The Grocer

Making Insight Count

Making Insight Count

Most FMCG and Retail companies invest significantly in consumer insight, buying data and research, and employing people to commission and summarise it.  Yet often, leaders in those companies question the value they get from the investment.  They ask why so many innovations (product, retail and marketing) do not succeed with consumers, despite all the insight work.  What is going on?  Why is it so hard to make insight count?  And what can companies do differently?

First, find and encourage insight professionals who will speak truth to power.  The most convenient thing for a company is typically to continue to do the same things in the same way, using the same equipment and approaches.  But insight is there to challenge the status quo and suggest how things could be done differently.  So Insight leaders need the grit and skill to constructively challenge their colleagues. For example, finding a way to tell a retailer that an expensive store refurbishment programme is leaving customers less (not more) satisfied, would be an intimidating challenge for most Insight leaders.  But the bigger the controversy, the more important the insight.  There is no point in shooting the messenger.  Finding and keeping people who can tell it as it is, is key.

Second, develop and live by a consumer manifesto.  This is a powerful mindset change. Don’t think about it as “the things we have discovered about consumers.”  Think about it as “what we commit to do differently for consumers.”  Agree the manifesto and sponsor it at the highest level.  In their glory years, Tesco conducted an annual customer review, led by the Insight team, that defined the few important things to do differently for customers to win in the market.  This was the springboard for annual planning and drove major initiatives like “one in front” (quicker checkout queues).  It’s a simple idea, but still comparatively rare.

Finally, your leadership team must model consumer focus.   This applies whether they lead the Operations, Sales, Retail, Finance or HR team.  It shouldn’t be “something that Marketing do.”  All leaders can show a genuine interest in consumers, what motivates them and what they value.  All leaders can ask the right questions within the organisation.  Questions like “Have we researched this?” or “what does the data say?” are a start.  But better still, ask “what are consumers likely to think about this?” or “how will doing this, help deliver our consumer manifesto?”  Insight isn’t something that should be left to one team in your organisation.  The most important insight happens in the minds of the people making the big decisions.

So, to make Insight count, find Insight professionals who speak truth to power, live by a consumer manifesto, and have your leadership team model consumer focus.

There’s no point in spending money on insight if you don’t set up your organisation to take full advantage of it.

​Jeremy Garlick is a Partner of Insight Traction, consulting with FMCG and Retail companies. He was formerly Head of Insight at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Premier Foods.

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