WASHINGTON, DC — Data collection and analysis is a critical component for commercial bakeries to successfully navigate the market and get a handle on how their products are performing. But collecting the right data can be challenging, and the analytics can be even more complicated. That leaves many company leaders pushing data to the bottom of the priority list.

“I talk with brands all the time who will say, ‘I’ll look into data analytics down the road,’ but the truth is, your competitors are using it now, and you can’t afford to not have a plan,” said Julie Pryor, CEO of the Emerge Network. “Data can be daunting, and Emerge is focusing this year on aligning insights, trends and data to support members’ growth goals.”

Last month, Emerge hosted a webinar with Robert Berg, founding member of Iridescent Data, where he broke down some of the most important aspects of data collection and analysis.

Many companies are not only intimated by data, but they’re also frustrated by it. That’s because information can serve any number of aspects of the business, from sales and marketing to operations and R&D. The frustration comes when a bakery tries to “stretch” the data to fit into areas it might not belong.

“Sometimes operational data doesn’t fit well into the strategic side,” Berg said. “That becomes frustrating, if you have it aligned to a specific purpose and then you try to stretch it; it won’t necessarily stretch to where you want it to go.”

When analyzing data, it’s important to differentiate concepts such as purchase value and usage value. For example, loyalty refers to the repeat purchase, but it’s also about considering what the consumer gets every time they use a product. The usage oftentimes drives the loyalty.

For baked goods, that could mean the experience or memory a person gets or creates each time they eat the particular food.

“When you win somebody, how do you sustain that?” Berg asked.

That starts by understanding the path the consumer takes to the purchase.

“That allows you to see where the high touch, high value points are,” Berg said.


“You may have multiple messages that you’re trying to send based on preferences that consumers have. Sometimes that means repositioning the message in order to amplify specific attributes to drive better awareness, understanding and sales.” —Robert Berg | founding member | Iridescent Data


He suggested looking at sales and marketing data as if it were a funnel.

“At the top is where you’re driving awareness,” he said. “Then as you get lower into the funnel, people drop out, you’re moving toward conversion. So, where in the funnel can you be most efficient? Is it driving volume at the top, or at the bottom of the funnel, where you can drive conversion at the moment of decision?”

Placing yourself at the appropriate point on the buyer’s journey is often the key to knowing the data you need to acquire. The easy assumption is the point of sale (POS) to get the purchasing data. However, that’s not going to reveal the intention or motivation, especially behind — or leading to — loyalty and repeat purchases.

“Point-of-sale data collected at the purchase, that’s not the moment of truth,” Berg said. “A person makes the decision before they make the purchase or before they even click ‘add to cart.’”

This is what makes the buyer journey so important to the hard data. And messaging plays into that as well, Berg said.

Messaging comes in handy specifically with package claims and product attributes, so understanding the data behind consumer preferences is vitally important for strategic planning, both in product development and packaging design.

“You may have multiple messages that you’re trying to send based on preferences that consumers have,” Berg said. “Sometimes that means repositioning the message in order to amplify specific attributes to drive better awareness, understanding and sales.”

Numbers may not lie, but without gaining a full understanding of the data in its full context, they might not be telling the whole story. Audience segmentation is also important, especially for retailers that own several banners that attract different shopper types. For example, mainstream shoppers are good promoters because they’re often loyal to specific brands or banners, so the repeat purchase could be built in. But the ever-growing better-for-you audience is gaining heavy purchasing power worth tapping into. Therefore, Berg said, thinking about the funnel and where the moment of truth actually exists is critical to understand what data is needed and how it needs to be interpreted.

“When you start with the buying decision, that moment of truth, you can think about how to spend your time understanding the data and working up or down the funnel to say, how do I improve my ability to get the repurchase’”

Some types of information to research include consumer surveys and consumer choice analyses. Then with that information, a baking company is able to influence that moment of truth.

“You can validate your brand position and message amplification,” he said. “Just being able to communicate the right message on the package could impact the metrics.”

These are principles that can be applied across a breadth of retail channels.

“If you’re a brand selling on e-commerce and want to expand into retail, these are important lessons,” Prior said. “And if you have a strong retail presence and want to deepen the relationships with existing buyers, it’s important as well. These lessons can apply to new brands to the market or those who are doing several million dollars in annual revenue and are looking to drive more velocity with consumers. It’s a great strategy for brands of all sizes.”