PepsiCo on why market research needs to be in the boardroom

The advent of the highly connected consumer and an evolving business environment are reasons why market research will move from consumer to business, Priya Khanna, associate director for consumer insights at PepsiCo India, said at Marketing’s Research Asia Interactive conference 2015.

The emergence of “pro-consumers” signals a need to understand the consumers’ behavioural changes, given that new consumption trends are constantly being redefined. According to Khanna, digital can expand a consumer’s touch-points, advising that companies “must take internet and mobile in the same breadth”.

The connectivity the digital sphere allows also brings forth a rise in opinionated and expressive consumers who have the influencing power to potentially bring down brands.

“We cannot underestimate the consumer with a voice,” Khanna said.

The evolving business landscape, on the other hand, brings into view the need for market research to serve a new client – the CEO. As brands struggle with increased competition, a rehaul of market research may be necessary.

Consumer to business

“Market research has moved from reporting to a marketer to the CEO,” Khanna said.

Today’s changing business environment also translates to having many more questions and expectations, especially from a sales perspective.

“The moment you have a seat at the CEO table, you are an equal stakeholder,” she said.

To gain new shopper insights, market research needs to graduate from tracking and body analytics to predictive analytics to decode lead indicators.

“Market research has to evolve and think like a business consultant.”

A new skill that market research has to develop is to provide key insights on driving profitable growth.

“A comprehensive dashboard is essential. Everyone has to speak to each other in order to deploy all metrics possible.”

Some of the must-dos for market research includes matching pace with changing business landscapes or consumers, embracing risk, curating new technology and capabilities, building direct relationships with tech companies and partnerships. Most importantly, market research needs to adopt a consumer to business mindset.

On the agency side, companies that lead change and partner those with digital data are the ones who will win in the long run. For market research to transit to provocation exploratory research (using insights to “provoke” your consumer), market research has to help the business distil the central idea of getting loyal customers to express their love for the brand.

To facilitate and support this transition from consumer to business, market research needs to maximise the use of digital as well as recalibrating the core research techniques.

Building a dashboard

“Digital is all about getting the right information to the right consumers, therefore everything has be on one dashboard,” Khanna said.

For example, Pepsi leveraged its position as the title sponsor of the largest summer cricket festival in India – the Indian Premier League (IPL) – reportedly the biggest broadcast opportunity in season.

Through its brand presence throughout the stadium, Pepsi was able to market its portfolio of brands to cricket fans and major stakeholders. For the event, the company built a single-window dashboard to view all its KPIs and investments which enabled it to assess ROI for better deployment in the future.

To capture an audience’s attention it is important to manage and reach consumers to get the right information to them. Not only that, a brand has to get consumers in the real context that they are in, in order to align and embed its research to customer context.

“For example, gamification is a technique that works with Millennials, but might not work with other target audiences,” she said.

Traditionally insights used to be about a need gap or conflict and then identifying what the consumer needs. Now, there is a need for insights that run deeper than that, as a response to market challenges.

To do this, market research must decode new behaviour and patterns in order to lead insights to provocation.

“Social listening is a good thing to do, but it must be decoded and infused with traditional market research techniques. We need to start expanding our findings into discourse analyses, behavioural economics, and go beyond just understanding the consumer’s sentiment.”

At the risk of using and relying too much on digital, market research needs to rethink how digital is deployed.

Recalibrating core research techniques

In recasting the way researchers test ideas, a more collaborative research method is key. Research has to be much more flexible and real-time to change start points considerably.

For example, given the speed at which data changes, researchers must see that and generate hypotheses just as quickly. Hence, market research has to move from comprehensive to real-time.

“Marketers are happy to live with 70% accuracy. What’s more important is to start with an idea and be able to see how much you can expand this idea to the masses.”

In other words, there has to be much more real-time analysis for movement to happen from insights to provocation.

Khanna also noted that TV should not be the only element in a brand’s idea amplification strategy. Brands need to co-create using communities to expand the potential of the idea. For this, Khanna recommended real-time testing and consumer dialogue to be incorporated into a brand’s research.