After three months of Coronavirus and nearly two weeks of protests and riots across the United States, consumer sentiment is digging its heels into a framework of fear and anxiety. Businesses and brands are under pressure to respond and prepare for what is coming up next. To help guide them at this time of uncertainty, they are turning to data and analytics more than ever.
To understand this phenomenon better, we asked Gil Sadeh, CEO of Signals Analytics, a company that employs unique NLP and AI capabilities to surface market intelligence through its advanced analytics platform, to give us some perspective on how these latest technologies are being used.
Q: The world has turned upside down due to COVID-19 and some industries, especially in the Consumer-Packaged Goods area are experiencing hypergrowth while others are seeing demand plummet. Is there a secret sauce companies should be aware of?
As a former special forces officer, I know from first-hand experience that when everything around you seems to be falling apart, intelligence becomes the most valuable resource in the world. But to be useful, the intelligence must be based on data that is accurate, in context to the mission, up-to date and actionable in order to cut through the confusion and the noise caused by a crisis and provide a completely objective view of what is really going on. In our current situation that means understanding which trends are sustainable as opposed to fads generated by panic.
At a time like this, CEOs are asking themselves how changes in consumer perceptions will most impact their brand; which product claims will consumers gravitate towards the most; what associations will they move away from; and most importantly, what they should do about all of this in the context of their product portfolio and investments. The secret sauce is in the data and most of the data that is critical for this mission is somewhere out there, unused because it is unstructured, unconnected and seemingly out of reach. Platforms that know how to collect, connect and make sense of these unstructured data sources to extract valuable intelligence – and that allow businesses to configure data sources and classifications to address specific objectives – change the game and arm business executives with the actionable intelligence they need at this time.
Q: Which categories are growing now? Are there patterns that explain why this is happening?
A lot of attention has been given to the consumer packaged goods space, which has shown 10%-20% year over year growth. The rise in consumption is clearly attributed to new habits and behaviors that have come up since the start of the pandemic – stockpiling, work from home, more time to cook, etc. But looking closer, it is clear that not all categories are created equal and not all brands will fare equally. What the winners have in common is they address the need for enhancing immunity and affordability. Right in the beginning, there was a 69% increase in the number of references to “immune health” in consumer reviews on e-commerce sites. But looking back, we can see that this is a sustained trend, meaning that it will likely persist after this crisis is over. What is most interesting is that affordability is just as important, yet there are not many products that are meeting the need.
These are insights that are impossible to get from a single source and given the changing nature of consumer discussions. As the crisis wears on and we start looking ahead into 2021 planning, keeping up is only possible with AI and machine learning that is specifically trained to deal with unstructured data types.
Q: Are there strategies companies can employ now to play it safe despite economic uncertainty?
Most crises go through a few stages that each require different strategies. The first phase, the control phase, requires quick-response and flexibility; this is followed by the continuity phase where leaders look to repurpose existing processes, functions, knowledge-bases, etc. The next phase, the exit strategy, is marked by how to establish short term stability while planning for the mid-term future. The last two phases, resilience and excellence, are about creating renewed preparedness based on learnings from the crisis, defining new standards and establishing long term objectives. As I mentioned before, all these phases require good intelligence and a clear, unbiased understanding of the situation and a way to assess the future. In the business world, this comes from slew of data points, not only historical sales or consumer discussions. By looking at them all – social media, product reviews, blogs, forums, patents, emerging research, business announcements, key influencer discussions and more – along with internal data a more accurate and detailed picture emerges from which to place your next bet. Until now this was a very labor some process but with new advances in analytics, this is now within reach.
Gil Sadeh is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Signals Analytics, an advanced analytics platform that employs patented machine learning, NLP and data automation technologies to help organizations maximize the impact of advanced analytics and harness the power of external data to drive successful business outcomes. Business users, consumer and market insights teams and data and analytics organizations leverage the platform to surface powerful trends and predictive insights and accessed via business-ready applications and integrations of the data into their business intelligence environments.