Deb Fifles began her insights career at Information Resources Inc. in Chicago, then moved to San Francisco to help establish its client service presence on the West Coast. After six years at IRI, she joined the client side and held positions of increasing responsibility for syndicated and custom research at The Clorox Co., Golden Grain/Quaker Oats and Del Monte Foods, where she led the function as the market research director. Twelve years ago she received a call that Safeway wanted to establish and build a consumer insights function. She jumped at the opportunity to create a department from scratch.
Describe your current role.
FIFLES: I lead the Albertsons Cos. consumer and shopper insight function, which is responsible for primary research across the enterprise. My team champions the voice of the shopper and the use of insights in decision-making and planning, partnering with national and division teams to ensure that consumer and shopper understanding is used to grow shopper loyalty and improve ROI.
How do shopper insights fit into your organization?
FIFLES: Shopper insights plays a critical role in the organization by providing an understanding of the “why” behind shopper behavior and perspective on the external landscape and trends that shape the near and long-term future of grocery retail.
What emerging technology and techniques do you leverage to develop insights at Albertsons?
FIFLES: We test and learn with a variety of technologies and techniques to uncover new insights and/or be more efficient in our work. Experimenting early is critical so we learn where and how best to apply and are ready to implement when an appropriate issue arises.
Are any recent trends significantly impacting your team’s work in insights?
FIFLES: We’ve been focused on omnichannel for some time now and continue to adapt our work as the number of digital tools and channels a shopper uses throughout their journey grows. We leverage our proprietary online insights communities to obtain shopper feedback on emerging digital tools and services both within and outside of grocery retail. In this way we can understand the underlying needs and highlight opportunities for the business.
What recent work by your team stands out to you?
FIFLES: The work that stands out to me the most are the “State of the Shopper” presentations my team develops to kick off annual planning sessions for various business units across the organization. It requires synthesizing a wide range of internal and external data sources to set the stage for what’s going on with the shopper today and to provide perspective on future opportunities. This work is also shared in training sessions as we build toward a more customer-centric organization. Our flagship competitive tracking study, which measures our position and performance in the marketplace, is a key input to these presentations for both the national and division teams.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
FIFLES: I’m rewarded by seeing our work drive short-term and long-term decisions and planning. I’m equally rewarded by seeing the pride in my team members’ faces when their hard work is acknowledged. They absolutely deserve it.
What’s the biggest challenge facing shopper insights?
FIFLES: The pace of decision-making and the increasingly compressed timelines to launch are the not-so-new challenges we face. Ensuring our toolbox has options to accommodate, anticipating needs and prioritizing against the most important initiatives are ways we’ve adapted over the years.
What’s next for the insights discipline?
FIFLES: Insights will continue to grow in influence as competition for shopper attention intensifies. Personalization is a base expectation of shoppers today, and deep understanding of their increasingly diverse needs, preferences and motivations across the broad context of their life is the path toward ensuring relevance, breaking through and driving growth.