For innovative businesses, one of the crucial roles that data plays is proving to a sometimes sceptical audience that your product provides a new solution to a recurrent problem.
You know that your idea will change the world – but gathering facts and figures to convince other people is much simpler when you have a thorough data strategy in place.
At this point in the digital age, acting on “gut instinct” when it comes to making operational decisions are long gone. Today all elements of a business’s operations – design, production, distribution, marketing, customer services – can be monitored, measured and analysed.
This means that businesses which have engaged with the processes of digital transformation will have facts and figures on hand to get across not just what they do, but why (and how) they do it more effectively than anyone else. If you are innovating, this is the essence of the idea that you have to “sell”, to position yourself as a market leader.
One business I have recently come across with an innovative – potentially world-changing –product is the UK food technology company It’s Fresh!. In a world where millions go starving despite one third of the food we produce going to waste, they claim their packaging product can reduce waste by 45% - and they have the data to prove it.
Founder Director Simon Lee told me “For me it’s absolutely clear, having solid case study data to validate the efficacy of our technology is vital.”
It’s Fresh’s primary product is a unique filter designed to extend quality and freshness by the absorption of ethylene, a natural gas which causes fruit and vegetables to ripen and spoil more quickly.
Using data to build a solid case that would prove they have solved a problem caused by deteriorating fruit and vegetables required careful monitoring of trials throughout the entire supply chain from growers to distribution and packing facilities, as well as retail outlets and into the home.
Sales Director Peter Durose said “I can go and talk to retailers and growers, and if I can put data in front of them, to demonstrate what we’re doing - they are much more likely to listen as extending shelf lifeand quality as well as reducing waste and increasing both sales and margin is extremely compelling, especially when sustainability and value for money is becoming ever increasingly important for the consumers”
To-date the green & white striped filter has been used by UK retailers including Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S, as well as Carrefour in France and Walmart and Albertson/Safeway in the USA as well as their supply chain growers worldwide.
Durose says: “With producebeing shipped worldwide to ensure continual supply of our favourite produce, growers in USA, Chile, Mexico and South Africa are using It’s Fresh! to mitigate any risk of deterioration during transit as well as being able to expand their business by shipping further afield to new markets knowing that the technology protects quality during the extra journey time.
Retailers like Morrisons in UK use it to extend shelf life and quality by 2 days on over 5 different product areas and Wal-Mart stores in the USA use the filter on their stone fruit category, to dramatically reduce in-store waste, with more product areas to follow. The main attraction for supermarkets is that less waste means that they get to sell more fruit and veg at full cost without resorting to ‘reduced to clear’ prices. They have improved availability as produce can be purchased by consumers from the shelves for more of the time, which drives sales. Consumers get extended quality, taste and value with less waste at home too. It’s a win-win for retailer and consumer.”
Throughout product development, emphasis was put on extensive research, trialling and measuring as many elements as possible, so when success came it would be repeatable and demonstrable.
Lee says “We like to run our commercial trials with huge quantities of product over a sustained period of time in order to ensure that we get statistically significant data – so we will compare millions of packs or cartons that have our filters with millions that don’t and then evaluate the data captured on, sales, waste, availability, customer complaints, as well as quality assessments like pressure, colour, rots, texture, taste – the latter part consisting of blind taste tests and placebo packs, similar to running clinical trials. The meta-analysis over all trials and pilots completed in the last few years, tells us that on average we can reduce waste at retail by 45%, deliver improved margins and increase sales by double digit figures, as well providing extended quality and flavour to the consumer, where else can the industry get those sorts of dramatic improvements these days”
Being armed with all of this data puts It’s Fresh! in a great position to go out and tell the world about their unique product and be able to substantiate their claims over and over again.
This goes to show how important data is at every level of business. In many ways, businesses can be thought of as layers of problems – or challenges for glass-half-full types – nested inside each other. At the outer layer is the problem you solve for your customer.
Within that are layers of problems related to solving that initial problem in the most efficient way. Getting your product onto the market and into the hands of customers is a crucial one, and those in a position to help you do that – be it retailers or investors – are increasingly attracted to ideas which are backed up by data.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.