Diving Into Purpose and Strategy at Analytics Unite


The eighth year for Analytics Unite: The Summit for Retail and Consumer Brands (formerly RCAS) was a bit different than any of us at Consumer Goods Technology and RIS News expected.  

Moving forward in the midst of the health crisis, our team decided to dive in head first and put on a fully virtual event, complete with insightful content, breakout sessions and networking to bring the retail and consumer goods community together once again, despite today’s challenges.

The three-day experience from October 6-8 was packed full of inspiring keynotes, educational content and info about valuable solutions from our partners, as well as fun virtual social events to capture the in-person networking experience.

Insight was delivered from a unique collection of some of today’s most influential figures in the retail and consumer goods industries worldwide. Content centered around purpose-driven analytics was crafted to help businesses plot their roadmap for today’s unprecedented landscape. 

Below we provide highlights to the content presented.

If you weren’t able to attend — or if you just want to re-watch some of the great content — you can still register to watch, download and explore the virtual summit as much as you’d like until Nov. 7. In addition, you can still browse the Exhibit Hall and collect information.

Nestle CIO Filippo Catalano and chief data and analytics officer Fancesco Marzoni open AU.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Opening Keynote: Purpose-Driven Analytics

With over 2,000 brands, 1.2 billion products sold every day, products sold in 187 countries and 300,000 employees worldwide, Nestle’s data and technology challenges can oftentimes come at massive scale. But despite its size, Nestle CIO Filippo Catalano and chief data and analytics officer Fancesco Marzoni reveal that the company prides itself for still being able to move at start-up speed.

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation.

CEO Fireside Chat: Leading With Purpose

After the opening keynote set the stage for the conference, WD40 Company CEO Garry Ridge took to the virtual stage with Analytics Unite co-chair and founder of Innovationedge Cheryl Perkins to expand on the event’s purpose-driven theme. Ridge has been in the corner office of the iconic lubrication brand for more than two decades and has a wealth of expertise on how to lead through both thick and thin times.

“When we came together, we said as an organization, number one, you have to have a dedication to people,” Ridge said when recounting his start as CEO. “Number two, you have to have a true purpose. Number three, you must have a compelling set of values. Four, you need a good strategy and a bold execution. And finally, you have to be a learning organization.”

The strategy that Ridge implemented across the organization helped WD40 Company increase its international presence and quadruple its revenue since he took the helm in 1997. His steadfast commitment to people and purpose not only fueled monumental success over the past 23 years, but it's been a calming influence on the organization during the current health crisis.

“Obviously there has been a seismic shift in consumer behavior,” Ridge said when asked about COVID-19's effect on the industry. “About 3.5 years ago, we made a conscious decision to make a significant investment in digital. We have invested millions in our digital assets, and we were very well positioned to welcome new buyers onto our e-commerce platforms. Our e-commerce businesses has just boomed.”

Having the foresight to proactively invest in digital assets set WD40 Company up to seamlessly meet changing consumer behavior during the pandemic. That customer-centric, forward-facing approach to strategic and technological investment was instilled from the top down, allowing the brand to not only preemptively prepare for an unknown future, but also be nimble enough to adjust on the fly.  

Kirk Ball, EVP and CTO, Giant Eagle, and John Backhouse, chief data and analytics officer, Giant Eagle, got together to talk about how to design and implement a meaningful, engaging and safe consumer experience.

A Case Study in Connecting with Data 

Leading retailers and consumer goods companies are leveraging data-infused insight to reimagine the consumer experience for short-term necessities and long-term success. Giant Eagle's EVP and CTO Kirk Ball and chief data and analytics officer John Backhouse got together to talk about how to design and implement a meaningful, engaging and safe consumer experience.

Backhouse discussed how the retailer needs a single version of truth. “We really need to be able to trust that real-time data,” he said. He also noted companies should think of data more as an asset and a commodity, and it needs to be presented in a way that can be consumed easily.

