Opinion: why smartphones and apps matter in the produce industry

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Opinion: why smartphones and apps matter in the produce industry

By Greenscans co-founder and BerryBroad Juanita Gaglio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) Fresh Summit this year, the message that I took back was the relevance of "analytics", whereas last year it was about connecting to the shopper through social media. It got me thinking, "have we even got that right?" At a recent seminar that I attended on "Harnessing Big Data", I learned that it is not enough to open a Twitter or Facebook account, and that there is a science behind all social media channels. Produce companies have just established their social media presence with Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts, and already there are new emerging platforms.

Furthermore, these platforms appeal to different segments of the population. Millennials comprise the largest U.S segment; approximately 80 million Americans call themselves Millennials.  This group is responsible for introducing the farm–to-table movement and the fight against trans-fats in foods. Next we have the Baby Boomers and at the other end of the spectrum, Hipsters – young adults ranging from 20 to 30 years of age who value independent thinking and counterculture.

The latest app worth looking at is Snapchat, used by one in five iPhone users. Taco Bell took notice and was the first major brand to use this, while other brands are using it to ask consumers to send a "snap" of themselves eating their products, and in turn the company rewards the recipient with a snapchat coupon. Are there any produce companies out there doing this?  The rewards will go to those companies who can stay ahead of the curve and understand how to use these channels to harness information to make their sales and marketing decisions.

Social media and big data is like hot thick lava cascading quickly down a mountainside. How did we arrive at this social media quagmire? It all began with the advent of the smartphone, which allows users to have access to information through an app.  However, the fact that the inception of the app culture is as recent as two years ago illustrates the power of this technology - it has changed the traditional model dramatically. The tables have turned and consumers are now dictating what they want and their consumption experiences, whether positive or negative, are being broadcast for all to read. Companies are challenged trying to grapple with all this information.

Another observation that I made at the "Big Data" seminar is that the produce industry is not alone. Attendees represented every industry from Oil & Gas to IT to Health Care, and each had the same question: "How much should we allocate on social media and how do we measure ROI (return on investment)?"  This is a conundrum that is only going to grow exponentially. Why? This is due to the proliferation of smartphones and apps, and the data supports this.

According to Comscore, 114 million Americans used smartphones in July 2012, while Flurry reports that the technology is used by 78% of the population aged 15-64. According to Smart Insights, Apple’s app store has reached 25 billion downloads, tracking at 1 billion downloads a month.  To put this figure into perspective this figure is nine times greater than McDonald’s sells burgers.

Companies have started dedicating resources to "social listening" via their Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ feeds. Recent statistics listed with Digital Market Ramblings list users for the top social media apps:  Facebook accounts for 1.11 billion users, Pinterest has 48.7 million users, Twitter has 500 million total users and Google+ has 342 million users. These are only four out of the top 200 listed. If these numbers aren’t enough to make you sit up and take notice, I don't know what will get your attention.   Companies across all industries are using every form of these social media channels to measure consumer response and feedback about their products.

The encroachment of social media has given rise to "Big Data".  Once captured, how is it measured?  This leads us to the "Dark Hole" of Big Data, which I have learned has no standard for measurement. It is defined as a collection of data sets too difficult to process with traditional data base management tools, for example social media channels. It is large, complex, and amorphous with velocity and variety.  We know we need to be using these channels but what value is derived from them.  Another frequently asked question is how is ROI determined using social media?   The answer, from Susan Etlinger’s "The Social Media ROI Cookbook", is that 75% of companies lack a holistic measurement strategy.

Interestingly enough, what I did learn is that it is up to each company to set up a social media metrics scorecard listing the core metrics that are specific to their organization. Each metric will be assigned a score between 1-5, with one being the lowest and five the highest.

When Etlinger was speaking at the Big Data event, I particularly liked her closing comments: "Shift your POV (point of view), Big Data is here to stay."

Asking for analytics before examining each piece of social media is putting the cart before the horse.  First take a look at how you are delivering information to consumers. In sales and marketing the buzz word is "engagement".  It is the content that will drive you to the correct way to measure and analyze. For example, if you are looking for analytics from an app, you first want to determine at how many downloads you will begin to collect and what information you are providing the consumer to motivate them to click and respond.

Content is being given much more attention as it frames the qualitative response.    With 500 million twitter followers, isn’t it worth investing time and resources in content, management and analytics?  Consumers are downloading not only Twitter but all other forms of social media and are using them at record speed.  It is an exciting time to be in marketing.

We have many non-traditional tools to work with that are challenging yet rewarding.  Have you begun to develop strategy for the Google Glass experience? This is right around the corner. Consumers will be wearing them as they shop the produce department looking for that virtual experience.  Get ready to shift gears quickly as we try to stay ahead of the curve.


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