Profile: Michelle Weinrich, CMI Associate Director – Shopper Insights, Mars Wrigley Confectionery
Michelle Weinrich got her start in global research firms, seizing the opportunity to work across numerous industries and markets. After spending several years consulting to leading CPG companies such as Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark, Nestle and S.C. Johnson, she was hungry for a new challenge. Intent on working for a manufacturer, she joined Mars Wrigley in September 2016 as the shopper insights lead for its Walmart business. In July 2017, she took over leading the shopper insights function for Mars Wrigley Confectionery in the U.S.
Describe your current role.
WEINRICH: I lead a team of senior researchers focused on uncovering key insights that will drive confectionery category growth in a dynamic and channel-blurring retail environment. With all of our efforts as a business dedicated toward innovation, brand development, advertising, pricing strategy and more, ultimately everything boils down to the moment of attracting the shopper in-store and online and winning that quick decision. It is therefore crucial that we bring the voice of the shopper to the organization in order to understand how to drive growth for our category.
What are some of the key skills required to excel in insights?
WEINRICH: Being an excellent storyteller is one of the most critical skills. Our job as insights professionals is not to deliver data but to embed insight into the organization. We must be able to integrate multiple data sources into a succinct story that is focused on a business need and tailored to your stakeholder. That is a true skill. Another key skill is strategic agility – being future-oriented and able to anticipate upcoming trends. It’s crucial to bring a broad perspective to your role and think enterprise-wide. Asking the right questions of your stakeholders in order to get to the true business need is another one, as well as ensuring that research actually addresses the business outcomes your stakeholders want to drive.
What emerging technology and techniques do you leverage to develop insights at Mars Wrigley?
WEINRICH: We place a strong emphasis on behavioral research in order to glean robust insight into the mind of the shopper, because we know that what respondents say is not necessarily what they do. Some techniques we currently leverage include neuroscience techniques such as monitoring electrical activity in the brain combined with eye tracking. We use that technique to help us diagnose the “why” behind how people shop online. For quick answers, crowd-sourcing technologies allow us to see what’s going on in stores all around the country. We also leverage geo-fencing technology to speak to shoppers “in the moment” when they’re finishing up a trip at a certain retailer. One final example is that we subscribe to a social listening tool that gives us an instant pulse on consumer/shopper sentiment on any topic.
What recent work by your team stands out to you?
WEINRICH: Our team is currently conducting an online purchase decision tree analysis leveraging a leading neuroscience research agency. We want to understand how online shoppers purchase confectionery and snacks in order to make the shopping experience more intuitive and ultimately increase conversion. This research is the first of its kind for Mars, and it’s been exciting. We’re also conducting a grocery channel analysis that deep dives into technologies like handheld scan and go/mobile scan as well as uncovering opportunities for driving impulse through click-and-collect/grocery home delivery.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
WEINRICH: I love seeing an insight turned into action that results in ROI for our business as well as our retail customers. Partnering with retailers on testing new ideas is always exciting, and it’s very satisfying when our recommendations result in improved sales. By far the most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing my team shine. I love helping to develop others and seeing what they’re able to achieve is incredibly rewarding.