Ball talked about the skills needed to deliver a purpose-driven analytics platform and capability. This includes a clear and precise conduit between business and IT; leadership, which understands the real-world technology needs and investment needed; and self-service enablement and capabilities, which he said are “imperative.”

Touching on the idea of leading with purpose since COVID-19, Ball noted “at the end of the day, we wanted to make sure there were significant things we did as an enterprise. Customer safety was absolutely number one.”

Creating a safe environment for employees and understanding the rapidly growing demand at Giant Eagle was also important.

“Understanding rapidly changing demand, changing preferences, in near real-time, allowed us to react very, very quickly and continue to meet customer needs without interruption while ensuring safety."

IDC Retail Insights VP Leslie Hand, MIT research fellow Michael Schrage, and RIS News editor at large Joe Skorupa discussed what organizations must do now that historical data patterns have stopped working. 

Analysts Panel - The Strategies You Need Now to Survive and Thrive

IDC Retail Insights VP Leslie Hand, MIT research fellow Michael Schrage, and RIS News editor at large Joe Skorupa discussed what organizations must do now that historical data patterns have stopped working. 

For one thing, businesses need a strategy for data as an asset. “It sounds like a cliché, said Schrage, “but four out of five times, when I ask how [they] measure returns on data as an asset, they look at me like I have three heads. … If you don’t have a metric, you don’t have a data strategy.”

Hand noted that today’s retailers find themselves between a rock and a hard place as they determine how best to prioritize how they use data.

As retailers figure out where to spend their money, they’re accelerating their transformation not because transformation was the goal, but because they’ve realized through this experience that “all of the things I thought I knew about managing demand kind of flew out the window,” she said. “The long cycles retailers were used to in planning for future demand, and the way they relied on historical data, stopped working. Boom — drop the mic. This just doesn’t work anymore.”

Now, retailers are focused on addressing agility and visibility to data, as well as leveraging data to drive more automation through those processes in more real time.

In her keynote presentation, “Future Retail: Where Do We Go From Here?,” Kodali gave an insightful overview of retail trends relevant to both retail and brand professionals, citing data from various Forrester and third-party resources throughout.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Keynote: Future Retail: Where Do We Go From Here?

E-commerce sales are soaring, but when a level of normalcy returns to the retail industry, what is the future of the physical retail environment? To answer this, Sucharita Kodali, VP, principal analyst at market research and consulting firm Forrester, explored the current state of the store and provided vision for the short- and long-term future for retail. Kodali gave an insightful overview of retail trends relevant to both retail and brand professionals, citing data from various Forrester and third-party resources throughout. 

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation.

Digital Natives Driving Disruption Panel

Retailers and consumer goods companies looking to break out of their old way of doing things can look to companies that never operated with the standard playbook to begin with. In this session a panel of industry leaders shared how they embraced this digital transformation and are using innovative digital tools to win shoppers’ hearts, minds and wallets. Hear what Ivonne Kinser, head of Digital Marketing, Avocados From Mexico; Scott Benedict, director & executive professor, Texas A&M University - Center for Retailing Studies; Alexander Sienkiewicz, chief marketing officer, SwimOutlet; Jennelle Nystrom, head of product, Farmstead had to say during this astute panel.

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation.

Agility Crisis: COVID-19 Was Just the Catalyst; Your Data Strategy Is the Problem

A team of analytics experts from SAP — industry executive advisor Matt Gardner; industry executive advisor Robin Wilson; VP, Center of Excellence, data & analytics Jason Yeung; and industry executive advisor, customer innovation officer Paul Larson — discussed how companies can develop a strategy that lets them quickly pivot and respond to trends during today’s disruption.

Gardner shared Under Armor as a prime example of a company that’s been able to leverage data in a powerful way by tapping into a vast product-tester network. Whereas testing and iterating used to take months, they’ve shortened this process down to a few weeks or even days.

