How much data is enough, and can you have too much of a good thing? Jo Campbell, e.fundamentals’ SVP of Operations was invited to the speak with The FMCG Guys about the importance of access to data that matters, how to empower sales and marketing teams to take actions from the data and build competitive advantage in one’s category at speed and scale.
This post is based on a recording we repurposed as an episode of The Digital Shelf Cast . For more conversations like this one, subscribe to The Digital Shelf Cast on Apple, Spotify and everywhere else you listen to podcasts.
01:37 Jo explains how she joined e.fundamentals in January 2020, a time when the world fundamentally shifted on its axis. She started in a business development role going out and talking to CPG businesses to understand their needs around data and analytics in the eCommerce space before moving into Operations. Jo started her career at P&G staying there for sixteen years, then moved to Kraft Heinz. She left the CPG industry to set up her own FinTech start up but missed the industry so returned to the CPG world via e.fundamentals.
03:43 Jo shares her experiences and observations having worked at these various places and industries. When she started her sales graduate training scheme at P&G selling was all about relationships. There wasn’t a huge amount of data; there was some, but it was all about going and sitting in front of the buyer and building relationship with them and convincing them to sell your brand over your competitors.
“I do think ultimately people do business with people. But being able to leverage data to help with those conversations is increasingly critical to success.”
The internet has fundamentally shifted the world, retailers like Amazon want to manage their business algorithmically and a lot of retail media spend is now managed algorithmically too so you need good data to understand what's going on. But, more importantly, you need to be able to take the actions that will drive business performance. It’s a critical skill that all of the clients that e.fundamentals works with are investing a lot of time and money in. That is, upskilling their organizations to enable them to operate in a much more data-driven world versus just relying on great relationships.
06:10 Jo explains her view on what data matters. It’s about helping people make better, faster decisions. She describes a project at P&G in which the teams would have a perennial debate about what drives the business harder. Is it distribution, average price or share of shelf? She illustrates how e.fundamentals is bringing a much more data-driven lens to those discussions using advanced analytics in the background but presenting it in a very easy way for key account managers to understand and then use in their business plan discussions.
It's about making it easy for people who may not necessarily be very confident about complex data sets, making it easy for them to understand and easy to use in their day-to-day jobs “because the worst thing that we can do is turn everybody who's in CPG sales or revenue management into data scientists”.
08:27 Jo shares her views on what it means to be able to take data and translate that into action and actual business impact for CPG sales teams. The first one is being clear on what the key business questions are that each “persona” is grappling with on a day-to-day basis because what brand manager will be trying to do will be different to what the key account managers or what a revenue manager is trying to do. So, really understanding the persona and their use cases is the first step.
Jo believes CPGs “have bit of an addiction to data” trying to get into the “nth degree of detail without having taken that step back to think how my teams are going to use this to drive business results”. Starting with persona use cases and key best business questions is critical.
The second element to it is to “manage by exception”. So, if you're managing, for example, pricing you don't need to know all the SKUs where your pricing is as you expect it to be. What you need to be able to do is to quickly identify the products where the retailer is not executing your pricing strategy as you expect it to be or where your competitors are doing something with their pricing strategy that you've not seen them do before.
10:42 Sharing a recent example, Jo explains how one of e.fundamentals’ clients were tracking number of search terms within their specific category. Their share of search looked incredibly strong, but while the teams where “high fiving themselves with doing a brilliant job”, the fact wasn’t moving the needle at all on their business performance. The reason was that they were tracking search terms that nobody uses to find the products in that category.
It’s why one always must come back to the questions “what's the use case and what's the objective that you're trying to achieve?” And then ask, “what's the right data set that helps you do that?” It’s one example of how people fail to see the bigger picture or “the wood for the trees”.
12:56 Jo explains how one can use data to influence the retailer strategy, so that they're supporting your category vision as a business and ultimately helping your brands win within the category. When we consider what's happening geopolitically in the world now is that pressure on costs on consumer wallets is absolutely huge.
