What is market intelligence?

And what can it do for your business? Opportunities, technology and telescopes: a fresh look at market intelligence.

Forestreet Cheat Sheet

Key points for busy people

  • Like a telescope, market intelligence allows businesses to gaze into the ether and discover new solutions, competitors and trends they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.
  • Benefits include boosting innovation, keeping your company ahead of the competition and data-driven decision-making.
  • Market intelligence is broader than market research which is focused on a specific target audience.
  • There are a number of challenges with implementing your strategy, including finding reliable and relevant data, identifying competitors and ensuring the data drives value-adding actions.
  • Technology, such as artificial intelligence, can amplify and accelerate your strategy.


So what is market intelligence?



At its core, market intelligence involves collecting and analysing information about a market, usually one a company is part of or looking to enter. This can be with the aim of finding competitors, market trends and new opportunities.


We like to think of market intelligence as a telescope. It allows you to look far beyond your own planet to find new stars and entities you couldn’t even see existed before. You can find innovative solutions, competitors you didn’t know you had and trends which are only just emerging.

We like to think of market intelligence as a telescope.

Types of market intelligence

We can break market intelligence into four key types:


Market understanding


The size of the market, important categories in the market, your market share, future trends and market breakdown.


Competitor intelligence


Understanding what your competitors are doing. You can aggregate information about competitors from online sources, news, social media, databases and more.


Product intelligence


Gathering information about the other products you are competing with in your market, including feature and price comparisons.


Consumer research


Understanding information about your target consumer group.

What is market intelligence? Four types
Market intelligence can be eye-opening, enriching and vital for business success. From monitoring technological developments, understanding market conditions, market analysis segmentation, competitor analysis, consumer research and identifying leads and opportunities; a joined-up strategy can provide significant value to your business.

But it can also go wrong if not implemented thoughtfully and become mired in cost and complexity. In the rest of this article, we’ll run through why market intelligence is important, some potential challenges and how you can keep ahead.



Why is it important to have a market intelligence strategy?

One main reason for adopting a market intelligence strategy in your business is to enable better, data-backed decisions. A good market intelligence strategy will mean that decisions are data-led, enabling informed and confident strategies to be decided at pace, responding to market fluctuations and changing business needs. It also:



  1. Boosts innovation, giving a star-gazing outlook. Businesses can find novel solutions, competitors and target audiences.
  2. Enables strategy to be based on the wider picture, reducing the risk of bias. A strong market intelligence strategy offers a view of the whole market, so you’re not having to make decisions based on one small section of the pie. It is wide reaching and looks to understand a market holistically, allowing companies to clearly see their place in the wider picture and meet real needs.
  3. Keeps you one step (or many) in front of your competition – you’re picking out stars and planets no-one else can see, after all. It also means you can make decisions at pace, without worrying that you will be caught off guard by a new competitor or market trend you didn’t spot.
  4. Guides the direction of your company’s strategy. Gathering detailed market information can allow you to use data to map out business projections and shines a light on future trends and market dynamics.

Entering new markets or geographies, identifying new trends, taking first-mover advantage on market opportunities and growing share and revenue all require informed decision-makers, able to act at pace. For this, companies need a joined-up market intelligence strategy. Good market intelligence can therefore have a significant return on investment, bringing in extra client revenue and avoiding wasteful investment decisions.


At its core, then, market intelligence is a tool companies can use to make better-informed, fast-paced and innovative decisions.


Market intelligence is a tool companies can use to make better-informed, fast-paced and innovative decisions.


Market intelligence vs Market research

This brings us to an often-asked question: Is market intelligence different to market research? The answer is yes and no. Though they are often used interchangeably, the former is a broader term. Market research is set up to look at a specific question, such as understanding a particular target audience and how they may receive a planned product. Market intelligence, on the other hand, can cover these questions, but is much wider and oriented towards analysing the market as a whole. For more detailed information about the differences, take a look at our blog on this topic.



Challenges: Data gathering and implementation

While market intelligence is important for businesses, it can be difficult to know where to start and, if not implemented well, companies can sink a large amount of time and money into research which provides limited benefit. Here are a few common challenges businesses may face when starting to implement a market intelligence strategy.


Getting the data

One problem is knowing where to find trustworthy data on which to base your strategy. We all know how Google searches can feel out of tune with what you’re looking for. Searching is much harder than it should be, skewed by paid ads and searches optimised for the seller, not the buyer. Collecting raw data through surveys can also be very time-consuming. And paying for analyst reports is often a prohibitively expensive option, one which can fail to provide information and answer the specific questions relevant to your organisation.


Ensuring the data is used and insights are acted on

Once you have the data, it can also be difficult to make sure it is being used in a truly value-adding way. Analytics is important to get actionable insights from the raw data. Another tip is to pair each insight gleaned with a recommended next step. This can help ensure strategies don’t become siloed and the insights actually reach decision makers.


Finding the right competitors

Another question is how to know which competitors to benchmark against when starting out. It can certainly be tricky to find competitors and to know when you have identified the most important ones. Equally, there can often be less direct competitors which are still useful to include in your benchmarking. It is generally recommended that companies use a mix of direct and indirect competitors.



Can technology help with market intelligence?

Companies can use technology to mitigate some of these challenges and accelerate their market intelligence strategy. For example, an AI-driven tool can significantly speed up the data collection process and help capture a more comprehensive mapping and analysis. If market intelligence is like a telescope, then by using AI for this process you’re upgrading from a garden telescope to the Gran Telescopio Canarias.




So you never need to worry about missing part of the market.


Other advantages include:

  • Rapidly accelerating the market research process, enabling more high-quality data to be collected in a fraction of the time;
  • Improving access to innovation;
  • Enabling deeper personalisation.

For a more specific example of how technology, can be used to accelerate and improve the quality of research, this report by IDC explores the advantages of using AI in the procurement space.



Market intelligence tips

To end, let’s take a look at some tips to keep in mind when starting out your market intelligence strategy. 


Don’t stop digging

Market intelligence should always be ongoing. It’s not a process which has a finite end point and there’s no moment when your market intelligence is ‘done’. The market is constantly shifting, driven by changing consumer trends, prices, new competitors, suppliers and innovative technologies to leverage. All of these trends and factors will continue to constantly evolve, meaning the data you are using to make your decisions now will quickly become outdated. In order to make sure your decisions are being made using information which reflects the state of the market now, you need to be prepared to constantly review and refresh your data. So your market intelligence strategy should be as dynamic as the markets you are studying.


Your market intelligence strategy should be as dynamic as the markets you are studying.



Use data to reduce bias

Having reliable, trustworthy data is crucial to a successful market intelligence strategy. Looking to your past sales and performance is not enough to gain an accurate prediction of which strategies to implement going forward. Equally, it can be tempting to rely too heavily on on-the-ground analysts with strong opinions about a specific local context. While these can be a hugely valuable tool for understanding a specific local area, they can be too narrow and miss key bigger picture insights if viewed in isolation. Instead, it is crucial to take a big step back and supplement this with bigger picture global metrics situated in the wider operating environment and over a longer time period.



We hope you’re ready to go with a market intelligence strategy. Grab your telescope and search for those stars.