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Technology case study: customer analytics

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With so many options available to consumers—from where to purchase and how to pay to meal preparation—customer analytics are crucial.

According to a Forbes Insight report, four out of five brands and retailers have made tracking and analyzing customer data a key part of their growth strategies.

With artificial intelligence and sophisticated data analysis allowing companies to learn more than ever about consumer patterns, market research has truly become a twenty-first century endeavor.

Indianapolis Fruit Company, LLC
To learn how it’s benefiting wholesalers, we spoke with Daniel Corsaro, sales and marketing director for Indianapolis Fruit Company, LLC. In business since 1947, and recently a part of the new company FreshEdge, the Indy Fruit’s scope runs the gamut of every point within the supply chain.

Accordingly, it has adopted multiple approaches to staying on the cutting edge of customer analysis.

“Artificial intelligence can be extremely valuable when harvested and produced in an actionable manner,” Corsaro said. “Many organizations are data rich and information poor; understanding what data is relevant and how it can be applied to your business is critical.

“We’re working to combine all the data from transactions that take place in our business to drive more educated decisions,” he said. “These transactions, coupled with consumer information available through public sources, creates a strong opportunity for cross reference.”

Corsaro points to the company’s newly revamped ecommerce platform, which collects data on customer behavior, site performance, and communication as a primary driver of innovation.

With 44 percent of American shoppers expressing a desire to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables online—a figure that rises with household income—a better understanding of ecommerce patterns is critical to serving customers.

The process isn’t always easy: integrating with vendors, working closely with customers, and making sure data is yielding usable results is a constant effort. Bad data is worse than none at all. Making sure the experience is cost effective and user friendly at every point of implementation is crucial to ensure the technology is doing its job.

“We focus on cost first, as it’s important for any investment to have a return for the business and shareholders, but testing is critical, and we often test internally and with key accounts. When releasing new technologies, adoption is the biggest hurdle,” Corsaro said.

“Users want their first experience to be memorable,” he adds, “and providing them with a memorable experience drives adoption at a faster rate. Quicker adoption is necessary to scale and drive return on investment.”

Early adopters
According to the diffusion of innovation theory, a widely accepted concept used in market research, so-called “early adopters”—who make up 13.5 percent of a technology’s customer base—are of vital importance to the success of a platform.

Studies have shown that the higher the adoption rate for marketing data tools, the lower the cost for customer acquisition and retention, and the higher the retention and customer lifetime value.

For Indianapolis Fruit, the process has yielded positive and tangible results. Data investment has increased awareness of customer expectations and behavior, and has provided insight, allowing the company to add value to its partnerships.

“We’ve learned to bring more relevant products to market, create tools to make our customers’ businesses more efficient, and make market-leading business decisions,” Corsaro said.

He said the company is continuing to explore new areas of research, including the potential impact of blockchain.

“It would be beneficial and important for the industry to provide educational opportunities for the many players who don’t understand its potential or how to apply it to their specific businesses,” Corsaro said.