Victoria’s Secret is one of the companies which relies on Internet data collection and market analysis. The company uses survey results obtained from online questionnaires and users’ profiles. The uniqueness is that Victoria’s Secret creates its assortment and product lines in accordance with expected and anticipated market demands and needs. For Victoria’s Secret, a marketing data system generates unrelated and unorganized data. These include facts, opinions, motives, observations, and experiences that may throw light on markets and marketing activity. Not all these data are necessarily factual or useful, however.
Upon their receipt, data must be subjected to preliminary evaluation. Those who collect data, marketing researchers, statisticians, motivation researchers, and operation researchers, must assess their findings as to the reliability of techniques and the source of information. We are in the midst of a data and information revolution, and with the increasing use of computers and quantitative techniques, more adequate and timely information will be furnished that will intensify the pressures on executives to analyze and interpret data. Both the quality of the raw data and the effectiveness of the primary analysis determine the kind of marketing information that will be derived.
Data must be sorted, classified, indexed, excerpted, and verified. Valuable information must be sifted from the chaff. For example, Victoria’s Secret managers are now confronted with problems of data handling and analysis. New cash registers called “data-capturing devices” have been developed that punch rolls of coded tape that can be fed to computers to produce reports on fast- and slow-selling items, sales, and inventories. The National Retail Merchants Association is opening a cooperative data-processing center for smaller stores, which will translate data to information. Victoria’s Secret admits that effective marketing planning and decision-making require adequate marketing information in the proper form.
Two kinds of information are necessary: past and future. Past information is factual, whereas future information is assumptive or conjectural. Future information is derived from past information by applying sales forecasting techniques and other predictive tools. Future information and the possible implications of past information are the bases for data collection.
For Victoria’s Secret, marketing intelligence systems entail the large-scale task of data gathering, processing, analysis, and utilization. They comprise marketing research, sales forecasting, distribution-costs studies, operations research, statistical analysis, and budgeting techniques. The flow of information both to and from the marketplace must be part of them. The work that it requires is the basis for policy planning, formulation, and decision-making. It includes furnishing information and early warnings, as well as the analysis and evaluation of policies. Herein lie the seeds of a conflict between policy planning, formulation, and decision-making.
Broader than marketing research, marketing intelligence results from a systems approach to collecting, interpreting, and utilizing all information bearing on marketing problems. As a staff function, it serves executives by gathering significant facts and providing the proper information to facilitate their decisions. It influences and shapes policies and decisions by surveying and scrutinizing situations for which appropriate actions are required and objectively exploring alternative approaches to them.
Top management’s concern is future markets, future survival, future growth, and future profitability. Today’s decisions have a sharp impact on tomorrow. Yesterday’s action is valuable only for its illumination of the morrow. As companies become larger, then business systems grow more complex, management teams expand, companies tend to become further removed from market developments, and thus, the management of information, particularly marketing information, requires greater emphasis. This results in the development of centralized information centers. Fast, pertinent, and complete information links management on a global basis, exposes more areas to decision-makers and facilitates rapid adjustment and successful innovation.
It does not imply centralized decision authority. Most companies are plagued by a common problem — the lack of adequate intelligence. It is less a matter of enough data than of their relevancy for assessing opportunities, setting goals, evaluating strategies, making decisions, and monitoring performance. Effective marketing intelligence should meet two criteria: it should be complete, accurate, and timely, and it should be applicable to current or future problems.
Victoria’s Secret supposes that maximization of profit is directly related to marketing intelligence. Profit maximization depends on the accurate prediction of potential markets and the translation of intelligence into effective marketing programs. Intelligence is based on experience, experimentation, trial and error, and hypothetical information and facts are not enough. The hypothetical feature is vitally necessary – it depends on the preparation and development of alternative strategies derived from “what if” reasoning.
Marketing intelligence helps to indicate what changes in present situations may mean for the future and how a company can influence its market destiny. It induces innovative and risk-taking possibilities. By anticipating future situations, it guides present actions, which in turn shape the future. But marketing intelligence must not only concern itself with problems of the immediate future, such as the advertising campaign for next year’s sales; it must deal with long-range problems as well. Intermediate and long-range marketing intelligence is a basic requisite for planning and decision-making.
Information about competitors’ plans and decisions furnishes highly useful intelligence. This is especially important for new product development. Victoria’s Secret has developed a competitive intelligence system based on time sampling. This system involves the help of salesmen who report all test marketing of new household products to a central market in sales people ment. Victoria’s Secret then dispatches a team to the test-market area in order to gather data. During heavy traffic, the team members take a time sample in terms of a shelf count of various brands. From the findings, the effectiveness of competitive innovation is estimated. Valuable knowledge is thus gained about products that Purex is not making and the strategy that should be employed.
For Victoria’s Secret, data collection and survey analysis are basic to the development of a thrust or change in strategy to enhance company position, such as the intelligence gained from market experiments concerning a proposed new product. Defensive intelligence, by contrast, is designed to protect, secure, and maintain company positions to ward off competitive threats. Marketing intelligence involves more than machine systems and accounting and statistical information. Decision-makers themselves are important components of marketing intelligence systems.
The rapid feedback of information on market conditions must be tempered by the analytical skills and judgment of management. Dealing, as it does, with future customer demand, this intelligence depends on the value judgments of executives as well as the data processing capacities of the company, but unless it suits a company’s decision climate, it is utterly useless. The marketing data system furnishes the grist for the intelligence mills. This raw material consists of facts, attitudes, opinions, observations, and experiences. Through a process of sorting, classifying, indexing, excerpting, and verifying the data, we go from the mere gathering of data to the acquisition of information.