OPINION3 July 2024

Is your brand tracker working its hardest for you?

Opinion Trends

Are tracker studies still fit for purpose in a more uncertain world? Horst Feldhaeuser considers the key issues.

Data tracking

Has there ever been a point in time where brands have operated through such turbulent, rapid shifts in consumer behaviour? Driven by economic and political upheaval, global events and a huge number of hyper-individualised circumstances, these shifts are creating complexity for those seeking consumer understanding.

For years, many brands have relied on tracking studies to monitor changes over time, evaluate brand health, optimise product development and assess campaign effectiveness. These studies, which offer crucial insights into consumer behaviour, perceptions and trends, are essential tools for continuous improvement and competitive strategy.

However, our fast-paced, crisis-prone world demands that tracker studies evolve. They must adapt to a new data ecosystem that captures the full context in which consumers operate. This evolution is critical for brands aiming to make informed decisions in an increasingly chaotic environment.

Changing your tracker can be a daunting task. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help get on the right track (pun fully intended).

What limitations are we encountering with our current tracker format?
Identifying limitations helps you recognise if your current methodology is outdated or insufficient for capturing the full spectrum of consumer behaviours and sentiment in your category – and your unique situation. You likely have critical key performance indicators (KPIs) related to understanding the current change and the ongoing success of your business, and your tracker needs to deliver.

Ensuring comprehensive data collection is crucial for obtaining accurate insights into today’s consumer interactions with your brand – they’re different from yesterday’s interactions and expectations.

How are technological and socio-economic shifts impacting?
Understanding these impacts can highlight the need for diversified approaches that go beyond traditional survey methods. Examine what’s going on with your brand, in your category and among those in your target audience.

Chances are your benchmarks need to evolve, so remove the other tracking noise that’s no longer relevant or serving your brand – if you don’t use it or can’t act on it, remove it. You need to take a close look at how current changes are impacting consumption and perception of your brand, plus what future implications any shifts will have on key metrics.

The contextual circumstances that influence consumer decision-making
Considering context ensures a holistic understanding of consumer behaviour, which is essential for relevant insights. According to a recent article by Emmanual Probst of Ipsos, he acknowledges that consumers are operating under the influence of two main elements: the world at large (e.g. what’s happening around us such as global conflicts, inflation, climate change, technology and more); and their individual context and circumstances.

These outside factors have a significant impact on brand perception and even on purchase decisions, requiring a more contextual approach to brand trackers. This means taking more data into account. And remember, you might live and breath your brand, but for your consumers it’s usually not front of mind.

What internal and external data sources can we integrate to complement tracker data?
Eliminating silos inside organisations allows for a cohesive understanding of operations and customer insights, enhancing decision-making. When departments like marketing, sales, and product development work independently, valuable insights remain isolated, hindering a holistic view.

Integrating data from the start, into a centralised tracker, simplifies processes and enhances data power, preventing fragmented strategies and missed opportunities for optimisation and growth. External data sources, such as those from ad hoc projects and secondary research, can also feed into a more comprehensive view of your customers and market dynamics. Bringing in diverse data streams is key to gaining a complete picture of consumer behaviour and preferences.

Do I have the right combination of technology and people in place?
The right solutions, that automate the mundane, time-consuming tasks of market research, will free people up to focus on analysing, interpreting and sharing the data. When your team has ‘the machines’ do the heavy lifting, you can quickly uncover the insights you need.

For example, automation at certain stages of the process can reduce time and errors; artificial intelligence capabilities hold much promise, including in arenas such as scenario simulation and forecasting to help anticipate future trends and make proactive decisions.

In today’s ever-changing world speed is critical for timely decision-making, and faster insights can keep you ahead in a competitive market. Technology can help, but understanding people will always require other people, so find that balance. 

These are just a handful of the questions you should be asking yourself in order to enter a mindset of innovation and adaptability when it comes to your brand tracker. To stay competitive, you must ensure that your trackers remain relevant and effective in a dynamic environment. Continuous evaluation and adaptation will help you better understand your consumers, predict market changes and ultimately drive your brand’s success.

Horst Feldhaeuser is group services director at Infotools