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Speaker Interview with Carl West

Carl West, Managing Director, Open & Informed

Ahead of Channel Summit EMEA 2024, we caught up with market research expert, Carl West, to hear more about how the industry has changed, and the power of data.

Tell us about your new business?

Following many years in both the tech and market research industries, I felt there was a need for third party support when engaging with market research and how to use it to monitor and create success. Whatever the level of budget for customer insights it is so important to make the right investment decision, based on the ability of the company to absorb, use and flourish with the data.

With my experience of hunting and farming clients, I hope to add extra value when showing businesses opportunities they may have not seen. As the landscape changes with MRX there is even more demand for context and expertise. I am all about empowering people and teams and I hope to do this more now I am independent. 

How has the market research landscape changed over the past 5 years?

When you compare today’s market research industry to 5 years ago, you will now see SaaS models, AI capabilities, many new boutique companies, do it yourself platforms and broader product feature sets. Market research companies are trying to supply the what, where, when, why and who.

There’s a lot happening in the ecommerce space at the moment. Are there any particular trends of changes that the channel should be looking out for?

In short the four biggest trends happening in the ecommerce world are the proliferation of marketplaces, direct to consumer, social selling and the move away from tech driving sales growth instead of fashion is taking over. ECDB shows that in 2023, ecommerce globally was dominated less by tech and more by fashion and home products. The UK is quickly moving to grocery dominance, whilst Spain is fashion and Germany still has tech as a premium share.

It has never been easier to sell direct to consumers but the challenge continues to be expertise in house and the cost associated with it. Wholesale and distribution are tooling up to add ecommerce facilitation to their already powerful buying power, credit and customer base. The supply chain is no longer vertical, as it resembles a more network of partners. The power is with the consumer and we have witnessed sea changes with Shein, Temu, Wish and others. Whilst these companies have taken share they are adding to the addressable market and are not the lion share yet.   

We hear a lot about data being the new gold. Should more companies be conducting their own research? 

I am very passionate about this subject. So many talk of the new gold but do little to collect or spend it. Every company interaction with external parties is a data point. Monitoring a consumer journey, seeking post purchase feedback or just monitoring what people buy are very important metrics but you need to learn from them. What does success look like, what could we do better, why did they choose us and what made them buy again?

The basics are clear, start measuring now, build out processes to monitor and act on the data. I have spoken to multinational brands as well as small retailers and some gain success but some revert back to type. Decisions in a vacuum are dangerous, despite the experience in the room. Market research does not have to cost hundreds of thousands but external data of any kind is useful. Depending on the size, scope and scale of a brand there is the right data for you out there. Just ask why am I buying the data and how will I use it.  

Are there any recent examples that have stood out?

Since the change in internet cookie law in Europe, we have all seen the evidence of vast adoption of user experience tracking due to the transparency in cookie usage selection. Post purchase surveying has grown exponentially in the last 5 years. Look at how consumer reviews have become front and centre to any purchase. The biggest result of brands watching and measuring their customers has been the reduction in barriers to purchase including one click buy, increased payment options, syndicated stock levels, widening channels of sale and an increase in product content. With so much automation being adopted in the sales of products it is so much more important to use the resulting data to get better and faster.


Carl West is presenting 'How Can Companies Leverage Data to Drive Sales and Customer Engagement?' at Channel Summit EMEA 2024.


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