Using research, analysis and validated shopper insights to develop the right product

An interview with Marty Siewert, Global Director Shopper Insights, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Interview by Symphony RetailAI’s Paul Hoffman. Marty Siewert talked through Anheuser-Busch InBev’s study that helped them make a significant modification to one of its global beer brands at Xcelerate Retail Forum 2019.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in customer execution?

The major challenge I face is answering the questions that come in, not only from other functions but from around the world in different markets, and being able to maintain focus on commercial integration and execution excellence while ensuring a speedy response. To borrow something that I heard recently about the world in general and I think works perfectly in the shopper environment, “The world will never be moving more slowly than it is right now.” Speed is essential, speed to insight is essential and getting distracted can be easy. This is the environment we face every day, and for me, the way I manage is to answer questions in a thoughtful way, framing the answers up in a context that makes sense and helps my internal clients to execute with insights that enable execution against the problem.

Let me give a brief example of an issue I was faced with this year and how I addressed it.  E-commerce for CPG in places like the UK, France and China is really soaring. But alcohol could still use a boost in terms of share of baskets, so we need to be sure that we’re activating against shoppers in an effective way. For me this meant framing up the insights to make them actionable without creating something completely new. The path I chose was to communicate e-commerce execution recommendations through the lens of category management. It’s a context that is familiar and I found to be more digestible for my sales and category management teammates. Working within an existing framework enabled me to provide faster answers to people who needed them.

The bottom line is that with all the information and distraction, in order to have excellence in execution you have to keep your eye on the ball.

What technologies do you use to maximize the richness from customer data insights?

If you’ve done even one project in the alcoholic beverage industry, you quickly understand how many gaps there are in just basic reporting data. To address this from a technology standpoint we’ve brought together a combination of external and internal capabilities to give us a better understanding of our sell-through data. This is means bringing together data from literally millions of different sell-through points that we have around the globe. And it is not just the modern outlets in on- and off-premise points of sale, it’s the small corner stores, it’s the traditional trade in other countries. Our dream as a company is to be able to provide every customer – from Walmart to the corner store, from Applebee’s to the corner bar – with data-driven insights to help them grow, to put the power into their hands to help them grow, so that we can together.

To achieve our dream, we are leveraging and combining technologies to bring together disparate datasets. In my view in this industry, this task wasn’t even possible to do just five years ago, but technology has really advanced in a way that it’s enabling us to do that now.

What is some of the new technology that you find interesting?

From a consumer and shopper perspective, there’s so much cool stuff out there now, but virtual and augmented reality, neuro measurement and AI are definitely things we’re leaning into. We’ve used eye tracking as well. The technology is so amazing compared to, say, ten years back. Shopper intercepts with just interviews are fine, but when you augment it with other technologies, it helps you passively measure where people are looking first or where they’re spending most of the time and browsing in front of the shelf. There are numerous ways to approach shopper research but for the bigger questions, the traditional survey methods aren’t really sufficient anymore and you have to combine traditional and new methods together, which is what we did with the Symphony RetailAI project around package testing.

Please give a summary of what you spoke about at Xcelerate 2019.

The title is Develop the right product: research analysis and validated shopper insights. It’s about how you can utilize shopper insights before you get to market, before you make the big investments to validate that what you’re doing is hitting the mark. I drawed upon, at a high level, some of the learnings that we had in the project we did with Symphony RetailAI. It was really invaluable to us making the decision about whether or not to move forward with the investment.

In all of your years of experience, is there anything that has really surprised you in your work?

When I came to this role at a beer company on the client side after being on the research supplier side for nearly 20 years, what surprised me is how many commonalities there are from the consumer point of view across markets around drinking beer. It’s a beverage I think that’s unique in alcohol from the perspective that it’s accessible, it brings people together, and it’s got a tradition and a history that is welcoming for people. So commonalities across markets from that perspective are surprising in a good way. I would say the other thing that consistently surprises me based on my history as a supplier, and now here working for a manufacturer, is one thing doesn’t happen as consistently as it should, and that is customer empathy on the part of manufacturers. The ability to put yourself in your retail customer shoes and view things from their perspective to come up with a win for them and a win for yourself, and ultimately, a win for your consumers is what will drive success versus just going in with a selling story.

Please tell the readers something about yourself outside of your work?

I’m a huge Green Bay Packer and Northwestern Wildcat football fan. That’s fun for me now that fall is here. On a different note, I view myself as fortunate because I had the opportunity to try several different careers before I found marketing research and knew that that was it for me. One of those careers was a banana ripening job. You can ask me anything you want to know about bananas – I’m your guy.

Discover more about how Anheuser-Busch InBev gain insights on their data to effectively measure product test performance.

Learn more about Symphony RetailAI’s Xcelerate Retail Forum.