Anyone in charge of a brand, project or company must make decisions. But anyone making a decision can inevitably get it wrong. Sometimes there are no consequences and other times this can lead to the failure of a project or product. Some particularly serious errors can ultimately spell the downfall of a company. The cause for this is hardly ever a lack of information. On the contrary, it is often caused by an excess of it. Sifting through the ocean of data, facts and trends to find what is relevant for a company or brand is a fine art which is becoming increasingly difficult to master.
Alessandra Cama, Chief Operations Officer at GfK: “Many customers have explained that they feel overwhelmed by information overloads. Nowadays, they must find their way in a hyperconnected, rapidly changing world. This is much harder than it has ever been before.” In addition to this, many decision-makers and project leaders must cope with deadlines and budgets which are shorter and tighter than ever before. They are given less and less time to make decisions, the consequences of which are increasingly far-reaching and unforeseeable. The inevitable outcome of this is that they make mistakes.
What are the key fundamentals when making decisions? What is actually important right now? And what is merely urgent, but not really important?
To answer these questions, decision-makers need a filter to separate out what is important and what isn’t – to separate the wheat from the chaff. This filter is called relevance. The term comes from the Latin “re-levare”, which means to raise something (again). Relevance also involves the ability to pick out key signals from incessant background noise, bringing them to the attention of decision-makers in order to help them to make the right decision more quickly. Relevance is treated as something of a gold standard in the knowledge society.
This is precisely the reason why GfK’s analyses are so valuable today. Once a traditional German market research company, GfK is now a prime example of a global analysis supplier. We observe consumer trends and behavior in more than 100 countries worldwide. We simultaneously record the actual (purchasing) decisions of consumers across industries, media, languages and markets – no matter whether these are taken in-store or mobile, digital or analog. We therefore know exactly what consumers do and why they do it, which makes us better placed than anyone else to get a handle on relevant developments quickly, precisely and most extensively. But above all, we can translate them into concrete recommendations for action when it comes to our customers.
Our vast data reservoir, which we are constantly augmenting with current data, findings and studies from a variety of regions and industries, is the essential basis of all our work. It means that our analysts can pull out all the stops for any assignment or question posed, from specific sales figures for a variety of industries to media usage data and consumer experience studies on almost any consumer group or region in the world. When you take this enormous spectrum of subjects and multiply it by the decades that GfK has been collecting data, you are met with hundreds of terabytes of records which we use to provide relevant answers to questions. It is important that data is collected to a uniformed standard as well as being processed and presented in the same way. Four GfK Global Service Centers (GSCs) around the world make sure that, within the shortest time frame possible, we are able to provide our customers with exactly the relevant information that they need to succeed. We explain how this works with the example of a GSC in Sofia.
This relevant data holds the key to using the past and the present to decipher the future. Or, as the trend researcher John Naisbitt put it: “The most reliable way to anticipate the future is by understanding the present.” We are going one step further. With our “One GfK” strategy, which brings together findings from the Consumer Choices and Consumer Experiences sectors, we are enabling our customers not only to anticipate the future, but also to actively shape it the way they want to.
Smart analysis of digital consumer data is a valuable tool for this, and it is precisely one of the services provided by Netquest, the access panel provider headquartered in Barcelona which was acquired by GfK in February 2016. Netquest is the leading provider of high-quality, cross-device digital panels and behavioral data from almost two dozen countries worldwide. Their proprietary technology includes the leading online survey tool in Latin America and a high quality (ISO-certified) online panel offering. We intend to expand both of these globally in the near future. Through its subsidiary Wakoopa, Netquest also offers a tracking software, technology services and support for cross-device behavioral data collection on consumer behavior – all available globally. These are needed, for instance, when we want to understand young markets and product segments where very little reliable comparative data is available, such as the wearables market. Find out how we give our customers a clearer picture here.
The newest addition to GfK’s portfolio is highly relevant and complements our existing data sources well. We also combine publically available data, social media feeds and information on particular customers with our own knowledge. Thus, Big Data becomes Smart Data. Raw data turns into valuable knowledge. Unstructured, highly complex information transforms into a clear picture. Relevance is the result.
This is like giving powerful binoculars to a man standing on the shore of an endless ocean: Suddenly it is much easier to see which route leads you astray. And which would lead to success.
However, this requires an in-depth understanding of customer business. Gerhard Hausruckinger, GfK Chief Commercial Officer responsible for the Consumer Choices sector and since September 2016, Speaker of the Management Board: “We put a lot of energy into trying to find out precisely where our customers are heading in their industries.” Like a navigator pointing out shallow water or approaching storms to a captain, GfK’s Industry Leads look after individual industries and corporate customers. As keen observers of the industry, they know what questions are currently the most urgent and important for a particular industry. They also know all of GfK’s important analysis tools and insights which could be relevant and decisive for the customers’ success. By combining intelligence requirements and insights, they create relevance and they help their customers to do the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
Relevance also requires speed. The mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead put it best: “Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.” It doesn’t help to tell someone today what they should have done yesterday. It comes down to knowing the factors of success for tomorrow.
And it is precisely this which we are providing customers increasingly quickly. An example of this is Point of Sales data, which we gather in more than 80 countries worldwide. This data shows our customers the actual purchases of their customers, in other words consumers. Previously, this data was only available some weeks after the purchase, but today it can be retrieved at the very latest two weeks after the end of the respective month, and in some markets even every week. In Japan, it can be done daily. Gerhard Hausruckinger: “Decisions must be made at the right moment and to do this, you need relevant information at that very time.”
We can measure how relevant a piece of information is by seeing the extent to which it allows those responsible to do the right thing. But in addition to having the relevant information, one must also know how to draw the correct conclusions from it. In the highly competitive consumer goods market for instance, we helped retailers to achieve ground-breaking successes using an innovative approach. “Shopping Missions” translates knowledge obtained from consumer data into a concept which retailers can use to immediately position themselves much more relevantly than before (find out more). In Denmark, where the Shopping Mission approach was developed, almost all big retailers are now using our concept. After all, it not only provides interesting analyses, but above all ensures that companies remain as relevant as possible in their competitive environment.
David Krajicek, GfK’s Chief Commercial Officer responsible for the Consumer Experiences sector, explains: “Our customers do not need mountains of data – they need concrete recommendations for action. Everything we do comes down to one simple question: How can we improve our customers’ business? This is the central task at hand and it is one which our about 13,000 employees work on passionately.”
Anyone who continuously receives the relevant data in this way can take the wheel and make the transformation from a mere passenger into a driver. A follower becomes a leader. Someone who decides less and less how to respond to the actions of others, but instead decides what should be on the agenda for himself and for others. This is what GfK is all about.