer insight is everything. As every C-suite executive knows, getting into your customer's head is the key to earning their trust and ultimately their business. Customer insight is why we advocate for good research practices.

Longitudinal research is one type of consumer insight that is often overlooked. As its name suggests, longitudinal data is the insight you get from tracking responses from your insight community members over time in order to gain more meaningful information.

In contrast to one-time surveys, longitudinal research gives you a deeper understanding of your customers. Here are the four main benefits that your company can gain from longitudinal data:

  1. Get historical perspective.

Survey research is helpful because it enables your marketing team to ask consumers about their thoughts, feelings and attitudes at this very moment, but longitudinal research can give you the long-term perspective you need to understand your brand's evolution. Hindsight is 20/20, and longitudinal data helps ensure that your company doesn't commit the same mistakes twice.

  1. Identify customer pain points.

With so many variables affecting brand perception, CEOs should be able to identify - and also isolate - what is not working for their customers. Historical data lets your marketing team correlate ups and downs in customer satisfaction with organizational changes you have made.

A good example here is if your company decides to change something in the customer experience. By doing a satisfaction survey before introducing a new plan, you can better track customer experience and make a more confident evaluation whether your new plan positively affects your bottom line.

  1. Reduce risks.

Longitudinal research builds long-term relationship with your insight community. Gaining your community's trust becomes valuable if you would like to test how potential users or consumers will react to conceptual products, services or communications. This technique, also known as iterative concept testing, mitigates risks by engaging consumers who are already familiar with your brand. Also, by working with the same insight communities, you can afford not to ask all your questions at once -- testing concepts and narrowing in on your ideas as you go through the next steps of concept testing.

  1. Encourage data-driven decision-making.

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of smart data, not just big data. Encouraging your team to collect, analyze and act on longitudinal data changes the way your organization approaches decision-making. It demonstrates to them that you are serious about the importance of analytics in driving business decisions. In today's business world where most things can be measured, this change of thinking is an important competitive edge.

Your thoughts on longitudinal data?

The four reasons we listed here outline some of the benefits of tracking your customers' opinions over time. What has been your experience with longitudinal research? And how have you used longitudinal data in your organization? We'd love to hear about your experience.

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