Growth Through Data and Customer Insights

Big data. How can it be used, and what kinds of insights can it provide that will help grow your business? Axiom Consulting Partners’ President, Garrett Sheridan, and Constellation Brands’ Chief Commercial Officer, Bruce Jacobson, discuss using data to understand how your business is performing, and then turning that data into customer action.

Garrett Sheridan: I’m here today with Bruce Jacobson. Bruce is a longtime friend, client and currently the Chief Commercial Officer of Constellation Brands’ beer division. And we are going to talk today about growth strategy and how you can achieve year over year growth, which Bruce has very successfully done.

So one of the things, Bruce, that we are seeing with increased frequency at so many different clients, is the use of big data. And big data means different things to different people. Sometimes it means better analytics. Sometimes it truly means using machine learning to find out insights about either customers or your own data. One example, which is not in the beer business but which you may find interesting, is DLA Piper, one of the world’s biggest law firms. They wanted to understand which of their clients were likely to shrink or grow. We helped them figure that out. When they did the work they called in ‘moneyball,’ and over a six-month period it generated $39 million in value. It was all about better cross-selling to institutionalize that customer and supporting customers in ways that add value that they didn’t bill for, so bringing unique ideas to those customers. How do you guys use big data at Constellation Brands and what kinds of insight does it drive that help you grow the business?

Bruce Jacobson: We use a lot of data over the course of time. We start with the consumer. We are in a consumer products company business, and we have to think about what the consumer is doing. So we do a lot of research with the consumer; proprietary research, and we also do a lot of research through IRI and Nielsen, and use databases like that as well. So we use a lot of that to understand where the business is going from a consumer perspective. So type of consumer, how they think about the business and about the brand, and then we try to align our brands to that. We look at it that way.

But we also look at trend analysis. We have the ability to look at every invoice to every distributor and every retailer in the country every day. So we have invoice-level of data that we are able to roll up and a pretty wide suite of reports and data we can pull from that. We adopted a mantra not too long ago that is tied to what we call our ‘connect’ platform; that is a platform where we are putting product out to distributors and the retailers about the beer business and where it is going. We have a thought leadership position that we think (is an) advantage in the business, and so we are using the data that we have to help inform retailers and distributors about where the business is going, so they can get in front of that and use it to their advantage as well. So we will use a lot of that information around things such as that.

But this platform that we call ‘connect’ has three words tied to it: data, insights and action. We’ve got a lot of data, but the data does not mean a thing until you gather some information and put the pieces of data together to gather insights. That is the art of it. The science comes from the data and the art comes from the ability to pull data together.

But ultimately it doesn’t make any difference if you have data and you have insights if you never take action. So we have become really proficient recently about taking the data and turning it into a really great insights that matter to our customers and taking that and turning it into action, and we are getting a lot of traction in the marketplace out of it because of that. And then, when we analyze our own trends internally, we always have things- we have got one that we do every single month called ‘drivers and drags.’ We look at the regression analysis that helps us understand where the business is going and why it is going that way.

So as an example we take price almost every year in certain markets across the country. We realize the pricing is a drag to our business. It will slow the business down. But we also know that we are doing things like investing more behind media and more in getting new points of distribution. All of those will help drive the business forward. So we use that every single month to see what all the factors are that are helping move the business forward that month in on a calendar year-to-date performance versus prior periods, so we have an understanding of how our business is performing. So it is pretty impressive to see the depth of that and we have now become pretty in tune to using it and have been using it for years.

Other videos in this series:

Creating a Distinctive EVP

Meeting Challenges to Drive Growth

Establishing Sales and Marketing Alignment

Facing Competitive Threats: Constellation Brands and the Craft Beer Industry

Great Brands = Great People: Keys to Effective Talent Development

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