Linda Dupree, chief executive officer of NCS has seen it all, research-wise, from the vantage points of "agency, advertiser, and then research supplier." Dupree and chief research officer Leslie Wood have worked alongside one another for a long time and are a formidable force in the field of sales data analytics. Now, as NCS is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary, they have doubled down with efforts to further improve the measurement of CPG purchasing through the consumer funnel.
Measuring CPG on a More Sophisticated Level
Dupree (pictured top left) believes that "in an environment that is increasingly focused on outcomes, NCS is the sweet spot in the CPG market." NCS may have started in the traditional forms of audience measurement, but "increasingly, we do targeting, optimization, and, eventually, we will move more into predictive measurement [applications]."
For Wood (pictured top right), who has been with NCS for eight years, "the company started with overall measurement and targeting and, recognizing from the first, the incredible capacity and value of the data." She added that, even years ago, there were multiple sources for every piece of data, which made it especially useful to help track the consumer intent and journey. And, with some of those sources of data overlapping, it was also possible to verify the data veracity. Some of the data comes from panels, some from set-top boxes, some from shopping and purchasing data, some from outside suppliers of data, and some from Nielsen. "These layers give you the understanding of the biases and the things you don't do well," she explained, adding, "and that has all formed a canvas, which gave us the ability to go out and create a richer understanding of how advertising works."
New Products and Services
NCS established a range of services around all of this research because, as Dupree explained, "the quality of the underlying data resulted in a richness of insights." There are also new technologies that provide tools to examine the data in new ways. "Data guides everything we do," Wood said.
Some of the new tools NCS has released include the Sales Lift metric (SLM), which is delivered weekly for a campaign, "so changes can be made in-flight," Wood noted. SLM gives advertisers the ability to see what's happening across different tactics at the same time and compare them to see which are and not working, and then reallocate. The ability to examine campaign efficiency to potentially deploy dynamic ad insertion gives SLM added value to advertisers.
A Changing Marketplace
"The market is looking for 'faster and better,'" Dupree said. Her team is focusing on that mandate, as well as "growth in CPG, in a world where consumers have a choice." Twenty years ago, she explained, there used to be about 7,000 SKUs in a grocery store; now there are about 50,000 because the variety of consumer products has changed so extensively. This has resulted in much more competition in the CPG space. Marketers need to be sure that their money is being spent wisely and efficiently, and results in sales impact.
"There is also an abundance of channels in the media world," Dupree continued. "With the shift in OTT and linear and addressable and VOD, as well as other traditional channels like magazines and radio, we are awash in choice and that has been important for us to understand and measure."
What Resonates in CPG
Despite the data available, some CPG marketers in this new media environment are still more focused on price than efficiency. But, to Wood, this is not a trend across the board. "A lot of the stories about spending less may not be from national advertisers," Wood said. "There is a lot of spending from tiny brands, where the budgets are very low. When you look at budgets of over a million dollars, it is a different story."
Wood pointed out that advertisers also need to balance how much they emphasize creative versus media strategy. Creative matters a great deal in a campaign, she said, adding that "the creative is the starting point. We are also seeing that the importance of media decisions has increased a lot over the last few years."
Dupree added: "There are also so many more levers to pull."
Media has gained in importance, especially in regard to targeting. An advertiser would want to target brand loyalists, for example, but should also consider targeting non-users likely to purchase, as well as users of a competitive brand. This will expand the potential customer base and help to build the brand over time. "When you talk about the brand promise," Wood stated, "it speaks to the essence of the brand and what the brand stands for. The interplay of media with targeting creative and how they come together [to drive results] have been some of the richest findings we have had."
Personalization is another big consideration, so brands can "meet the consumer where they are, especially through ad versioning," Dupree said. All in all, the confluence of data-driven advertising within the CPG world is resulting in not only better targeting of consumers, but also a greater understanding of their needs, wants, and concerns. "We feel that we are in more of a dialogue with consumers and it is a much more personalized experience," Dupree said. "This should greatly improve efficiencies by reaching consumers at the right time, in the right place, and with the right messaging."
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