During the first quarter of 2008, ReachFarther developed an Excel-based reporting tool based on Wal-Mart panel data for PepsiCo.
The Excel-based format might not be as “sexy” as some newer technologies, but it allows large corporations with rigid IT infrastructures to create very powerful analytic applications. More importantly, the end product works entirely within the existing software configuration run by Sales and Category Development, and blessed by IT. In many cases, this means the tools can be developed without the assistance of IT entirely.
For years Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access have been able to share information using VBA, Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications. This application-based programming language makes it possible to leverage the strengths of each of the Office tools to produce some very powerful packages. For PepsiCo, the syndicated data is stored in an Access database and Microsoft Excel executes dynamic SQL statements against the data source to generate a series of 20 standard graphs within Excel. These graphs are completely automated based on a number of dropdown menu selections made on a master control panel.
The real power of this configuration is that the two files can be distributed within the PepsiCo network via email and saved to each user’s computer. Each individual user can then generate the standard reports based on only the markets, measures, and demographic groups that are important to their business. The charts are also generated on the fly, which makes producing comparison decks fast and easy.
With the integration between Microsoft Office applications we discussed above, the charts can simply be cut-and-pasted from Excel right into presentation decks built in PowerPoint. This simple application makes it easy for Sales and Category Development to spin syndicated data quickly and easily to add real internal value, and drive sales and marketing efforts within each retailer.
ReachFarther worked closely with our vendor partner Hudson Analytics who provided invaluable information architecture design for the final product. Their expertise with syndicated data, specifically shopper insights and panel products, added the analytic punch to the application that makes it a truly valuable tool.