Magazine article Marketing

Keeping on the Right Tracks

Magazine article Marketing

Keeping on the Right Tracks

Article excerpt

Tracking studies are now so sophisticated that market research data can be collected, merged and transmitted electronically, says Amanda Burnside

"Supply it -- yes, but also apply it," cost-conscious clients are saying to continuous tracking experts. As a result, tracking studies are more sophisticated than ever and, with the impact of new technology, much more specific to client requirements.

"We have seen a move away from old-style market research products to huge electronic databases and the technology and people to support them," confirms Peter Theilgard, vice president of client sales and service at Nielsen, the leading tracker in the retail sales sector.

Nielsen has developed its original retail audit system into a package of services. They are: Retail Index, a product based on the old Retail Audit but incorporating barcoded scanning data from retailers; Scan-track, which breaks down weekly purchasing habits; and Homescan, which uses a panel of 7500 householders who scan barcodes on purchases using a hand-held monitor in the home. The information held in the monitor is sent via modem to a mainframe computer.

"We are now in the business of consumer diagnostics," says Theilgard. "We can relate sales effects very precisely to marketing activity, and predict sales and profit benefit derived from price changes and promotional activity. Market research is moving from what was to what if."

Earlier this year Nielsen and Safeway formed a partnership to market Safeway-specific information to manufacturer and supplier companies.

The use of in-home scanners has quickly become the industry standard. Taylor Nelson AGB's Superpanel, which claims to be the largest continuous consumer panel in Europe, uses a similar system to Nielsen and recently (Marketing, AMSO Awards supplement, October 7, 1993) took second prize in the market research effectiveness awards for its use in research for Granada Television. The project resulted in the growth of Granada's share of packaged goods advertising.

To meet client demand for more specific information, AGB has just launched a new service, Mediaspan, which fuses Superpanel buying data with BARB data on television viewing habits and other media exposure information. It means advertisers can target buyers of their own, and other manufacturers' brands.

Under Mediaspan, AGB is also launching products that assess advertising and plan media schedules, to help advertisers and agencies examine TV ads' impact on products and to calculate the optimum schedule to reach key brand buyers.

AGB's technical director, Andrew Roberts, identifies three major changes in the tracking industry over the past five years. "We now have means of collecting better data electronically, rather than relying on memory," he says.

"We can package and transmit the information electronically, and we have developed clever statistical techniques which can merge two sets of data together."

Multinational clients are looking increasingly to researchers to supply international data. "There is a growing demand for country-by-country comparisons," says Colin Aubury, deputy managing director of the leading ad tracking company Millward Brown.

"The tracking service provides a brand health monitor and we have become very involved in discussing different brand strategies with clients. …

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