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FEATURE25 August 2021

The history of the data economy: Analytics arrives

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AI Behavioural economics Data analytics Features Impact Technology UK

Impact has partnered with Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society, to jointly publish a series exploring the past, present and future of the data economy. The second part tells the story of the arrival of analytics and efforts to better understand consumer behaviour using new data sources. By Timandra Harkness.

“Seeing is the new asking.”

That’s what Stephan Gans, chief insights and analytics officer at PepsiCo, constantly tells his colleagues.

“If you ask a mother, or you ask a dad, ‘what do you give your kid in his lunchbox that he takes to school?’ you can predict what the answer is going to sound like, ” says Gans, “because the dad wants to be seen as a responsible dad. So, there’s some fruit, there’s some this, there’s some that….”

But by recording what actually happens, using 24/7 cameras in people’s kitchens, analysed by artificial intelligence, researchers found that one conscientious father packed his son’s lunchbox every day with carrots, fruit, and so on, and every day the boy came home with his lunchbox completely intact. The child found eating all those carrots took up too much valuable play time and he bought something quick to eat instead.

“You would have never learned that from the dad, ” says Gans. This, in a nutshell, ...