FEATURE28 October 2021

Data to die for: PepsiCo, BT and more on their top sources of insight

Data analytics Features North America Trends UK

With third-party data increasingly important to the insight function, Crispin Beale asks client- and agency-side professionals to share their perspectives. 

Halloween pumpkins_crop

As Halloween becomes more popular globally, so does the need for insights professionals to access greater evidence and contextualise their findings. The days of accepting ghosts and magic over science and evidence are hopefully behind us and when it comes to understanding consumers and markets, outside perspectives often deliver devilishly good details on tendencies and trends.

Increasingly, researchers are looking to third-party data to supplement their internal research and information streams to provide understanding and benchmarks of the performance of their products and services.

I went to some insights professionals to get their perspectives on some of the leading third-party ‘data to die for’ sources to which they turn to assess the market, analyse the competition, and understand consumers. Here are their top tips:

Stephan Gans, senior vice-president and chief insights & analytics officer, PepsiCo

In the spirit of ‘seeing is the new asking’ for my team and I, all external data sources that can help with building our understanding of actual consumer behaviour are super helpful. Critical examples will start, of course, with market share information that enables us to benchmark our real in-market performance versus competition. Other examples include data points that describe what people talk about on social media and which topics are trending, as well as, for example, what people like to see on their menus in restaurants.

Georgina White, director of insight, BT

Blending internal and external data can really help you identify opportunities, or risks, that your brand is facing or may face in the future. Furthermore, external data can close gaps in your knowledge and help you identify if the KPIs you’re measuring are the ones your customers really care about. The combination of the two is what really brings a richness and contextual understanding to drive business strategy. I don’t tend to have a favourite as it’s the case of the right data for the right job, however if you pushed me, ‘the why behind the what.’

Alex Hunt, chief executive, Behaviorally

Outside your organisation it’s usually helpful to look at the publicly traded markets. Annual reports and earnings announcements of your clients provide an invaluable amount of context about what’s going on in their business and the pressures those buying your products and services face – and if one client in a sector is facing a particular pressure it’s a fair bet other clients in the same sector are experiencing the same challenge. The annual report of your publicly traded competitors meanwhile provides a wealth of competitive intelligence including management’s analysis of the market and a blueprint of strategy to beat your business – right the way down to granular clues about their pricing, talent and product efforts.

Tracey Stuart, global vice-president of analysis and insights, mTab

The key to any successful marketing is understanding what your target group needs. This can be a niche demographic to whom you wish to pitch a model or getting good coverage across the market with a range of products. Buyer evaluation data is imperative to understand how your existing product is being received and to evaluate changes in the market but this should be paired with needs and market positioning data which focuses on a group of people or a key feature to gain clarity into what gap needs to be filled.

Pete Markey, chief marketing officer, Boots

Third-party data sources can really enrich first-party data. For me, understanding someone’s life beyond the role your brand plays in it (to provide greater context), what main media channels someone prefers (to aid relevance and personalisation) and a wider picture on the additional brands at play in someone’s life and wider ecosystem all help improve the ways brands can drive better targeting and personalisation.

Sinead Jefferies, founder, Vela

Pinterest produces an annual report called ‘Pinterest Predicts’ that takes the ideas, products, experiences people have been searching for and, based on analysis of data patterns, predicts what trends we're likely to see in the year ahead. It’s a way not only to understand specific areas for potential product or service development, but also to help look at broader themes of how people want to live and shape their lives. There is a huge amount to be gained by looking at analysis of industry and general news sources relevant not just to your own company or brand and your direct competitors, but to developments in technology and culture that are likely to influence people’s behaviour and aspirations.

Danny Russell, strategic adviser, Danny Russell Consulting

Whether we like it or not, most companies are judged on the revenue they bring in, so always make sales data your BFF. Secondly, customer feedback (easily, cheaply and quickly collated from social media, online reviews and your own customer service channels, will tell you what is going on – in real life and real time. Thirdly, employee feedback. Nothing beats learning from your employees who are on the front line with customers day in and day out.

Lindsay Parry, managing director, Nepa UK

Anything that can help us distinguish the effects of marketing performance from noise of other external effects is something we want to get our hands on. My top three picks would be: SimilarWeb, as it has a very interesting digital data asset which can provide global insights and benchmarks; Google Trends, because it’s simple, it’s free and when used in the right way can provide insight on brand metric performance; and last but not least, Mintel, which informs our approach or decision making with insight into emerging trends.

It looks like we’re all in violent agreement that swapping cauldrons and tea-leaves for robust third-party data sources is a far more effective way of contextualising and further evidencing insights. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Crispin Beale is senior strategic adviser at mTab