• May 31, 2023

The Power of Consumer Insights for CPG Startups During Economic Uncertainty

The Power of Consumer Insights for CPG Startups During Economic Uncertainty

The Power of Consumer Insights for CPG Startups During Economic Uncertainty 700 500 Michelle Breyer

“In times of volatility, an insights edge is valuable because if no one knows what’s going to happen, being 10 percent more right 10 percent more often can be a real advantage.” 

This quote by Michael Birshan, McKinsey’s global co-leader of Strategy & Corporate Finance, sums up the power of consumer insights during uncertain economic times.

To consumers, inflation may be even more painful than it appears. According to a recent 2023 Nielsen report,  the compound effect of inflation on consumer goods actually feels more like 24 percent inflation than the 6 to 8 percent the Fed has been tracking. That has led to an overall softening in consumer demand and/or the switch to less expensive private label brands in many categories.

Finger on the Pulse

That is why consumer intelligence is more important than ever, says Lori Reifert, managing director of SKU partner Spectacle Strategy, During every purchase occasion, consumers are constantly making tradeoffs between a complex set of variables including price, availability, quantity, taste, freshness, brand preference, health benefits, and dietary needs. By tapping into the shifting mindset of the consumer, CPG startups can identify immediate opportunities and quickly adapt, even, if it’s just for that 10 percent advantage

It can be appealing to rely on older data to save money. But it is vital to understand the current sentiment of your consumer before you spend a dime on marketing.

How do you gather that fresh data when cash flow is tight? Reifert shares several research cost-effective methods. These include:

social listening

Today’s social-centric world means there are myriad ways to gain insights without primary research. Pull together a simple “Headwinds and Tailwinds” analysis considering the things working for and against your brand by leveraging social channels and reviews — sources that are unfiltered and unbiased. Tap into video-based sites like TikTok and YouTube for in-depth product reviews and emerging trends on usage, hacks, and complaints.

virtual Deep Dives

Virtual interviews are another cost-effective way to understand the “why” behind what’s happening. Conduct short, qualitative interviews virtually through Zoom or Hangouts for deep insights at a fraction of the cost of focus groups. Recruit respondents using targeted social media ads as an alternative to panels, and develop discussion guides and activities specifically for a digital interview. We recommend using qualitative interviews to dive deep into a topic and explore all the nuances surrounding it, rather than find an answer to a very specific question. 

quick surveys to gut check before you act

Quantitative research doesn’t have to break the bank or your timeline. Surveys deployed through platforms like SurveyMonkey or Suzy are user-friendly, easy ways to DIY your approach to validating hypotheses and gaining directional feedback quickly. 

Post surveys to your owned social channels to solicit participants (ideally providing a nominal incentive to ensure quality completes), or consider platforms like Centiment or AYTM that offer inexpensive sample sets baked into their cost structure so you can survey participants in your target demographic, geographic, and behavioral set. 

Research & Sources

Forbes: The Food And Beverage Industry Showing Signs Of Resilience Despite Declining U.S. VC Deal Volume

Morgan Stanley: Eating In and Dining Out in 2023

McKinsey & Company: “COVID-19 and US consumer packaged goods”

NielsenIQ survey on US consumer behavior and trends:

Kantar: “2021 US MONITOR: What Matters Most?”

Accenture: “Decoding the Disruptors”

McKinsey & Company: “The Great Consumer Shift: Ten Charts That Show How US Shopping Behavior Is Changing,”

About Lori Reifert

Lori Reifert

Lori Reifert is an experienced brand builder with more than 13 years of experience shaping strategy, innovation roadmaps and consumer experiences for such global brands as PepsiCo, Hershey, Mondelez and Starbucks. She is an expert on how to uncover the shared values between a brand and a customer to develop strategies for lasting loyalty and relevancy.

Lori is the managing director of Spectacle Strategy, a top Austin-based branding agency. Clients include such companies as Slack, VMG Partners and Fifth Season.