By Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations - Private Brands, Technology for Food Marketing Institute

Data has been at the center of many discussions and presentations for years. Big data and small, for many retailers and brands data is not the strategy, but the intel that informs or supports a broader product and/or consumer engagement strategy.

So, if asked, is your data strategy ready for 2025, when more than 70 percent of consumers will be shopping online? You very well will get answers from, “Of course,” to “Why a data strategy?”

During a session at the recent Groceryshop conference entitled “How to Treat Your Data as an Enterprise Asset,” which you can view in its entirety, Michael Bennett, director of product leadership at Nielsen, noted, “The industry as a whole said they’re not digitally ready to connect with the consumer.’”

The reality is that today, and even more so by 2025, we are dealing with “conscious consumers” who don’t just wait for you to tell them what you can offer them, but use their digital tools to go out and find what they want.

As an example, Bennett said one of his children is in a class with some students who are highly allergic to certain foods, to the point that others were asked to please not bring those foods to school in their lunch bags.

“I have four young daughters,” Bennett said, “so school lunches are a big deal for us.”

He and his wife had to go online and find out where they could get the right snacks to send to school with their children. Bennett said, “We had to do that research because the information isn’t coming to us. We had to go out and find it.”

Bennett and his colleagues at Nielsen have a message for food retail: Start thinking of data as an enterprise asset. Start investing in a data strategy that gathers data, not just about your customers, but about your products and from external sources as well as internal.

If you don’t, your competitors will and you may miss out on that 70 percent-plus who will be shopping online a mere six years from now.

Bennett noted that 70 to 90 percent of technology investment today in food retail is devoted to legacy systems, the data strategies that may have worked so far, but will not work in the era of the “conscious consumer.” Pure-play retailers, those whose businesses are primarily online, are devoting about 50 percent of their investments to legacy technology infrastructure. “And that enables them to take 50 percent of their investment and put it into new capabilities,” Bennett said.

How far from being ready for 2025 are you?

Join FMITech@ the upcoming FMI Midwinter, and gain from the Saturday session, Mastering the Foundations of Digital Success: Digital Imperatives Part 1: Insights into Strategic Organizational Structure, Master Data Accuracy, Integrated Forecasting. You’ll hear from Randy Burt, Partner, Chicago Office Consumer & Retail Practice, A.T. Kearney; Jim Smits, Vice President Retail Development, North America, Retail Solutions, Inc.; and Karen Worton, Global Senior Vice President Product Leadership, Nielsen as they share strategic data insights along with tips on people, process and technology.

Additional resources: