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BUSINESS STRATEGY

Research company CEO says tech and talent essential for bold decisions

By our News Team | 2022

Changes that consumer-facing businesses make in the new Covid world must be rooted in trusted data and up-to-the-moment forecasts: GfK boss.

Data-centric technology and talent are essential for bold and rapid decisions within the consumer products industry, says Peter Feld, Chief Executive Officer of GfK, a leading global market research company.

In a recent open letter to the industry, published on the company website, he says the last two years of the pandemic have changed the way business is done and there is no going back from that.

The behaviour changes and innovation explosion triggered by Covid restrictions has leap-frogged the business world easily five years into the future, he believes. Disruption, acceleration, data overload and sustainability are the topics on everyone’s lips.

Business Strategy

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

“Living in a pandemic has driven us all to find flexible ways to shop, work and entertain ourselves, as well as taking a deep new look at what is most important to each of us as individuals,” Feld writes.

“Today, people are holding on to those new habits and values. At the same time, they are demanding the return of selective aspects of the old models and channels. The challenges and opportunities from these varying influences fluctuate all the time.”

For business, this means the tempo of decision-making is the highest the industry has ever faced, and it is not going to lessen. Organisations need to understand developing market conditions the moment they arise and pivot their plans far more frequently to address changing conditions.

“Take disruption: Click & Mortar is now winning in the retail arena,” he observes. “Eighty-three percent of people have changed their shopping behaviour and market conditions continue to be in flux. Even where old behaviour seems to be re-emerging, it’s at differing levels than before and driven by different desires and triggers.”

Alongside this, external influences such as extreme weather events are increasingly changing people’s focus on how they live and the decisions they make, Feld observes.

Evolving trends went from years to months

“As for acceleration: the consumer world was already moving swiftly, but the pandemic compressed evolving trends, that would have taken years to develop, into months. The number of retailers adding e-commerce to their business model leapt by 64% in the first half of 2020 alone. 

“Yes, people flocked back to savour the ‘in-store experience’ when shops first reopened, but the convenience and instant gratification of ‘buy now’ has embedded the habit of remote shopping.”

According to Feld, it doesn’t take an analyst to see that continuing disruption added to acceleration of change is resulting in increased data overload for businesses. Making core decisions based on anything other than solid data is high-risk in the extreme – but how do organisations handle and make sense of the extreme amounts of data available from online platforms, search engines and apps, to name just a few? 

He warns that if businesses ignore key data sources, they could lose out to competitors – but understanding all those data sources at the pace required is a herculean task.

“In my view, success depends on embracing digitisation and data-based decision making – and I am not alone in this. One of Forrester’s Senior Analysts, Richard Joyce, calculates that a 10% increase in data access will add US$65-million to a typical Fortune 100 company income,” Feld says in the open letter.

“The businesses that are winning today have made bold changes, not minor adjustments, to respond at pace to current behaviour. 

“I personally have been inspired by the decisive actions of Intime, a department store chain in China. When traffic to its physical stores fell and consumers moved online, Intime switched their instore sales assistants into live-streamers on social media – showcasing products throughout the day that could be purchased via a simple click. By reacting fast and decisively to the new market conditions, Intime kept its staff in work and continued selling.”

Summarising his message to the industry, Feld concludes: “My message, then, is this: the time is ripe for bold decisions and high-tempo implementation. I believe that the ‘shapers of tomorrow’ are those that have the conviction to make radical changes based on early signals developing within their markets and consumer behaviour. 

“The critical point is that the shape of these changes must be solidly rooted in trusted data and up-to-the-moment forecasts. We’re never going ‘back to normal’, so be bold, be brave and create your own disruption to shape tomorrow’s market.”

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