What is product intelligence?

Product Intelligence

Do you know how well your product is performing for consumers? Before designing the next iteration or blindly adding a new feature, take a deep breath and make use of product intelligence to figure out your product’s existing strengths and weaknesses.

Product intelligence is more than just a buzzword — it’s a key part of keeping customers happy and engaged with your brand.

Defining product intelligence

Product intelligence is the process of gathering, analyzing, and acting on data about how people use your product. The process involves using customer data to help you create better products and a better customer experience. You can also use product intelligence to better understand the user experience offered by your competitors—and how yours compares.

Apple is one of the most well-known examples of product intelligence at work. They gather data about how consumers use the iPhone, then use that information to make improvements that keep customers coming back for more. Product intelligence helps them improve on each model to stay ahead in the competitive smartphone industry.

Product intelligence vs. product analytics

Product analytics play a huge role in product intelligence, but the terms are synonyms. Practically speaking, “product intelligence” is the output of doing product analytics, but you can accomplish both with tools like Mixpanel. When you share product analytics with your production teams, they’re better equipped to make strategic changes based on customer usage and feedback. 

Product analytics provide insights into how users are actually using the websites, applications, and other products your team is building.

These insights answer questions such as the following, pulled from one of our past blog posts:

  • Who are your power users? How do they use the product differently from other users?
  • Why do some users convert, while others don’t?
  • How does retention differ by user type? Is it higher or lower when people engage with a particular feature?
  • What are the top drivers of engagement, conversion, and retention?
  • Did a new feature release cause the desired change in behavior?

A product analytics solution like Mixpanel uses an event-based tracking model designed to track the actions users take within your product. Product analytics tools collect all of these events and link them to a single user ID, providing insights on each user’s customer experience.

Product intelligence vs. business intelligence

What is the difference between product intelligence and business intelligence? Business intelligence (BI) is a broader, less focused analytics approach to using customer and product data.

Product intelligence focuses on an individual product’s performance. Business intelligence is aimed at understanding how different parts of a company are performing and where improvements can be made across departments, not just within the product development team.

BI tools ingest and collate data from different sources, then put it into an information infrastructure for gathering, storing, and sharing such data. These tools can create dashboards, reports, and data visualizations — all of which can be powerful in fast-tracking product intelligence. Due to their complexity, BI tools often require a data scientist for deployment and active use.

A product analytics solution like Mixpanel, on the other hand, is focused on tracking and analyzing user behavior within a digital product. Product intelligence and analytics tools help answer questions related to customer engagement, conversion, and retention. It helps product teams find answers through behavioral product analytics without the help of a data expert.

It’s best to have both product analytics and business intelligence tools at your disposal. Both BI and product intelligence will help you make data-driven decisions, but the latter matters more during product development.

Product intelligence vs. product innovation

The better you understand your product (and how users get the most out of it), the more innovative you can be in future iterations.Product intelligence drives product innovation.

Product innovation is the act of developing a product that is unlike any other product on the market. That can mean creating an entirely new product, improving an existing product, or expanding a current product so that it offers unique features.

Identifying opportunities for innovation is a common goal of implementing a product intelligence process and using product analytics tools. The product data that is gathered can help developers and designers come up with new solutions to meet customer needs.

Product intelligence can also reveal unexpected ways that customers use your product. By understanding how your customers really use your product, you can innovate in ways that meet their needs and address their pain points. Follow-up testing also gives your product teams a way to further analyze and evaluate product use so that decisions are based on data, not assumptions.

How does product intelligence work?

Product intelligence helps businesses to continuously make smart changes to their products. Companies that don’t use product intelligence risk losing market share to competitors by not making the improvements needed to stay ahead in their industry.

Product analytics tools make it easier to gather and act on product intelligence data. These tools can compile and organize product usage and customer experience data. When you use an analytics platform like Mixpanel, the product intelligence process begins with three steps:

  1. Automatically gather data on product performance.
  2. Analyze consumer feedback.
  3. Run follow-up tests.

1. Automatically Gather Data on Product Performance

Automation is a key component of product intelligence. When you automate the collection of user behavior data, your product intelligence becomes more scalable and easier to act on. It also saves you both time and resources.

When people use your product anonymously or from different platforms, it becomes complicated to track their activity and retroactively associate it with the same user. Analytics platforms like Mixpanel automatically organize and configure that data to generate reports that make the process simpler.

2. Analyze Consumer Feedback

Consumer feedback is an important data source for product intelligence. Constant feedback allows your team to understand what features are most important, define and measure product metrics, and continue to create products your customers love.

Customer interviews, surveys, and focus groups can add another layer to product intelligence, particularly in regards to how customers feel about a product and how satisfied they are. Today’s product intelligence tools can leverage text analytics to analyze customer reviews, social media comments, and ratings for a product so your team doesn’t have to read through each individual review.

