Q: Your firm developed an in-house market research platform for brands like Heineken and Coca-Cola. In terms of bringing data to life for brands, how important is using technology to democratize data across an organization? Our in-house research platform (nicknamed -YaarnBox) was borne out of the observed need to deliver data and insights to our key clients in time for business decisions across the rapidly evolving categories that they play within. They wanted data to be used more by all internal stakeholders. Yaarnbox is a play of word to replace the ‘chat’ in ‘chatbox’ with a local slag for talk - ‘Yaarn’ to create the name YaarnBox. The platform allows our clients like Coca Cola and Heineken to run online group-based discussions with target consumer segments with real-time involvement with internal brand team, innovation and third party design agencies thus enriching the entire process for all stakeholders. This has significantly increased interaction with consumer data across clients’ internal teams. The survey function has also cut down the time required to field quantitative surveys while giving clients and their internal team members access to dashboards with easy-to-understand dashboards. We also work make use of other third party platforms to deliver work to clients and the impact is always encouraging – more internal stakeholders are getting involved in the research and insight process while truly making use of data in making business decisions. We have found this to be true for our clients here in Africa. Q: What do you find is the most effective manner to drive adoption of data-driven strategies outside of the traditional market research and consumer insights teams? Deliver market and consumer data at the speed of ‘business questions asked’. We must leverage technology to deliver needed data fast and in user-friendly ways. I have found this to be a most effective way of drive adoption of data-driven strategies outside of the CMI teams in client organizations. Realistically, outside the traditional market research and consumer insight teams; the rest of the organization do not particularly appreciate the time it takes to get required market and consumer data required. In cases, where the process is fast; data presentation may be a challenge. Hence, so often than not; they would depend on their ‘gut feel’ and proceed to make business decisions. In sum, delivering data at the speed of ‘business questions asked’ and easily understood format works. Q: How do you feel that the limitations of the COVID pandemic have impacted the adoption of data-driven strategies among brands? Covid-19 pandemic absolutely have step-changed a number of things: Face to face data collection was not possible and is currently limited still. However, business decisions had to be Internet adoption grew substantially in Africa, while in other climes, digital was the only platform to get things done, brands and consumers alike Every business team (aside CMI teams) needed to know what consumers are thinking and how their brands should play or evolve I feel Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of data-driven strategies among brands and we see this shift every time we work with our clients on consulting engagements Q: What kind of competitive advantage does data-driven customer centricity deliver to a brand? The big wins for brands adopting data-driven customer centricity are better decision-making process and creation of customer-centric innovations. Every brand play within an ever-changing competitive flux and there is a constant need to understand market trends and evolving customer behavior; thus, ensuring brands are ahead of the pack while pivoting easily into new categories or creating new products/services customers truly love. Additionally, data-driven customer centricity also ensures brands make the right investments in strong brand-building CSR initiatives. We have clients who have been able to switch funding away from supposedly ‘good’ programs which customers do not see as being impactful or relevant to their current needs or circumstances. Q: What is the ultimate impact on its customers when a brand is focused on data-driven understanding? I love this question! A brand focused on data-driven market and consumer engagement will inadvertently be a brand customers love Customers will find the brand meaningful and relevant. Also, will see such brand as part of their lives and an expression of their aspirations. Ultimately, customers will become advocates/ambassadors for a data-driven brand. "Top tip" - one short piece of advice that you would give to readers. The future is digital, and the future is now. We must aggressively explore ways to leverage technology to make the ‘magic’ we do with our clients faster, better and cheaper. Lastly, consulting = data + contextualization is really our work!