Foresight Keeps Lowe's at the Forefront

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Foresight Keeps Lowe's at the Forefront

Tanya Franklin is all about the future, not the here and now. As Director of Market and Consumer Insights at Lowe's she works with the Strategy, Insights, Planning and Process group to monitor consumer and lifestyle trends to keep the home improvement company on the cutting edge and at a competitive advantage. If the group identifies likely shifts in consumer behavior, driven by social, cultural, environmental, technological or economic forces, the insights are disseminated across the enterprise to help drive new business initiatives.

Domestically and internationally, the Strategy, Insights, Planning and Process group supports marketing, merchandising, real estate, strategy and corporate communications as well as various other parts of the business including customer experience design, customer satisfaction measurement and business development. In this interview Franklin (pictured at top), who will speak at the ANA Masters of Measurement Conference, September 14-16 in Naples, Fla., offers more perspective on the group's work, explains the difference between a fad and a trend and describes her dealings with executive leadership and marketing.

Ken Beaulieu:  Describe some of the ways you immerse yourself in today's culture to discover future trends.

Tanya Franklin: For nearly all my tenure at Lowe's, I've played some role in monitoring both consumer and lifestyle trends and communicating these insights across the business. A few years ago, I helped prove the value our team has on business outcomes and was able to recruit a trends manager to elevate our focus on trends and foresight. Together, we were able to significantly strengthen our discipline around how we uncover, monitor and measure the trends landscape, including developing an internal trends framework. We've experimented with a variety of initiatives in the past couple of years to help us stay engaged and immersed in what's going on with our customers. In addition to coordinating smaller insight team immersions all across the country, we coordinate trend immersion trips for our executive leadership. Last year our trend immersions took us to Los Angeles and this year to Austin, Texas. Our Los Angeles trip was even covered by the local NPR radio station and aired shortly after our trip.

Ken: How do you distinguish a fad from a trend? Do you adhere to certain criteria?

Tanya: Yes, we do look at different criteria to distinguish fads from trends, primarily through evaluating what we call "signals" against the trends framework we've built. In short, when we consider an occurrence, we evaluate how quickly it has picked up momentum, how evident it is across the consumer landscape, the number of macro forces or drivers from which it stems and how much consumer behavior it has the ability to influence. By comprehensively evaluating these "blips" on the radar, we get a more holistic understanding of the lasting power an event can, or will, have in the marketplace.

Ken: Please provide a great example of how you applied your work to a current initiative at Lowe's.

Tanya: While I cannot go into too much detail about how we've applied our trends monitoring internally, the information we monitor covers everything from how and where people will choose to live in the future, how they will want to interact with their homes and engage in their communities, the expectations they will look for from retailers in our category space and how we need to prepare our workforce to meet the future demands of our customers. Obviously, these topics can affect many areas of our business, and our trends manager has established a communication strategy that spans from our top leadership all the way into the functional arms of the business. The decisions that are made and actions that can be taken differ based on where we are communicating within the levels of the organization.

Ken: How do you convince upper management that the consumer shifts you're seeing need to be acted on? Do you meet regularly with senior staff?

Tanya: Our executive leadership at Lowe's is completely supportive and realizes the importance of understanding how our customers and their future needs impact our business. We engage with our leadership on many levels, from very comprehensive, annual trend immersions to weekly share-outs via email communications to a variety of touchpoints in between. We do have a formal process for sharing trends work with leadership every year, which continues to be a highlight of our annual planning process.

Ken: Tell me about your relationship with marketing and how your insights help inform their decision making.

Tanya: Our insights department and those of us who are more dedicated to monitoring consumer trends have a very solid working relationship with our marketing department. Our marketing leadership understands the importance and value that consumer trend insights can bring to shaping future marketing strategies. We regularly engage with our Chief Marketing Officer and other leaders in the department to share what we are learning within our trends work. More and more, we are being called upon for our knowledge and expertise, representing the voice of our customer.

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