Feeding Consumers’ Hunger for Information with Healthy Data

Posted by Taylor Haney on Mon, Aug 5, 2013

To kick off the week we have a guest blog from Simon Glass, Vice-President of Business Development at Clavis Technology. Simon continues our data and analytics theme for the month with a post about healthy data and how product information spreads on the internet. If you are a MITX member and interested in guest blogging please e-mail me at taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

SimonGlassSimon Glass is a vastly experienced consumer goods expert, who has been at the forefront of the industry for more than 20 years. He has worked with industry giants such as Kellogg, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Gillette in the US, Canada and the UK. At Clavis Technology he is focused on e-Commerce and helping global CPG companies to maximize sales opportunities through their retail partners’ online stores.

“Big Data” has been the hot topic in technology and business circles for the past year or more. To date most organizations are looking at Big Data in terms of processing, mining and analyzing disparate data about their customers, to help find nuggets of information they can use to devise new products and increase sales. There is however another side to the coin that gets less coverage and that is what happens to product information as it is spreads and grows across the internet.

The rapid growth in online shopping in recent years has also seen an even greater increase in dependency on web-based information. This has brought about a major shift in the influence manufacturers have over how consumers interact with their brands. Where once brand owners were able to control most of the information the public consumed about their products, today’s buyers now have access to a myriad of online sources for pricing, features, ingredients or nutritional information, and reviews. All too often however – as uncovered by the recent Clavis Insight study – information on the myriad of eCommerce sites and online stores is not always reliable, accurate or complete.

Despite this, the wider availability of data – reliable or otherwise – is feeding into a seemingly insatiable appetite for information. Take nutritional information for example. As consumers understand more about nutrition, more of us depend on the information on food packaging – and online sources – to help us make informed decisions about what we eat. At the same time we are inundated daily with mixed messages about what is healthy and what is not. 

We all know that too much saturated fat and excessive alcohol consumption are bad for us. However, in April the Washington Post published a story claiming that “lard” is good for you, and (my favorite) the Daily Mail reported on a new study recommending the consumption of three glasses of champagne a week to boost memory of all things. With a plethora of seemingly contradictory information about health, it’s no wonder that - according to Global Market Research Firm The NPD Group – Americans meet dietary guidelines less than 2% of the time.

Adding insult to injury, a recent Clavis Study of online data – including nutrition panel information – compiled from 17 of the top online stores selling consumer packaged goods showed that over two-thirds of the information was inaccurate or incomplete. 

Why is this happening? Timing is a factor, as products change and may not be updated. Poor communication between manufacturers and e-tailers can often be an issue as well. Human error comes into play at times, with anything from typos to incorrect images ruining the product’s online display. Clavis found that 27% of the over 150 products they researched in online stores were missing important product details. Additionally, user-generated content is beginning to dominate the way consumers shop; online review site EXPO says that consumer reviews are trusted 12 times more than manufacturer descriptions. Extrapolate these issues to tens of thousands of food products in hundreds of online stores and it quickly brings us back to where we started – a lot of data and a big issue for brand owners who want to ensure that consumers can access high quality, or “healthy”, information about their products.