by David Alves (@TheDavidAlves) Consumer data has become a sought-after asset for every kind of business, from financial services to FMCG. For a long time, retailers have been investing millions (and millions) of rands trying to understand their consumer’s spending habits. All retailers want to be consumer-centric, to create behavioural change in a consumer’s life cycle and to maximise business-efficiency at every point in the value chain. We all want that. And therein lies the problem.

Manufacturers and suppliers are not privy to this data. Why? Because of the vast sums of money invested, retailers are keeping insights close to their chest. This is fair enough, but what’s happened in the pursuit of the holy grail of data is that costs for manufacturers and suppliers have spiraled. For retailers, expenses for internal resourcing, IT infrastructure and external consultancies have blanketed balance sheets in red where they once were black.

How did we arrive at this point?

Back in the day, consumers would walk from aisle to aisle, snaking through a maze of discounts and offers and simply taking what was on offer. But, as technology evolved and the FMCG industry and consumers evolved with it, new and wonderful things began to happen. Instead of mindlessly shopping, consumers began seeking out the offers most pertinent to their needs, and retailers followed.

Driven by very smart people, retailers began leveraging new ways to provide consumers with the very value they used to seek out and, instead, delivered it right to their fingertips through channels such as personalised offers via direct marketing and relevant in-app offers.

Today’s reality

Today, data has become both an enabler and a hindrance.

Imagine you’re an advertising agency and your client wants you to deliver a campaign that’ll “move the needle” and provide “ROI”. The ugly truth is that, unless you’re a shopper marketing agency or work directly with a retailer’s data, that brief will most likely be fobbed off to a media agency.

Now, imagine you’re a supplier. The supplier’s purpose is to produce products that consumers really want and that will easily sell, but they don’t know who wants them, why they want them or when they want them. In pursuit of understanding their consumers, retailers have become the gate-keepers of the holy grail of data. There are some incredible businesses out there which seek to demystify the data landscape and which provide sales data consolidation but unfortunately few provide consumer-level data.

The investment

When a supplier is investing in creating the demand and supplying the product, it seems unreasonable that retail access comes at such a prohibitive cost — in some cases, 2% of overall revenue. And what do you get for that hefty investment? Access. That’s it. No marketing, no campaigning, no deep-dive analysis.

Now, no one is asking retailers to play open books but since they are the ones wanting to see the “needle move”, one would think they’d open the gates and give everyone the opportunity to succeed.

Moving forward

In State of the Connected Customers, a recent Salesforce research paper conducted with 7000 participants, 76% of consumers expects companies to understand their needs and expectations and 84% of consumers expects everything to be personalised. That’s straightforward, but there’s more: 58% of consumers is more likely to share their personal data with a company if it will lead to a better experience. However, 51% of consumers says most companies fall short of their expectations for great experiences.

If experience is the key to better consumer retention, repeat purchase and advocacy, then who better than the brands themselves to be given an opportunity to provide an experience that speaks directly to life cycle needs of consumers, and delivers on their needs for a great shopping experience?

In a limping economy such as ours, isn’t it time we all worked towards generating growth and moving that elusive needle instead of pinching pennies and stonewalling each other with inflated investment terms and insurmountable obstacles? If no one broaches the issues of greater transparency and access to data, we’ll all continue to blindly go where we’ve always gone before.


David AlvesDavid Alves (@TheDavidAlves) is head of eCRM for Pernod Ricard Sub-Saharan Africa. He is an accomplished and seasoned digital marketing specialist, with 12 years of entrepreneurial, digital agency and corporate experience ranging from multinationals to bespoke SMEs.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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