“This allows companies to create a new foothold in a space that they didn't have before and really cement it from the very beginning, as opposed to kind of getting their feet wet with it, and maybe having competitors counter pretty quickly,” he noted. “Instead, you're able to stay ahead of the wave because of the sheer speed with which you're able to go because the analytics are all connected — from the consumer that that is interacting with the products and with the things that people are using, to the teams that need those results immediately to inform the quarterly strategies and business.”

To be sure, the use of analytics has progressed rapidly, and Jason Yeung noted that we’ve now entered the “age of augmented analytics.” In addition to providing insight at rapid speeds, it also places users in control.

“You control where your destination is, what kind of analytics you want to do, where you want to go, what kind of insights you want to get. It's really the analytics that's assisting you and allowing you to spend a lot less time filtering through stuff, pages, page reports, and really kind of telling you where to go,” he said. 

How to Implement AI Across the Value Chain

During this breakout session, Peak’s industry experts took a deep dive into the transformative impact of AI. They discussed how to get started with AI, and gave examples of its ability to optimize processes and drive outcomes across a business’ entire value chain. Martin Sutton, partnership director, Peak, walked through three retailer case studies.  

Sutton began by noting Peak gets “28% more revenue from the campaigns that use micro-personalized content driven from AI microsegments,” and went on to give concrete examples on how microsegments were able to show solid results in email marketing for U.K. retailer Foot Asylum. Other retail examples included how machine learning was used to drive demand forecasting for Speedy and a look at improving the efficiency of how goods were picked in a fully autonomous warehouse for a global fashion retailer.

The session left attendees with practical advice to help kick-start their own AI journey, such as “boring is best,” according to Sutton, who noted the most boring use cases drive the biggest value. He left the audience with the takeaway that what AI technology does best is improve a process that already exists. 

The Imperative of AI in Retail: Finding the Most Value in Decisioning 

Prem Kiran, founder and CEO of Hypersonix Inc., joined Brian Kilcourse, managing partner for RSR Research, to discuss how retailers and brands are successfully leveraging machine learning and AI across their enterprise value chain to drive profitable growth quickly in rapidly changing times in this breakout session.

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation.

Why Is Real-Time, Consumer Shopping Engagement Important at Point of Sale?

Engaging shoppers through the innovative use of technology has been a major focus for retailers and consumer good brands and has only become more vital during this period of ongoing disruption. While engaging shoppers via digital channels is certainly vital to long-term success and has become even more critical over the past year, the majority of sales still occur at the store level.

Finding seamless and unobtrusive ways to engage with shoppers while they are in store, and tracking that engagement, is top of mind for retailers and brands and was a major theme of this breakout session.

“It's about being proactive versus reactive,” said Keith Fix, CEO and founder, RetailAware. “I think now that we have access to deep store analytics and reporting at our fingertips, it is going to be transformational. It helps you drive better performance of your in-store programs, drive stronger ROI, and helps create success.”

Joining Fix on the thought leadership panel were Christine Ryder, VP, P-O-P, Serigraph, and Joe Vernon, analytics transformational leader, Capgemini. The panel covered a host of topics during the session, including what exactly consumer shopping engagement means at the POS, how to facilitate meaningful engagement in-store, the ROI of engagement, and the key engagement KPIs to monitor. The trio of retail and CG insiders explored the topics with a conversational style designed to get the audience thinking about how to best implement a successful engagement strategy. 

Andy Walter, strategic advisor, P&G (retired), led a panel discussion with Guilherme Amaral, global digital transformation manager, Reckitt Benckiser; Loic Giraud, analytics COE lead, Novartis; and Julie Stewart, former, divisional VP, DaVita Healthcare.

Thursday, October 8, 2020


Keynote: Navigating the Health and Wellness Journey 

Retail and consumer goods companies have been active in the health and wellness segment for years, but have greatly increased their involvement in the face of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. Whether it is health clinics in stores or an increased focus on OTC products, the industry has jumped into healthcare with both feet. 

