Why Nestle doesn't solely rely on research agencies

Speed and the ability to customise were the two main reasons that drove Nestle to create its online research panel “Nestle Conversations” four years ago. While it may be the norm for brands to collaborate with research agencies for insights, Nestle decided to expedite the process and rely less on agencies by using existing resources.

"If you have the money and manpower, having a panel can create a two-way dialogue," Tin-tin Siapno, head of marketing communications, Nestle Hong Kong, said at a recent conference titled Research Asia, by Marketing Magazine.

The company has been using “Nestle Conversations” to conduct research from concept tests to pre-post ad tests and brand health tracking. One might think that a huge team is required to manage the online research panel, but in actual fact, it is only a one-man team.

"We have one man on the team and he doesn't even do OT," she jokes.  According to Siapno, data for the panel was obtained from existing customers through promotions and Nestle’s CRM. Nestle also had the option of customising their search options to track the consumers relevant to their brand, such as gender, work status, personal monthly income and household monthly income. The panel is now also used for offline research such as home visits and focus group discussions.

“For example, I’m a marketer Nescafe coffee and I wanted to capture all the Starbucks users based on the data that we have, I can just plug the consumers into age demographics,” she said.

Instead of taking us one month for the full research to be done, it now takes us a maximum of two weeks to go from brief to results.

Siapno added that this was specifically for complicated research, and that data from a simple survey could be obtained within three to four days. According to her, this is especially useful for brand managers who require immediate feedback.

“We usually ask one question in the afternoon, like ‘What did you have for breakfast?’, and we have about 300 respondents telling us what they had. We don’t need to wait for three weeks to a month; we can have the data in 24 hours,” she explained.

The company shares the survey results with its "Nestle Conversations" respondents via a newsletter and this, Siapno said, makes them "excited" to participate in surveys even though there is no incentive to do so. She added:

It makes them feel like we are listening to them.

Only track metrics that matter

Siapno advises brands to only track metrics that matter to your key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to avoid getting overwhelmed by all the big data they are collecting.

"We have been there. We were tracking everything from click-through rates, comments, impressions, awareness, everything," she said. As a result, Nestle was clueless on what to do with the huge amount of information it had gathered.

"You have to be very strict about it. Based on your objectives and target audience, do you want your ad just to be discovered? Do you want people to share your ad, or do you actually want a purchase to be made?" Siapno added.

You need to focus on the metrics you want to drive.

"For example, you have a previous benchmark or study that says to reach X number of purchase, you need to reach X number of people. If you're not getting the right number of impressions, or if you're not getting the right number of reach, then that's something you watch and try to make it higher," she advised.