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Understanding your customers

In the world of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) there is a complex matrix of consumer demand, product innovation and supply

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail world is shifting; and consumer behaviours are changing. With increased usage of online grocery shopping and less travel for work and recreational activities, the ways brands engage with consumer needs to shift to become more personal and less mass market orientated (i.e. Out of Home or product placements will have smaller audiences).

For many of these large companies, the quickest way to get a product to market and let consumers know that the product exists is by deploying branding campaigns across a variety of media channels, with varying success (if indeed you can measure accurately what success looks like, but that’s for another topic!).

The challenge for many FMCG companies is that they have a limited direct link to their consumers, with most sales and customer relationships happening through a retail partner. To really understand who the consumer is, what their preferences are, and the best way to reach them can be beyond the reach of most marketing departments and usually cannot be done consistently across channels.

Shift to in-housing

There is a shift underway within the FMCG sector, with companies moving to in-housing more of their marketing functions to reduce ‘wastage’ and ultimately better understand their customers.

In order to facilitate this shift, there are several key elements FMCG companies should focus on to channel and optimise ongoing consumer messaging:

  • Avoid wasting marketing ‘brand’ spend, targeting only those consumers who are interested in your brand
  • Customise brand profiles to understand their engaged audience and brand advocates
  • Create a single brand narrative and audience selection that can be executed at a person led-campaign level consistently across multiple media channels
  • Measure campaigns directly on an individual campaign level and understand the campaign performance using a variety of tools such as a direct impact assessment on in-store sales

Some of the key benefits of moving to an in-house strategy are what you would expect, an increase in efficiency in both cost and speed to market. By reducing agency fees and production costs, the savings can be huge. Other benefits to in-housing include having a team that has a better fundamental knowledge of the brands and a greater control over the brand story and messaging.

In-housing is not going to work for all FMCG companies however, and there are cons which must be weighed up also. Finding and retaining the talent to work on an in-housed creative and marketing strategy can be challenging for most FMCG businesses and there are also concerns around a lack of innovation and the unwillingness to question campaigns or strategies which would normally happen with external agency involvement.

Understanding the Audience – the key to success

Understanding audiences is critical to achieving success in this sector, but can be tricky in the FMCG world however, it is usually not possible to profile the customer base, as the customer is hidden behind the retail gatekeeper. To help solve this 2nd party consumer conundrum, a different approach is needed.

One approach is to enable a data modelling tactic using a combination of research-based consumer panel data that can be extrapolated into a wide-reaching audience, using data science to combine key response traits that are most commonly linked to certain demographics and consumer profiles.

By following this approach, FMCG companies can easily turn a set of bespoke brand or competitor questions and responses into a scaled ‘targeted-brand’ or product led marketing strategy.

To explain the methodology simply, the process is illustrated below.

  • Panel based questions or usage data that are tailored to each brand, and specific products can build up a detailed set of personas and behaviours. For instance, tailored questions on a market research study can help gather consumers’ attitudes and buying habits of say, hair conditioner.
  • The behaviours obtained from the panel are match characteristics from a larger consumer dataset and these characteristics are used to build machine learning models for targeting marketing activity and product lookalike profiles from the original behaviours.
  • These models can be activated consistently across a wide range of media, all targeting the same audience cohorts with a tailored brand message, as well as applied geographically for sales activity.
  • With the same messages being relayed to the right target audiences across multiple media channels, measuring the outcomes can be done at an individual campaign level, using direct responses or sentiment- led studies. Brand level measurement (metrics/engagement) can be measured through store sales, both online and instore, using regional holdouts.

Whilst there may be difficulties in changing the existing operating model from an agency-led approach, to in-housing, it has been shown that there are clear financial and time-saving benefits to moving some, if not all, of the marketing data functions internally.

Knowing your customers and being able to create a direct to consumer marketing strategy should be something that every FMCG company can execute. With a proven track record and industry expertise, Experian can help this become a reality with FMCG Studio. Tailoring client needs, identifying the right target audiences and delivering these at scale, FMCG Studio gives FMCG marketers the ability to action key marketing messaging strategy in-house.