Andy Walter, strategic advisor, P&G (retired), led a panel discussion exploring this growing trend and how data can help guide companies down their health and wellness journey. The keynote presentation included Guilherme Amaral, global digital transformation manager, Reckitt Benckiser; Loic Giraud, analytics COE lead, Novartis; and Julie Stewart, former, divisional VP, DaVita Healthcare.

While the topic of health and wellness has boomed in the last few months, organizations need leadership to access opportunity. Amaral noted that to make Lysol’s purpose come to life, the company needs data to understand its consumers. But after the pandemic it has been trying to find out how we can segregate the people who were already buying with the people who are newly buying in the category, and how it can communicate with these people differently. The company started a huge program to transform this, changing the infrastructure and the mechanisms to collect the data.

Giraud said Novartis has opened up its platforms for others to use and also noted: “When COVID-19 came, within a week time we transposed [all] our employees onto Microsoft Teams. You realize, when you want to do something, you can.”

Stewart talked about how the heath crisis has highlighted “the lack of consumerism in healthcare.” The companies that understand technology and analytics have been able to act quickly with beneficial things like telehealth. “Those are the companies that have used technology to bridge this care gap,” she said. 

Value Chain Analytics: From React & Respond to Predict & Plan

Advancements in technology have allowed consumer goods companies to design and manufacture products faster than ever before, sell those goods in multiple channels, and quickly react to changing demands. These value chains produce troves of data and insights that can help CG companies maintain a competitive edge. In this session, Ash Mehra, global data and analytics lead and North America CIO for Mondelez International, joined the company’s chief data scientist Abdul Raheem to explore how organizations can incorporate cognitive, predictive and prescriptive analytic strategies to supercharge the value chain — and how they can be leveraged to improve operations in times of unprecedented demand.

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation.

Workshop: How to Implement and Scale AI Data Driven Decision Making in Your Supply Chain

During a lively lunch hour, AWS and Peak presented information on AI and how it’s enabling CPGs to make data-driven decisions with an agility that was previously not possible, followed by a collaborative workshop, where attendees shared information on the best practices and lessons learned from recent attempts to leverage AI.

Zoe Hillenmeyer, head of business development, AWS AI Services, took the virtual stage to note that in addition to the entire world shifting in the past few months, the use of AI is shifting. She explained how AI/ML is helping companies make themselves more future-proof as they think about what’s next and the technology is no longer living on the fringe  customers are moving to production very quickly.

“We really want to engage and share across organizations about what best practices are working,” Hillenmeyer said, noting that AWS is seeing massive adoption of machine learning across industries.

“You are not alone,” she said, pointing out that one of the best thing about the machine learning space is the community. “Frankly we’re all very nerdy.”

Martin Sutton, partnership director, Peak, followed to share examples of how we can all learn from each other.

“If you understand demand, there is so much you can optimize,” Sutton said. He reviewed a few case studies, which you can hear more about in depth during Peak’s presentation above. 

Finally, attendees entered the breakout room to partake in a lively video chat on how to identify the best place to start with AI. One attendee noted the company started with demand risk and are moving on, while another noted they started with supply planning and demand planning. Another attendee posed the question, “How do you kick off efforts with line-of-sight into what business processes it gets built into?” Another noted the company is at the level where they have developed a methodology canvas to support use cases for AI and ML, and offered to share the canvas.  

Jamie Head (left) and Rick Davis

Purpose-Driven Analytics: Charting a Course that's Right for Your Business

Think big. Act small. Scale fast. Easy enough, right? Ocean Spray CIO Jamie Head and Rick Davis, president of advisory firm The Davis Development Group, closed out Analytics Unite with a joint keynote, supported by what the pair cleverly titled: "Ocean's 5" that tracked Ocean Spray’s recent journey of evolving its critical cranberry-rating process through the use of neural technology.

Click here to read expanded coverage of this presentation. 

This is also published on CGT. 

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