3. Run Follow-Up Tests

Gathering data is just the beginning—next, you need to act on it. Your data should be actionable, not just informative.

The product intelligence data that you gather can serve as a baseline for testing new product improvements and features. Testing different messaging and features— and measuring how those changes impact conversion rates and customer sentiment—is one of many ways to determine what concrete responses occur based on your actions.

Managers and developers can test customer sentiment towards new features or gauge which changes have the most positive impact before launching a new product. Tracking movement in your product analytics KPIs (key performance indicators) and continuously adjusting your product based on the results means you’ll always be one step ahead of your consumers.

What are the benefits of product intelligence?

The primary benefit of product intelligence is in the name. With product intelligence, you’ll understand how your product is performing and what you need to change to create a better customer or user experience.

Here are some of the top benefits of product intelligence:

  1. Create a better customer experience.
  2. Accelerate product innovation.
  3. Improve quality control.
  4. Gain a competitive advantage.
  5. Make measurable improvements.

1. Create a Better Customer Experience
A 2017 study by Walker found that by the end of 2020, customer experience is expected to become the key brand differentiator, overtaking both price and product. When you use product intelligence, you make it easier, more enjoyable, and more necessary to use your product—leading to an overall better experience for users.

If your product analytics identifies a consistent flaw in the user experience, you know to prioritize solving that problem in your next product update. Creating better user experiences means happier customers who spend more money and keep coming back to your products.

Consumers are  willing to pay up to 16% more on products and services for a good customer experience.

Better customer experiences also increase loyalty and decrease customer churn.

2. Accelerate Product Innovation
Product development is an iterative process—development teams must consistently improve and innovate.

Product intelligence gives them the insights they need to make iteration a constant, rather than something that’s done every once in a while or on a whim. When you have an always-on, 360-degree view of how people use your product, you can continuously improve the customer experience based on this data.

According to Blend’s product manager Clement Kao, product analytics data should inform every product decision.

“Now is a fantastic time to double down on instrumentation and quantitative data collection, especially as you continue to learn about the new needs of your customers and end-users,” Kao explained to Mixpanel. “That way, as soon as you’ve shipped new functionality to address the new pains that you’ve discovered, you’ll be able to refine and iterate much faster than your competitors can.”

3. Improve Quality Control
Product intelligence includes the tracking of product development metrics, also known as product key performance indicators (KPIs). Tracking product development metrics gives companies more control over the quality of their products and keeps errors or flaws from flying under the radar.

Product analytics metrics also help product development teams make more informed product decisions rather than guesses. With product intelligence, this actionable data can improve the quality of your product and your product development process.

4. Gain a Competitive Advantage
Product intelligence helps companies constantly evolve so that their products stay relevant. Companies that don’t utilize product intelligence risk shortening their product lifecycle by failing to iterate.

These companies risk losing market share when a competitor launches their own slightly more innovative version of a product. In today’s competitive landscape, the advantage will go to brands that use product analytics to constantly innovate and make faster and smarter decisions.

5. Make Measurable Improvements
Product intelligence can help take the guesswork out of product updates and the development of new features. Having consistent product analytics data can show you whether your improvements actually work. You can track user adoption and sentiment as you introduce new features or actively seek feedback on what more your customers want from you.

Who can use product intelligence?

Product intelligence provides valuable information for every team involved in product development and promotion.

Three groups that can benefit the most from product intelligence include:

  1. Product managers
  2. Product designers and engineers
  3. Marketers

1. Product Managers
Product managers can use product intelligence to inform the entire development process.

Primarily, the data can guide the prioritization of updates and new features. There’s less guesswork or uncertainty when using product intelligence, so product managers can make informed decisions that improve their product, help them meet business goals, and enhance the overall user experience.

2. Product Designers and Engineers
The people designing and building a product need product intelligence more than anyone.

Product designers use the insight from product analytics to build new features and make user experience changes that increase adoption rates, improve customer satisfaction, and add value for users.

3. Marketers
Product intelligence helps marketers understand the true benefits of a product and how people really use it.

Marketers can use this knowledge to create more engaging campaigns that speak to the target audience’s pain points. When your audience feels seen and understood, they’re more likely to buy your product. When they know that you’re responding to their concerns, they’re less likely to look for a solution elsewhere.

Final thoughts

When product intelligence is implemented correctly, it empowers product innovation and helps you create a better customer experience.

Product intelligence can help you understand how your customers use your product so that you can continuously iterate and improve on your product and user experience. It’s a valuable tool that gives you the extra piece of information you need to stay ahead of the curve in a competitive industry.

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