Ever wondered why sweets suddenly started appearing in large, resealable bags rather than small, disposable ones? Or why washing powder manufacturers suddenly shifted to tablets? The semi-hidden hands behind these decisions are companies like Kantar Worldpanel. Kantar Worldpanel is a global market leader in documenting and decoding shoppers’ behaviour and, as monitoring becomes more precise, it’s just the kind of company that will map out the future of retail.
As Employee Engagement Leader Hema Patel suggests, the industry is in a constant state of evolution with agility and the ability to respond to change at an absolute premium. “Bespoke data is very important now,” she says. “People don’t want standard data any more – that’s just for verification purposes. There is no standard package these days. We’ll answer our clients’ specific questions and move towards a bespoke service.”
Tapping new markets
So how does this work in practice? A good example is a collaboration with a leading retailer in which Kantar Worldpanel’s data led to a revamp of the supermarket chain’s clothing range. The process suggests that an industry that might once have been considered reactive and even academic has turned entrepreneurial.
“In the case of this leading retailer, we identified an untapped market and went in and proposed it to them,” says Patel. “We showed them the growth and where they could position themselves. We showed them an untapped market and explained the nature of the opportunity. It’s about using knowledge we acquire from the data we collect to deliver client growth. It’s about how you analyse the data and link it to certain segments. So, how do you link, say, car lovers to people who shop online? There are always clever connections to be discovered that allow clients to make real, informed decisions.”
A developing model
Clearly, this is a business model in continuous development. And equally clearly, its elements will diversify as it becomes more precise and specialised. Which is why Kantar sets great store by hiring and developing young, graduate talent.
“We believe in taking on new talent and nurturing and growing recruits in the way we need our business to develop,” says Patel. “They tend to be the people with drive, ambition and a bit of cheekiness; people who want to do more in life. You need the basic skills around data but you also need to be able to think differently around it to be sure that you’re responding to client needs. And we give them all the support and training they require – our learning-and-development offer is one of the best in the industry. It’s one of the budgets that some companies slash when things go wrong. But actually, that’s what’s going to save you. We believe in organic growth so we take on 50 or 60 graduates a year.”
So, what can a new Kantar Worldpanel employee expect? As it turns out, plenty. The company was recently recognised as the 24th best place to work in the UK by the company ratings website Glassdoor. And there’s an active and sincere desire to reward performance. “We strongly believe in fostering internal growth,” says Patel. “It’s very much a company in which you can progress quickly. The reason our model works is because we take in a similar amount of people every year but, over three years, they could be doubling their salary and looking at two promotions.
“It’s very important to this current generation to feel like they’re progressing and being recognised. It’s something we’ve tried very hard to create in our model of promotion and movement – for people to have enough time to prove that they’re good enough and yet have enough chances for things to move on. People do stay for a long time – some of our board members joined us as graduates themselves!”