Nielsen President, Jeanne Danubio, sees tremendous opportunity to bring to life the next generation of consumer measurement amid the pandemic.

As the novel COVID-19 sweeps the world, companies around the globe are working diligently to figure out how to navigate this very serious and turbulent time. Amid this global pandemic, consumers are being forced to dramatically change their purchase behaviors and businesses are quickly shifting to adjust to a “new normal.” As a global measurement and data analytics company, Nielsen Connect is no stranger to tracking the shifts and slides of the consumer marketplace. Since the appearance of COVID-19 within the U.S., the company has been closely monitoring consumption and sales patterns and establishing clear navigation beacons for companies trying to understand what is happening and how to plan for what’s next. For packaged goods manufacturers and retailers racing to meet record levels of demand and changing purchase habits, data is an essential for success.

It should be noted that neither of the industries that Nielsen serves, which include the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail space, are strangers to disruption. In January 2019, the CPG and retail industries were already preparing for a new era of consumption. Consumer tastes and shopping habits were shifting, a new retail landscape was emerging and companies were looking for direction on what to do next. During this time, Jeanne Danubio took over as President for the Nielsen Connect, North America business, and immediately saw tremendous opportunity to help its U.S. and Canada-based clients find order amid industry disruption and most importantly, bring to life the next generation of consumer measurement.

“I’ve worked in many different roles in Nielsen over the past three decades, both in North America and globally,” Danubio told CEO Magazine in an exclusive interview. “Through my experiences, I have learned that with big changes, come big opportunities. With this mindset, I began my current role by embracing the changes happening within the industry. It inspired my drive to reinvigorate the market through Nielsen data and technology, help our clients navigate the ever-changing omnichannel world in a nimbler fashion, and seek the golden opportunity to move ourselves and our clients forward, faster.”

Tackling a crisis

“The CPG and retail industry is at a historic inflection point right now where it’s critically important for companies to have clear visibility into what is going on and why,” Danubio noted. “We recently identified six key consumer behavior threshold levels that tie directly to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The thresholds offer early signals of spending patterns, particularly for emergency pantry items and health supplies, and we are seeing these patterns being mirrored across multiple markets.

“Retailers and manufacturers must find new ways to work with one another to better anticipate and meet consumer needs and leverage opportunities for growth, she added. For me, Nielsen’s role in facilitating collaboration, especially at the trade desk, is crucial for industry to keep moving forward. Collaboration is at its best when retailers and manufacturers can work side-by-side to optimize price, promotions, assortment, and marketing strategies, and ultimately drive mutual growth. Democratized data and analytics for all industry participants removes silos and fosters efficiency and growth for all—benefiting the retailer, the manufacturer, and the consumer.”

An explosion of data

Additionally, with the explosion of data and continued advancements in technology, Danubio believes Nielsen’s role is more vital than ever before. “Powered by our strategic alliance with Microsoft, we’re shaping a smarter market for the retail and CPG industry through the capability of the Nielsen Connect platform, hosted on the Microsoft Azure public cloud platform,” she highlighted.

The Nielsen Connect platform, which Danubio identified as a priority for the Nielsen Connect business, is currently being deployed to clients and is already driving real-time collaboration, increased speed to market, and faster results for top retailer and manufacturer clients in the U.S. “Through the Connect platform, we are helping clients identify and quickly move on growth opportunities within an open data environment,” Danubio elaborated. “Fueled by breakthrough AI and machine learning (ML), we are essentially creating the next generation of applications that extend way beyond measurement and toward prediction and activation.”

As a global measurement and data analytics company, Nielsen is known for its complete and trusted view of consumers and markets worldwide. The company is divided into two business units, Nielsen Global Media, which measures broadcast ratings and Nielsen Global Connect. If any company has seen it all, it would be Nielsen. Nielsen was founded in 1923 by Arthur C. Nielsen, who brought to light the science of market measurement and market share. As of 2020, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population.

The new consumer journey

To shepherd the industry into the next era of measurement, Nielsen Connect is investing in measuring high growth channels. Under Danubio’s leadership in North America, Nielsen Connect is working to provide coverage, context, and clarity into the new consumer journey across the U.S. and Canada. “Whether that’s in a grocery store, ecommerce or through other digital touchpoints, at a restaurant or bar—or through fast growing, interesting channels and categories, like cannabis and pet—visibility is a necessity,” Danubio explained. As it has done in decades past, the company is busy paving new paths for the industry.

“As we expand our coverage to match consumption trends, we will continue to provide the marketplace with a broad, comprehensive view of sales and consumer behavior, with deep product and store reference data, along with robust consumer diagnostics, to help companies understand exactly what people are buying, and who is buying what and why,” Danubio said. “And here is where collaboration is key, again. For example, we have an alliance with Rakuten to source data assets to fuel our own ecommerce measurement solution. We are working with NPD to co-create a large-scale, comprehensive omnishopper consumer panel for the industry. And since we measure the total consumer, we have relationships with companies like Trax to activate on in-store shelf intelligence and Commerce IQ to provide even more granular data to help our clients move in an omni-channel world.”

Ahead of the pack

Danubio believes that one key advantage that differentiates Nielsen is its global scale—they are currently the only information company that has coverage in over 100 markets around the world, tracking millions and millions of different products. She identified another major differentiator as the company’s open philosophy towards partnerships, notably through its impressive Connect Partner Network which was launched in 2016 and today stands as the industry’s largest curated community of partners for CPG manufacturers and retailers.

“Our open platform and philosophy has enabled a growing ecosystem of 80 partners to move faster and easily integrate Nielsen assets into their own architecture and systems, fostering faster development of innovative solutions between ourselves, our clients and network partners,” Danubio elaborated. In short, with Danubio at the helm, Nielsen Connect’s North America business looks stronger than ever. “We’ve got a lot of momentum coming out of 2019, with movement happening on a technology, coverage, and collaboration standpoint. Because of this, Nielsen Connect is uniquely positioned to help clients measure, predict, and activate through today’s ever evolving consumer and business landscape. We are building the next generation of consumer measurement to better enable companies to not only understand what’s happening in the market, but why, and what to do next.”