Comment: Is this the end of the qualitative marketer?

As a tech-led multichannel retailer of healthy snacks, Graze receives vast amounts of data from its direct to consumer business.

As a result of this insight, one subject it has explored is the extent to which data can be used as part of a new, more agile innovation process compared to those currently employed by “big food” brands.

Its data ranges from snack ratings (Graze has over 700 million pieces of implicit feedback from its Grazers) to insights which are gleaned more implicitly from onsite browsing and repeat rates.

However, all this data is of little use unless put to work effectively.

One of the most intriguing patterns to emerge has been the separation of data depending on whether a consumer has tried a product or is simply browsing.

So, what helps a brand gain increased traction with customers? Is it the actual product or rather how it is positioned to consumers which pushes sales? 

Pre vs. post consumption

By segmenting data based on whether someone has tried the product, Graze is able to separate out the appeal of the idea of a product from the appeal of actually experiencing the snack across a dizzying variety of metrics.

For example, Graze’s British BBQ recipe – a combination of mini basil breadsticks, hickory smoked almonds, rosemary crostini and roasted pumpkin seeds – showed strong post receipt ratings, but weak overall demand.

Given Graze’s online business model is based around an iterative approach to data, it is able to reposition existing products rapidly. Teamed with its heavily tech enabled factory, the business can launch a new product from concept to shelves within 48 hours.

After changing the name and imagery on the British BBQ punnet to reposition it as an Italian Focaccia snack, pre-receipt ratings jumped by close to 100%.

Such data-driven exercises illustrate just how sensitive product appeal is to the imagery and naming nuances on packaging – small changes or tweaks can transform appeal.

The chances of picking the optimum positioning for a new product on the first attempt can be challenging and explains why Graze believes so much new product development fails within its first year on shelves.

International launch model

It was Graze’s innovative approach to data which enabled the business to localise itself rapidly to the challenging US market when launching online back in 2013.

Traditionally, it is incredibly hard to pre-empt how food products will resonate in different countries. Market research or a local presence can help, but both are expensive and prone to different bias.

It was for this reason that Graze decided to launch online first using its data rich direct to consumer channel.

Having launched its entire UK range with no attempts to localise across all 50 US States simultaneously, the business then went about launching a couple of products a week and withdrawing those that did not meet regional tastes based on customer feedback.

The mentality was all about “following the data” and seeing a certain level of failure as an inevitable outcome. In an online environment you can simply remove the products that do not perform well, the cost of failure is lower and you can set the pace you want to move at and your appetite for risk.

Other winners were discovered by ensuring the business took account of local cuisines and identification of nostalgic, childhood treats.

By the end of Graze’s first six months in the US nearly 50% of its range had been localised to the American market, much to the business’ success.

A model for entrepreneurs and big brands

The insight-led model is appealing: find a rapid source of data and build an iterative approach to innovation based around it.

For entrepreneurs new to market they will find this environment more forgiving of mistakes and enabling them to play to their natural desire to create and, if necessary, pivot.

For bigger brands loaded with internal facing processes, the model offers a way to consult with their customers whilst simultaneously producing those lovely, rigorous quantitative graphs so beloved of all businesses.

Either way, the real disruptors looking to make an impact on the sector will be those who listen to consumers and are able to innovate to meet their needs – just as Graze has done over the last decade.