Profile: Keith Albright, Global Shopper Leader, 3M
3M is known for innovation across all its business groups, industrial and consumer. A critical piece that is different for its consumer brands is the presence of the shopper. When 3M expressed interest in building a shopper insights competency, Keith Albright didn’t hesitate to be a part of it. The opportunity combined two of his passions – the shopper and driving change in an organization that wants to lean in on growth.
Please describe your current role.
ALBRIGHT: My role as global shopper leader starts with insights but ends with activation. I work with our brand, sales and shopper teams to identify the insights that will drive differential growth. Our team follows a simple recipe. We inform to ensure we have a solid foundation of shopper and retailer knowledge and we close gaps when needed. Much of my focus is making sure our teams lead with shopper insights.
How do shopper insights fit into your organization?
ALBRIGHT: Shopper insights sits in the brand center, a center of excellence intended to accelerate global growth with a consumer-centric, data-driven approach. Shopper insights is critical to building brands at retail. Before the consumers can use our great brands, we have to make sure we meet their needs as a shopper.
What emerging technology and techniques do you leverage to develop insights at 3M?
ALBRIGHT: 3M has placed an emphasis on agile techniques for both foundational and tactical research. We see vast improvements in spaces like mobile and virtual.
Are any recent trends significantly impacting your team’s work in insights?
ALBRIGHT: Without a doubt, omnichannel commerce requires CPGs to modify their approach to shopper insights. The dichotomy between brick-and-mortar resulting in the majority of sales while online contributes to the majority of growth requires a balanced approach to resource allocation. Aligning our resources to our retail partners’ strategies helps to ensure we achieve the necessary balance.
What recent work by your team stands out to you?
ALBRIGHT: Since joining 3M four years ago, we have conducted foundational insights efforts that span 10 categories and 10 retailers, just in the U.S. The investment alone is worth noting but more so how the teams use the results. The ongoing demand for shopper insight initiatives proves the hard work is paying off. I am really proud of the collaboration internally and with our valued partners.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
ALBRIGHT: For me, it’s two things. The relationships over the years have been invaluable – cross-functionally, retail partners and agencies. Second, it’s seeing the finished work. While the journey is so much fun, seeing how the insights can impact the story, offer a distinct perspective or unlock previously untapped opportunities for growth is what makes it tangible.
What’s the biggest challenge facing shopper insights?
ALBRIGHT: Even with the progress over recent years, I still see a great need to move from facts to insights. When it’s done correctly, everything else falls in line. Data is data. Facts are facts. When you have the right shopper insight, that’s when the magic happens.
What’s next for the insights discipline?
ALBRIGHT: Digital has enabled CPGs to reach many targets in a personalized manner. While the rapid advancements in digital afford us an agile test-and-learn environment, it also creates a challenge in terms of straying from the core strategy or going off message. We’ll need to put a greater emphasis on validating the strategic intent and holding the teams accountable to stay on strategy across multiple variations of messages.
What can brands do to mitigate the cost of proprietary data from retailers? Are there better alternatives?
ALBRIGHT: For me, it’s a supply and demand discussion. If the data leads to growth, CPGs will make the investment, on the retail side or the vendor side. User-friendly applications also help drive usage and usage can go a long way to improve the ROI. It needs to be simple and actionable.