There's an estimate that about $500 billion is spent on trade promotions. The common-held view is 35 to 40% of that is just the cost of doing business. Because if you take it away, your buyer or the retailer is going to feel like you're not investing in them. So how can you be smarter in the execution of your trade promotion strategy to be able to optimize to improve profitability whilst continuing to deliver value to consumers who are increasingly having their pockets pinched and do that in a very effective way.
Trade promotions is a huge topic debate but is one where we're certainly working with our clients on all aspects of their eCommerce trade spend, for example, e-Retail banner activations, their promotions. It’s simple things Jo sees with clients which are investing in banner ads or promotions that create an out of stock substitute which puts competitor products into that shoppers basket which then stays in their favorites. So having a way to combine those data points to see it very clearly, is incredibly impactful.
17:20 Jo explains how e.fundamentals gets “under the skin” of new clients understanding what their business objectives are and how, from there, they help develop an action plan based on the vendors experience of what drives performance that is completely linked to their business objective which can be top line driving profitability to more granular activity to improve our search performance on Amazon.
Objectives are agreed upfront and then e.fundamentals help develop the action plan which will be reviewed monthly, pointing out key actions that they need to be taking as a business to deliver the results and objectives that they're looking for. e.fundamentals also works with clients on how they embed that into their businesses, rituals and routines to increase the org-wide adoption.
The ‘secret sauce’ therefore is building the action plan, embedding it in the clients’ ways of working, and then making sure that training is constantly refreshed for new users. Tracking platform usage helps e.fundamentals ensure clients get the most from the platform, that is, really understanding how to utilize the data rather than just having access to it. After all, if clients are making tons of money using the e.fundamentals service, they're going to want to keep using the platform.
19:39 Jo gives another example of how e.fundamentals platform helped a large CPG company drive tangible business results with actionable data. The client had about a 50% share of the category in a U.S. retailer but only 5% share of search. The e.fundamentals platform made this very clear so that key account managers in that account could immediately see and ask “okay, so what's going on and what do I need to do about it?”. It was as simple as they didn't have the key category search term in their product names. So, e.fundamentals helped to make the intervention with the client and overnight their share went from 5% to 60%. It stayed about 50 to 60% ever since.
“Coupled with that is the fact that 95% of add to basket comes from page one. We know that for every percentage increase you have on your average search term it delivers about a 4% increase in sales. If you’re not on page one you might as well not be listed.”
22:45 A development Jo is seeing is that data and granularity are getting increasingly more complex. Take the global rise of fast delivery apps like Getir and UberEats. They act like regular online retailers, however rather than showing you the product range relevant to your area, you’ll see the full product assortment in every single store locally. So, one search result can deliver you 50,000 products. Again, it’s key that sales and marketing teams go back to the question about the use case for the data they’re looking to collect. At e.fundamentals Jo and the team are finding ways to bring some thought leadership to the table in terms of the best way that can turn data into action as opposed to having data just for data's sake.
27:13 The FMCG Guys close out their conversation with one final question: “Given your prior experiences throughout your career, if you could go back and give your younger self at the beginning of your career that that the person who ran out of university to join the P&G program, what would be the one piece of advice that you would give your younger self at the start of your career?” Jo’s response centers around a piece of advice she received early, which is “You've got to remember in life that you catch more bees with honey than vinegar.”
In her view, Jo mistakenly felt the way that she needed to be to succeed was to be aggressive and mimicking some of the less positive male behavior that she’d seen in a professional environment. It made her realize was that she’s been trying to mold herself into something that just wasn't her, describing herself as quite kind, generous hearted. Jo is a massive advocate of believing that diversity delivers better business results and that's diversity across all sorts of different kinds of angles. Since then, she’s gone back to being herself, leveraging her strengths rather than trying to be someone she’s not. It's something that I try and role model and mentor quite a lot. She thinks it was a brilliant bit of advice and something that she’s carried with her ever since.
This post has been updated and was originally published April 2021. eGrocery is evolving at eye-watering speed, but does your team have the skills to make the most of the…
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