Brands will be required to deliver on the promise of individualized experiences and find new and innovative means of capturing sharper customer understanding at a time when consumers have never been more in control. They will also need to quickly respond to the changing definition of brand loyalty, one less about points, and more about day-to-day delivery of brand value. To do so, will entail reimagined agile insights systems that enable human-led design and continue to place the customer at the heart of brand experience.
With that in mind, I wanted to speak to a brand who is in the process of modernizing its entire insights suite to understand best practices against the backdrop of a consumer environment where convenience continues to trump loyalty time and time again. For my most recent column, I had the pleasure of sitting down with two leading marketing executives at 7-Eleven. Marissa Jarratt is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, and Mario Mijares is Vice President of Loyalty and Analytics. Following is a recap of our conversation:
Billee Howard: You mentioned the word insights is overused. I couldn’t agree more. Tell me why you feel this way?
Marissa Jarratt: The term insights is often used to describe an understanding of what is happening. In reality, insights are more about the why something is happening – and what we can do about it.
For example, in the first few months of Covid we noticed a spike in snack shoppers around the 8 p.m. timeframe. After looking at data in our C-Shopper analytics platform and speaking with the Brainfreeze Collective proprietary customer research panel (more on these later) – we uncovered the why: without a commute, customers were eating dinner earlier and snacking later in the evening. This insight ultimately led us to an increased focus on our 7NOW delivery business as a solution to bring products directly to customers’ doors.
Howard: Why must all insights work start with a question or set of hypotheses?
Mario Mijares: A clear question – and corresponding hypothesis – serves as a guide through the research process. Without a clear question, you may waste time on analyzing data you don’t actually need. It’s also important that you test your hypothesis with data. But data can only tell you what is happening – but it will not tell you why. This is one of the ways we leverage our Brainfreeze Collective panel – to give us the why behind the buy.
Howard: Tell me about the new insights product suite you launched and the rationale behind it?
Jarratt: Many retailers are entering the retail media space – but we wanted this to be a differentiated offering for our vendor partners across the whole marketing and innovation funnel. As the number one immediate-consumption retailer in the U.S., 7-Eleven had the ability to break the mold.
A few factors drove our decisions: Retailer offerings are fragmented, and none of the existing offerings cover immediate consumption consumers. A lot of product innovation is introduced first in the convenience channel. Vendors are looking for fewer but better options.
We are very excited to introduce the latest innovation to come from 7-Eleven – a suite of four data-driven tools to identify opportunities, diagnose those opportunities, test solutions and activate those solutions. It consists of:
- C-Shopper – A state-of-the-art analytics platform to understand consumer purchase and behavior data.
- The Brainfreeze Collective – Our proprietary customer research panel, made up of over 200K consumers, for quantitative and qualitative research. It allows us to target consumers with very specific shopping behaviors.
- Gulp Media Network – Targeted performance media that enables total market awareness, consideration and conversion. It is a closed loop solution with the ability to track ROAS.
- Later this year, we’ll also roll out our Lab Stores – which will allow vendors to run experiments in real stores with real consumers. The goal is to de-risk activities such as new packaging, product innovation or pricing changes and better understand the impact of merchandising and messaging on the customer in real time.
Because 7-Eleven customers tend to shop elsewhere throughout the year, the suite can be a one-stop-shop for any and all immediate consumption occasions. Our approach can be stated in one word: simplification. Not only does Gulp Media look at both demographic, geographic and attitudinal signals, but it can also add signals for what shoppers have purchased.
Howard: Why is it so important right now to add emotional intel into insights, particularly amidst the most fragmented consumer landscape in history?
Mijares: Behavioral economics has shown that consumers aren’t necessarily rational – they often make impulse or emotional purchasing decisions, particularly in the immediate consumption or convenience store space. What consumers say they’ll do does not always equate to what they’ll actually do.
This is why The Brainfreeze Collective is so valuable – because we can see how consumers actually behave after they participated in the research, allowing our team to become experts on how to structure and phrase the research to deliver the most accurate data. We know retail fragmentation is already complicating things for CPG vendors – and the immediate consumption market is even more fragmented – so we’re continuing to learn as we build a solution that will address the totality of this market.