IRI and the Hub of the Data Ecosystem

President and CEO Andrew Appel shares how Information Resources Inc. can help companies grow their businesses and connect with customers

As media changes and the retail landscape evolves, so too does consumer behavior—and right now, all are changing at a breakneck pace. That makes it more important for manufacturers and retailers to know their customers and their needs. Years ago, IRI (Information Resources Inc.) caught onto that trend and made a major bet on its ability to collect and harness the best consumer data.

“Our job is to use information, data, and technology to help companies grow their businesses and connect with consumers,” says Andrew Appel, IRI president and CEO. “And we thought that bringing the two halves together—tracking what people view and what people buy—could double return on ad spend.” And IRI’s bet paid off.

“We correctly caught the future of data-driven personalization,” Appel says. IRI is now leading the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry toward more efficient and effective personalized marketing.

Founded in 1979, IRI made its name tracking what customers purchase. But as audiences moved away from traditional mediums—such as television—to social media and web streaming, the beginning of shoppers’ paths-to-purchase shifted as well. Organizations found themselves with copious sales data, but without clear insight into what advertising was driving those sales and what wasn’t. IRI has the know-how and capabilities to connect those dots.

“In many cases, we’re pushing companies to think they can do better,” Appel explains. Targeted marketing is a critical capability for manufacturers and retailers as consumers increasingly expect messages that are highly tailored to their interests and needs, and marketers seek effective insights to power efficient campaigns that generate sales growth with scarce marketing resources. With IRI’s layers of macro trend and shopper loyalty data, powerful algorithms, and visualization platforms, organizations in low-margin, highly competitive industries can run impactful campaigns critical to driving sales, while also staying focused on innovation rather than data mining.

“Our job is to use information, data, and technology to help companies grow their businesses and connect with consumers. And we thought that bringing the two halves together—tracking what people view and what people buy—could double return on ad spend.”

“We’re enabling the era of personalization by providing the largest, richest dataset, predictive analytics, and integrated technology platform for figuring out which consumers want which products,” Appel says. “We’re able to find the right people and target them in the right way, and then measure consistently and continuously whether those marketing messages are actually delivering a higher-quality consumer experience and increasing sales.”

The importance of this category of big data analysis has become more mainstream, but IRI is able to offer its clients and partners unique solutions. One such example is IRI ProScores, a purchase-based propensity model that can be customized for audiences across the United States. The result is that IRI can measure ad spend impact at a granular level much more accurately than competitors: by publisher, demographic, geography, time of day and frequency, as well as a dozen-plus other metrics. Another tool is the recently launched IRI Personalization Suite that combines three key platforms—insight, audience-targeting, and measurement—all of which are designed to help marketers activate one shopper at a time.

“The Personalization Suite is unique because it’s the most broad-based capability of targeting the type of consumers that fit a profile that a company wants,” Appel says. The suite allows companies to better understand which people are most interested in their messaging and most likely to buy their products, measure the success of a marketing campaign in real time, and even course-correct the channel or messaging mix based upon early results. “The suite is built on a foundation of hundreds of millions of shopper loyalty cards, partnerships with dozens of retailers, and all sorts of proprietary data,” Appel explains.

The data assets come from IRI’s partnerships with several of the world’s top retailers—such as Ahold USA, Delhaize America, BevMo!, BJ’s, The Kroger Co., Rite Aid, Southeastern Grocers, and Walgreens Boots Alliance—through data and analytics partnerships and supplier collaboration, along with IRI’s vast data assets, including point-of-sale, consumer panel, credit card, and mobile location data assets. The result is unprecedented access to real-time analysis against granular retailer data at scale, which gives marketers a new level of precision and accuracy in advertising.

The breadth and scale of these data assets are unparalleled. By tracking the usage of an anonymized shopper loyalty card, IRI can develop highly specific, usable information that allows companies to significantly increase their return on ad spend.

“We approach organizations with an end-to-end solution,” Appel explains. “We can accelerate a company’s big data and analytic skills by five years.” IRI’s tools offer a rapid, sophisticated, and automated way to understand what’s driving sales and loyalty, all while streamlining the process for speed and resources.

Throughout all of this work, IRI excels as the hub at the center of an ecosystem of partners. In fact, collaboration is one of the organization’s core values, hitting home the importance of sharing information and helping others succeed. “Thanks to the growth of the internet and mobile connectivity, the explosion of access to information has flattened our world. Individuals now have access to literally thousands of times more information than we all had when we were kids, and it’s only getting bigger,” Appel says.

Because of that change, he explains, companies sharing that information in effective ways will help each other make decisions about their products and processes faster and deliver their customers exactly what they want. “Collaboration builds connective tissue to create efficiency and effectiveness,” Appel says, which is why he’s focused on building a culture of collaboration between IRI employees and business partners.

Those efforts have led to partnerships with other companies who in turn collaborate with partners and customers, expanding IRI’s network and capabilities even wider through the principle of shared information. In fact, IRI has established relationships that average more than fifteen years with ninety-five of the top one hundred consumer packaged goods companies, delivering growth in all cases. “We’re constantly innovating the ways in which we add value,” Appel says. “That comes from a great culture and great people. People don’t partner with you for decades because of what you bring, they partner because of who you are.”