The term ‘actionable insight’ gets thrown around a lot, yet in some cases, it seems to mean little more than a set of numbers in a report. Businesses that want to get the most from their analytics investments may benefit from defining exactly what it is that makes a customer insight actionable. This will help them to measure and analyse what really matters to their business.   

Let’s start by considering what a customer insight is. Searchcustomerexperience defines it as: “the understanding and interpretation of customer data, behaviours and feedback into conclusions that can be used to improve product development and customer support. Insights are the actionable motivations behind the wants and needs of customers…”

One of the key attributes of a real customer insight is that it should offer an accurate and deep truth about the customer—be it the ability to predict or explain their behaviour or an understanding of their experiences or beliefs. For an insight to be actionable, you need to be able to use it to make a decision that will hopefully lead to better business outcomes.

Let’s break it down further to explore some of the key attributes of an actionable insight:

Aligned with  business goals 

For an insight to be useful to the business, it should be aligned with its goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). It should relate to an outcome the business wants to achieve, whether that is generating leads, converting customers or cross- and upselling to existing customers. Marketing data—like how many people clicked on an ad or how many followers a company has on Instagram—is interesting, but not particularly useful if not tied to a larger business objective.


According to data science experts, another key characteristic of actionable insight is that it has relevance to a decision-maker. Analytics consultant, Brent Dykes, says this is about delivering the insight to the right person at the right time in the right setting. Packaging the insight in a format that makes it meaningful and getting it to the right stakeholder makes it more likely to acted upon.


To produce useful insights, it’s important to move from the general to the specific. It’s not enough to have a general number—leads generated this month are up 15%, for example, without understanding why. If you know that 80% of new leads came from Google searches for a particular keyword or a blog post by an influencer, however, that enables you to optimise your digital marketing executions accordingly.


A truly valuable insight is a deep truth that you either didn’t know before or couldn’t prove. In the words of Luka Škorić of Digital Reflections: “The first time your company spots a particular pattern will be more interesting and compelling than the tenth time, especially if you feel you already have a good handle on what’s driving the behaviour. We become numb to certain insights if we feel as though they reinforce rather than challenge or evolve our current knowledge and beliefs.”


The clearer an insight and its implications, the more actionable it will be. If the meaning of a particular piece of data is ambiguous or hard to fathom, it cannot be said to be actionable. It’s thus important to tune out the noise and into the signal. This can be as much about how the insight is communicated via visualisation and storytelling as it is about the underlying data.

Writes Dykes: “If people don’t clearly understand an insight, why it’s important and how it can help them—the insight will be overlooked and forgotten… A clearly communicated insight creates a strong signal that is hard to miss or ignore, and it prepares a pathway for action to occur.”

Where to start

Once a business has a clear idea of which data it needs to drive insights that are aligned with business needs, relevant, specific, new and clear, it can start to look at how to optimise its data strategy. This will include evaluating current and potential future data sources; building skills to interpret the data; investing in the right analytics and reporting tools; and driving a culture of data-driven collaboration and decision-making across the business.



[Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels]