Dave Sheluga of Ardent Mills (Director- Consumer Insights), Jen Randle of Whirlpool (Global Director-Innovation), Krishnan Saranathan of United Airlines (Managing Director- Customer Data and Optimization) and Vicky Robertson-Mack of Sears Home Services (Director- Marketing) came together to share how their organizations use data to gain a competitive advantage and how they are preparing for the future. While the speakers were all from different industries, they were unified by a strong focus on the end consumer.
Social media analysis is today an integral part of market research. It provides deep and granular insights into consumer preferences by ‘listening in’ to natural conversations. Advanced analytics organizations are using it not just to understand their customers but to use that understanding to drive innovation.
At Whirlpool, social media data is used to identify need gaps- consumer needs that are not being met- and opportunity spaces- areas where competition is not playing. Traditionally, the company used product reviews, expert opinions, quality ratings of their products to look for insights that could drive innovation. “With social media, we are now able to tap into the actual voice of the consumer- the voice consumers are using to describe our products, describe innovations - and understand these conversations at a more human and realistic level,” says Jen Randle. “By analysing social media data, we are able to understand need states in a very different way than we have in the past. This allows us to build solutions that deliver the needs of an entire ecosystem as opposed to just discrete product or appliance features.”
Social media analysis is transforming innovation in the CPG industry as well. Talking about innovation at Ardent Mills, Dave Sheluga says, “In the CPG food manufacturing industry, the consumer is put in the middle of the universe and data is used to understand what that consumers wants and to build a product that fits that need. For an ingredient supplier like Ardent Mills, we need to use data to understand future trends. We are looking for patterns in social media data and internet data that will help us understand tomorrow’s consumer.