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Unearthing Buried Insights for CPG In the COVID Era

Jesse Noyes

VP of Marketing

The word “essential” is thrown around a lot today. But if you’re in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry essentials is the business.

The CPG space is what provides many of the essentials — toothpaste, soap, canned foods, etc. — we all depend on. Even before the COVID pandemic, CPG brands were subject to fast changes. Changing consumer tastes, trends and spending habits could make or break a quarter.

CPG businesses depend on data to navigate and get in front of these changes. And in the COVID era, accessing and acting on the data is more important than ever. But even before pandemics and panicked shopping, the traditional BI and analytics tools many CPG companies rely on weren't catching the most valuable insights.

The problem is that CPG’s collect enormous amounts of unstructured and complex data such as product reviews, phone transcripts, and streams of raw data from IoT devices. Some estimates classify almost 90% of today’s data as unstructured

That effectively cuts CPG brands from understanding and responding to the COVID-driven behavioral patterns emerging in the data. It’s no wonder that only 22% of CPG firms are “very” satisfied with their analytics solutions.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Unsupervised’s Data Intelligence Platform goes beyond the dashboard, surfacing insights from both structured and unstructured data without requiring expensive data preparation can act fast to change customer behavior. Here’s an example of how.

Finding the Simple Action in Complex Data

In this example, the CPG brand’s data includes product details, which are typically freeform text fields. Because the platform is based on unsupervised learning, Unsupervised was able to identify a spike in sales for product details that contained the word “stress” after June 1 even though the AI wasn’t directed to look for that description. The AI finds that this spike is highest in urban locations where COVID case counts are highest (represented as 10 cases per 1000 residents), which was derived from external COVID data.

It makes sense that consumers would seek out stress relief products — lavender oil, tea, supplements, etc. — during a pandemic, and in this case it is nearly 4X the overall increase in sales across the business. You can even view the relative impact of viewing each part of this pattern on its own and how in this case the combined factor of product details containing “stress” and a specific date range impact business.

Now that this insight is clear, the business people can probe and act on it. Advertising campaigns can be run, promotions offered, additional supplies provided to retail partners, etc. With Unsupervised, the CPG brand was able to embrace the full complexity of their data to arrive at a startlingly simple insight that drives ROI.

Fast forward a week or a month, and the patterns and trends that might be hidden in the details of your data could be different. Even if someone were to apply filters in a BI dashboard showing products containing stress after June 1 to unearth this trend initially, the likelihood of finding the next hidden insight is low. Each time you reexamine the data, BI tools will require the same costly set of data prep and inherent human bias.

In CPG, time is always of the essence. But right now, constant change is driving the need to access insight into consumer behavior faster. The only way to get at it is by embracing your data in its full complexity.

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