The Better Why: Insight Meets Activism

Last month, Customer Agency C Space published The Better Why report – a piece of industry-leading thought leadership around how the current crisis has changed customers and business – and what this means for insight. C Space’s UK Managing Director Kathryn Blanshard explains more


2020 has been a year of turbulent and ongoing change. At the start of March we began a project with customers across the world to document and explore life under lockdown.  With a weekly output available on our website, “Customer, Now” observes the deep (and sometimes not-so-deep) changes happening within customers as a result of the pandemic. Our guiding insight: “in this fast changing situation, nothing is changing faster than ourselves.”

As the crisis evolved, we saw that just as customers are changing dramatically, the same was also happening within our clients organisations as they raced to understand the implications of new habits and shifting values on their businesses.

As a result, we undertook a second piece of research, this time on research itself: we carried out more than 70 interviews with (and surveyed 400 ) customer and insight leaders across a range of sectors to take the pulse of the industry.  

What we heard was a story of opportunity within crisis, within crisis. As Jami Guthrie, Vice President of Insights at McDonald told us: “There’s never been a better time than right now to say ‘there’s a different way’. There’s no playbook on how to navigate a marketplace like this.”

What do I mean by a crisis within a crisis? I’d argue that pre-Covid our industry had all the hallmarks of an impending inflection point.   We were seeing the traditional function of insights being absorbed by new technologies resulting in the commoditization of data and an automation of analysis. This is still true in the pandemic era – indeed these trends have accelerated as business looks to respond to changing customer behaviour at speed.

We have created this study to help the industry lead through this change. It is focused on how insights leaders can continue to propel their function to a more strategic role in the business, driving more strategic conversations around customer inspired growth.

Data and Agility

What we heard in our conversations with insights leaders is that data is still the lifeblood of all customer understanding moving forward; the connecting tissue. But what’s critical to the success and credibility of an insights function is its ability to determine which combination of datasets will reveal growth opportunities, and how it helps the business act on them in an agile way.

One of our biggest clients, a very large UK retailer, came to us at the beginning of the pandemic to help them go back to basics and listen really hard to their customers and employees on a daily basis. We had already been seconding employees into this clients’ business, which meant we understood what agility meant to them and how best to serve insights to create impact. And of course, because we have an ongoing community of both customers and employees, we were able to triangulate not just what customers needed but also how the retailer could support staff.

We pivoted to producing daily outputs, which our client included in reports that allowed the business’s insight leaders to present research direct from the communities into the Board of Directors and senior leaders. We built those insights into key recommendations that were implemented, at speed, on a national level. They informed everything from employee benefits and communications, C-Suite corporate communications, above-the-line advertising recommendations and more. Giving the business confidence that their actions would be in-line with customer and employee expectations at a moment of heightened sensitivity.

Our data in combination with our agility contributed to our client team’s success within crisis. They were able to build a strategic foresight function that guided commercial and operational business decisions, ultimately resulting in the company generating an uplift in group level sales and increased brand strength. 


One of the more provocative perspectives we heard from insights leaders is that they need to represent the moral compass of the business, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it prepares businesses for future success. At their best, our clients are asking us to help them walk in their customers shoes, understand their lives deeply and what matters to them as a way to create products and services that are truly representative. Of course, this representation also has a knock-on effect to commercial outcomes. Done right, insights leaders told us, better representation improves customers lives and drives commercial outcomes.

One major global technology client offers a suite of technology products and services to users, free if they subscribe. But data showed that large numbers of users in India were setting up their accounts in English instead of Hindi (despite having limited fluency in English). The client came to C Space to solve this UX puzzle.

We ran a series of activities to explore users’ understanding and reactions to the individual features in both Hindi and English. We conducted in-depth UX interviews with consumers – offering a deep dive into why they were using English instead of Hindi, as well as what drove their language preference for certain features.

The intimate nature of the interview method allowed consumers to open up about emotionally challenging topics like their fear of judgment for ‘needing’ to use their phone in Hindi, wanting to keep up appearances, and the perception of English as a language that embodies self-betterment. Our methodology was designed to bring scale and robustness, but also allow us to explore nuanced factors such as gender or class – and how they can affect tech usage.

In some cases, opting for English isn’t an active choice, but more of a passive acceptance.

In other words, because users think the technology company is American, they believe its products would work best in English. Moreover, consumers stated that Hindi translations can be quite bad, making English the preferred language choice.

The resulting output was a report that highlighted how seemingly unconnected fears affect product choice, and how the client could begin to address them to increase usage. Specific consumer stories in the report were spotlighted to bring their experiences to life and create empathy. Our recommendations included key things our client should consider in order to deliver on localization that actually works for users.

The report resulted in several ideas that the client’s stakeholders are planning to bring to a much bigger forum. Product impact is in progress, but the impact on people within the business has already been profound.

You can read the full case study here:

Why & What Next

In a year where nothing has changed faster than ourselves brands have a huge opportunity to truly connect with their customers and find new paths to relevance and growth, a way to build back better. We hope that The Better Why will spark conversation and action across our industry on how insight can be at the centre of this leading this change.

Download the report here: