How do you tangibly make data informed decisions that will resonate with your customers and meet their needs? I sat down with Kathryn Flouton, CPG & Retail Industry Expert, to hear how she has unlocked the key to this through her 20+ years of experience, including at companies like Trader Joe's and Dean and Deluca.
Through working at the intersection of brand direct-to-consumer e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail, Kathryn has directed teams to make data informed decisions in order to problem solve, such as making products more sustainable and practical at Trader Joe’s.
In our conversation, Kathryn emphasizes the importance of prioritizing long-term relationships with those she works with, as she has seen the benefits for both businesses. It is clear that she loves building and mentoring teams, supporting founders on their path through the industry.
I am very excited for everyone to hear her knowledge on consumer insights and brand expertise in every channel.
Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.
On Trader Joe’s Successful Brand Strategy
“The store is the brand. You go in, you experience what it's like to touch, feel, see these new products. It's this treasure hunt, "What am I going to discover in the store today?" It's also frustrating to consumers because there's this huge discontinuous nature is what I call it of the product set, and I think that that's a challenge, but what it does is create this back to the treasure hunt. It creates that notion of, "Okay, well, what's going to be new?" And you discover new favorites. But the online, I don't think they'll ever go into online, they want customers in the store. They want to be able to talk to you and ask you about your day, talk about their favorite products. They want you to try the products, and they're really, really great at it.”
On Taking Risks and Collaboration
“I loved the consumer insights, what was happening in the marketplace and taking all those learnings and really applying that to figuring out what the consumer didn't know they needed, and we were very open to trying new things. Risk was not an issue there. We could test and iterate really quickly, and product to market timeframes were so condensed at Trader Joe's, and I think that that's also part of their success. They didn't do focus groups. We, I still say we, we just get a product to market. If it works great, we iterate on it, and if it doesn't work, we get rid of it and we try something new. It was a great way to test the market, try new things and take a lot of risks that other retailers aren't able to do because of slow times to develop products, slow relationships.”
On the Key to Solving Consumer Problems
“How do you sequence what you bring to market and focus on what is going to solve a consumer problem? I think that that's the key. Not more isn't always better, and that's one thing that is 100% consistent across every company I work with lately. Everybody's problems are the same, and it's all about, "How do I focus on what problem to solve first, sequencing those priorities?" Whether it's a brand or a retailer, I think the problems are in parallel and very much overlapping. It's about figuring out what to do first and what's going to have the largest ROI on whatever decision you decide to go down.
You can never have all the data either. Too little data, and you're not going to have enough to make a decision. Too much data, you're way too late and you've missed the boat, so it's like you got to get in that sweet spot. I was talking to somebody yesterday, I think it's like 50 to 70% is the right amount of data where you're not too late and you waited too long to make a decision, and you're not too early and taking too many risks.”
On Choosing the Right Channels
I think it comes down to it's, all of the channels are going to cost money. You have to invest in all these channels, and it's a question of which bucket to invest in and how it comes back to my earlier point of sequencing your priorities. How can I be profitable in these channels, and how do I get my product out there so customers see it and taste it and come back to it, but in a way that is individually profitable? So scale doesn't solve all the issues, more doors doesn't solve all the issues. So there's no one solution for any one particular brand. It's really nuanced, and it depends on the supply chain.
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