Generating Actionable Insights with Product Sampling

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Have you heard someone mention “AI” (artificial intelligence) recently? How about “Predictive Analytics”, or “Machine Learning”? There is an extraordinarily wide spectrum of tools that pass themselves off as “AI” today which makes it difficult to identify real value, and understand how to leverage these technologies efficiently within the context of your brand activation events. I’d like to suggest that there is a much more immediate question than how, and that question is...why?

In order to understand why you want to be paying attention to this trend at the very least, it’s important to gain some perspective around the factors that are driving it. 

  1. We are now collectively creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day (1). That’s 2,500,000,000,000,000,000. Put absurd amount of data is generated every single day that gets stored in fragmented silos across the servers that power our internet.
  2. It has been said that data is the new oil. The companies that have created businesses around the analysis and monetization of all this data are some of the most valuable companies in human history. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are a few of these companies.
  3. The fourth industrial revolution is being driven largely by the democratization and utilization of big data tools that are enabling organizations to effectively organize and capitalize on the vast amounts of information they’re capturing on a daily basis.
  4. Computing power is more accessible and cheaper than ever before. This enables anyone with the know-how to leverage applications which are capable of aggregating and sorting through all of this fragmented data much more quickly than an army of humans could. This introduces significant competitive advantages and cost savings to forward thinking organizations.

The key takeaway here is simply this:

If you’re not leveraging data to help guide your company, you’re going to be out innovated by competitors that are embracing this trend. 

With that in mind, let's consider a hypothetical mid-size CPG organization. This company is constantly searching for opportunities to get their products into the hands of prospective consumers and has recently launched a new product. As part of the product launch they’ve committed to doing several hundred trade tasting (product sampling) events per week over the next month and are hopeful that the campaign will help raise awareness among their target demographic. Their promotional agency promises that staff will keep track of how many samples are given out as well as other relevant information, but they soon find out this information is captured on paper or even worse only exists in the heads of staff members. After each event the event staff is responsible for manually copying all this information into an email which is then sent to the campaign manager for aggregation and distribution.

A month later the campaign wraps up and the organization has seen a small but noticeable uptick in sales. They haven’t invested much in any real advanced analytics platforms or trade promotion management tools and have no way to really analyze the effectiveness of the campaign. When management is asked which events were most successful and why, they’re only able to provide tangential data and assumptions.

What might change if this organization had been made aware of the trends in big data and AI? What if they implemented a solution that would help them effectively categorize and identify insights within the mountains of data they could have been collecting at each of their trade tasting events? A McKinsey report on this very topic highlights a consistent thread between winning CPG organizations that indicates an intentionally data informed approach to trade tasting.

“The winners’ approach to trade investment is similarly data driven. They differentiate trade investments using metrics that cover both outcomes (such as net sales) and activities (such as placement of promotional displays). They track a comprehensive set of key performance indicators and conduct formal reviews, paying special attention to deviations from trade-investment guidelines and imposing more stringent consequences for overspending (such as withholding incentive pay from field reps or canceling planned events with the retailer). All winners use both trade-promotion-management and trade-promotion-optimization tools.” (2)

With this data informed (intelligence based) approach, our hypothetical agency has now uncovered a superpower in the ability to automatically aggregate, organize, and analyze all of the data they had previously failed to capture. Better yet they’re actually able to capitalize on this data in the form of actionable suggestions that help optimize future campaigns and maximize marketing dollars. They’re able to see in real time which events are performing well and why. They’re able to immediately identify trends among staff members, products, and locations. All of this information gives them an objective lens into their consumer’s preferences and habits that means they know longer need to rely on assumptions or tangential information provided by an ill informed trade tasting staff. Best of all - they’ve done this with a single cloud based solution.