NEWS3 April 2024

Rise in consumer insight maturity, finds GRBN study

News North America UK

UK & US – The consumer insight function is more strategically integrated into corporate decision-making than it was in 2015, with proof of value, communication, diversity and integration all factors in insight maturity, according to the 2023 GRBN Business Maturity Study.


The 2023 wave of the research, conducted by consultancy Cambiar, supported by MRS and the Insights Association and aided by Jibunu, used a maturity model to assess how insight has evolved within client organisations and determine the factors associated with maturity.  

In the study, ‘maturity’ measured the degree to which consumer insight (CI) functions contribute materially to their organisations’ wellbeing, with functions organised into four stages: 1.) traditional, 2.) business contributor, 3.) strategic insight partner (strategic, trusted advisers operating across the business) and 4.) source of competitive advantage (corporate leaders focused on foresight and innovation from an enterprise perspective).

The majority of participants ( 63%) perceived their level of insights maturity to be at the third stage (‘strategic insight partner’), with 26% perceiving it to be at the second stage. Four per cent considered themselves to be in the fourth stage.

However, based on the maturity score algorithm, 35% of consumer insights are at the strategic partner level, with CI functions more likely ( 65%) to be placed in the second stage of maturity (business contributor).

The previous business maturity research in 2015 conducted by GRBN found that 20% of companies sampled had insights functions perceived to be operating at the higher end of the model, either as strategic partners or sources of competitive advantage.

The online survey was completed by consumer insight professionals in companies the US and the UK, in addition to their stakeholders and senior management, with a sample of 255 individuals in 86 companies.

Speaking at a recent MRS webinar on the research results, Simon Chadwick, managing partner at Cambiar, said: “CI functions do appear to have a higher business impact today than they had in 2015. They are more strategically integrated and their contribution appears to be more widely recognised. They are perceived to be much more strategically involved, there is greater satisfaction with that contribution as well as with the quality of insights that they bring to the table, and their ROI is perceived to be higher than it was eight or nine years ago.”

The research found that proof of value was the key factor associated with insight maturity: the degree to which CI functions measure their ROI and communicate it across the business, and the degree to which they communicate not only their insights, but their business value.

“This is the key driver,” said Chadwick. “Communication wasn’t an issue that was much talked about in 2015 – ROI measurement was. But now, communication is seen as absolutely key in terms of enabling that maturity.”

Chadwick continued: “We found that if you don’t have that proof of value, and you are unable to communicate that value across the company, reaching stage three becomes extremely difficult, especially if you don’t have executive champions.”

The 2023 research also found increased input of the CI function in organisational decision-making. Speaking during the webinar, Kahren Kersten, specialist consultant, said: “We are seeing alignment between CI and their stakeholders in terms of the increased role CI is playing in decision-making, with over half either facilitating decision-making or having an equal voice in it. It’s elevating the role of CI from being a support function that was more typical in the noughties.”

The researchers hypothesised that this increased involvement in decision-making was brought on by the pandemic and the continued changes in consumer behaviour and habits since. Kersten added: “CI is being asked to help stakeholders understand what is happening, why, and what will happen next.”

Another of the structural elements associated with higher perceived levels of business maturity is composition of teams, with around a third ( 31%) of CI functions perceived to be level three or four (strategic partner/corporate leader) being highly diversified in terms of personnel.

These are functions in which personnel ‘intentionally reflect a broad range of diversity from throughout society’, according to the study.

Chadwick said: “One of the factors that seems to be at play is the diversity of people within the CI function. It seems that those functions that have consciously diversified their own personnel appear to be higher on the maturity scale.”

Meanwhile, another 39% of those CI functions perceived to be at strategic partner/corporate leader level are ‘diverse in many ways but come from similar educational backgrounds’, the research found.

Another characteristic shared by CI teams perceived as mature is their integration with other data functions.

Chadwick said: “We have seen a slow and steady movement, over the last four to five years, towards [market research and data analytics] functions being integrated under one roof.”

Around a third ( 31%) of those who consider themselves strategic partners or corporate leaders are integrated with other data functions (such as analytics and UX) under a single management structure, while 44% are integrated with some of these other functions.

The types of external partnerships are also a factor shared by mature CI teams. Teams with a higher perceived level of maturity tend to work with both specialist and strategic providers, with 61% partnering with research and strategy consulting firms, as well as specialist research and analytics companies, generalist full-service research agencies and data collection firms and platforms.


Unlike the 2015 study (based on segmentation followed by interviews with senior executives), the 2023 study took an online self-assessment approach, based on and updating the original self-assessment survey administered by Boston Consulting Group in 2008. 

Survey participants were recruited through the corporate memberships of MRS and the Insights Association, and included CI professionals within corporate insights functions, business stakeholders who commission and apply the work of the CI function, and senior executives within the corporation. Researchers analysed the data on two tracks – the first being perceived maturity, where participants were asked to perceive where their CI function sits. The second track was on modelled maturity, the algorithm driving where a function sits on the maturity scale.