Alibaba will provide ecommerce transaction data via its Yushanfang (御膳房) platform and cloud computing capability via its Aliyun (阿里云) arm to Nielsen China, which in turn will be in charge of analysing those data and translating them into market insights.
According to Jiang Lei (姜蕾), director of Aliyun's data business unit, large data sets are good at telling the 'what' but not the why, and conventional research is the opposite. The joint solution is designed to consolidate the advantages of both big data (online) and survey data (offline).
For instance, when a brand knows from transactional data that a certain profile of shoppers was interested but did not buy a product, it can reach out to them and probe the reasons through conventional surveys.
"And as Alibaba’s data pool gets enriched every second with more sales transactions, it allows brands to study their online performance and evolve their products at much shorter intervals," Jiang said. "This also removes sampling errors as big data is a bigger universe than offline data, and injects confidence in making important business decisions."
Aside from tracking and optimising ecommerce operations throughout pre-launch and post-launch periods as well as improving online return for marketers, the platform will help companies find online 'white space' and predict online sales volume, according to the companies.
Nielsen is already known for supporting retail performance management, audience measurement and sales forecasting for CPG (consumer packed goods) brands, but it uses largely offline methods.
A more comprehensive understanding of online shopping behaviour, which has been proven to be very different from offline, is useful—especially given the sheer volume of transaction-related data channelled by Alibaba. "For every $100 of online consumption, $60 is from offline conversions," said Kiki Fan (范奕瑾), managing director of Nielsen China. "Even if a brand prevails in offline environments, it does not guarantee online success."
A key to success for manufacturers and retailers is identifying 'white space' so as to prompt the next-step product upgrade or develop new minimum viable products (MVPs) to satisfy unmet demands of Chinese consumers.
For example, online buzz about facial masks frequently revolves around the "essence volume" (the amount of functional liquid), but there is a discrepancy between what consumers complain about and what they actually care about, explained Lynn Xu (许丽平), vice president of Nielsen China's innovation practice.
"Essence volume for a mask is only a basic, though no doubt most important, product benefit that should be already existing," she said. "If your marketing concentrates on communicating only this particular benefit [hydrating or moisturising], you are missing out on the deep-seated reasons behind such verbalisation." For example, Xu said, whitening is the benefit that Chinese consumers respond to most strongly.
Jeremy Lin, Philips's big data external partnership leader, has been pilot-testing New Offer Advisor to pinpoint the exact consumer segment for concept products. "It brings us meaningful input and feedback for optimisation in the shortest time," he said. "We could find white space for future product development by looking into the analysis of online public opinions," he told Campaign Asia-Pacific.