How Product Preferences are Revealed (1)

It’s not enough these days just to have a fantastic product. Your average consumers are inundated with product messaging and choices, so you need every tool in your possession to stand out above the competition.

You might have the best product in your category, but with the right messaging and packaging, your competitor may outshine you in sales volume. To understand why you need to know why consumers are making those choices.

Here, we’ll examine how product preferences are revealed using competitive intelligence. And we’ll do that with a look at:

  • Understanding product preferences
  • Your product’s competitive positioning
  • Consumer targeting
  • Messaging must-haves revealed by competitive intelligence

Without social listening, understanding consumer preferences can feel like driving on black ice with summer tires. The competitive intelligence you gain from it gives you traction to adjust and hit the sweet spot with your products. If you don’t, your brand is leaving money on the table – as these stats suggest:

  • 58% of brands are investing in making their products and processes simpler for the consumer. Competitive intelligence will tell you where they’re working, what they’re doing, and where you can tweak your products to stay competitive.
  • Competitive intelligence is fast becoming indispensable in positioning your brand’s products and messaging. Take food products, for example. Only 39% of consumers say taste is the leading factor when making a food purchase which means packaging, marketing, and ease of use make a big difference in consumer choice.
  • Brands can use competitive intelligence to uncover why a competitor’s products are performing well. After all, 72% of consumers say that packaging design influences their purchasing decisions, so you need to know where your competitors are performing well to make adjustments to your packaging.

Social listening reveals consumer preferences and pain points. Digging through relevant conversations in your category will show which brands are meeting needs and which ones consumers are shying away from – and why.

If your brand sells food products, why not find out what picky eaters are discussing? Find the pain and pleasure points and see what brands they like best and what they’re getting right. That’s competitive intelligence you can use to make adjustments and get in on the conversation.

picky eaters

Top conversations people are having on social media, discussing picky eating habits. Colored by sentiment.

Picky children and pets are significant factors in this conversation. There’s a big difference in what moves the products they consume, and competitive intelligence will help you understand their product preferences.

Let’s talk about that.

Understanding Product Preferences

Consumer tastes, opinions, beliefs and needs change like the seasons. The voice of the customer often feels like an endless pursuit – because it is.

Likewise, product preferences seemingly make no sense at times. Even worse, what worked great yesterday might fall flat today as attitudes shift. That’s where your market research needs a dose of competitive intelligence to ensure you’re finding what’s working well.

That’s because competitive intelligence can reveal minor tweaks you can make in product positioning, targeting, packaging, and messaging to maximize your product’s reception.

Honestly, using competitive intelligence to pick apart your consumer’s products for consumer preferences should be a standard part of your market research. The intel is too valuable to pass up.

And the competitive intelligence is lying around for you to scoop up with your social listening tools. For example, here’s an analysis composed of social media users discussing a popular pet food brand.

We’ve run the analysis through several purchase funnel themes, including consideration, purchase intent and post-purchase, to capture consumers that are serious about buying from the brand. Here’s a timeline view over 30 days colored by sentiment.

bar chart

Pet food conversations, colored by sentiment. Neutral (yellow) conversations are often about “health and balance.” Many negative conversations criticize expensive food, while a good number of positive conversations view expensive food as worth the price.

Drilling into this brand’s mentions to highlight only consumers within their purchase funnel reveals a wealth of competitive intelligence. And if this is your competitor, then you want to dig further as their sentiment here is very nice at 75% positive and only 6.3% negative.

Not only can we see which products are getting talked about the most, but we can also see why. Specific nutritional aspects, weight loss, texture (for fussy eaters), and ingredients are prominent mentions in this conversation.

So, when looking for ways to maximize your product’s reach, finding competitor conversations like this one are where you want to look.

Let’s explore a few more bonus features that competitive intelligence brings to your product’s viability.

Your Product’s Competitive Positioning

The above example was a very granular look into a conversation taking place over a brief period. Finding these conversations and replicating them at strategic periods throughout the year is competitive monitoring.

Using competitive intelligence snapshots in this manner allows you to watch fluctuations and changes to tone and subject matter. Doing this for all of your competitors gives you a holistic look at how your competitors’ products stand with consumers.

Using the same types of analyses on your products will help you see how they sit in the mix.

You’ll also uncover packaging, messaging and placement themes when you’re looking into conversations like the pet food brand above. The bottom line is to explore these conversations to find what is working best for your competitors so you can implement these aspects into your product line.

And sometimes, the tweaks and ideas that you uncover don’t have to translate to massive product overhauls. Consumers are looking to simplify their lives, and many brands are already moving in that direction with their products. Not only that, 72% of consumers say that packaging and design have a significant influence on their purchase decisions.

So, dig into your competitive intelligence to find the voice of the customer and don’t dismiss the small ideas. Your competitive positioning can benefit dramatically from small innovations.

Consumer Targeting Informed by Competitive Intelligence

Top-tier data analytics tools allow you to slice and dice your competitor’s product data any way you’d like. Once you find the conversations behind your competition’s top performers, you can get curiously specific insights on the consumers driving the discussions. It’s how brands use social listening tools to beat their competitors.

You can sort these product dialogues by demographic data such as professions, bio terms, gender, age, geo region, ethnicity, and even interests. Within any competitive intelligence discussion, you’ll find stand-out groupings that drive interest. And you’ll also find smaller ones that are worth trying to convert to your product with enticing messaging and product placement.

You’ll also uncover users that like a particular product for an unintended purpose. And that’s gasoline for your messaging fire. For example, teachers and administrators index pretty highly with the popular shoe manufacturer Birkenstock.

Digging in further reveals conversations about joint and foot pain as a reason they choose the brand. Could your shoe brand use this competitive intelligence to craft messaging and target these consumers? You bet you could!

Messaging Must-Haves Revealed with Competitive Intelligence

Using social listening on your competitor’s consumers yields competitive intelligence that allows you to deconstruct the conversations for what works – and what doesn’t. You can then reconstruct your product’s packaging and messaging based on the intel you uncover.

Again, sometimes small moves translate to significant results. Just ask StarKist.

Social listening and competitive intelligence showed them that products were performing well with consumers that played upon ethnic and spicy flavors. They also uncovered consumer intel on wording and coloring that they took into consideration as they looked to breathe new life into an underperforming segment of their product line.

Using packaging colors and terms that resonated with consumers, such as wild-caught, protein and bold, StarKist rebranded three of their products as their new ‘bold’ line. They didn’t change what was in the product at all. They simply reinvented their product packaging based on the competitive social insights they uncovered.

And their sales figures for a renewed product line went through the roof as you can see below.


That’s the aim of competitive intelligence and the power it can have to propel your product past the competition. As we said earlier, the changes don’t have to be big, just precise.

Is your brand struggling with lackluster competitive intelligence? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll show you how world-class data analytics tools can give a nitrous boost to your product line.

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