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This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
How does a global company build brand loyalty? Which new product has the greatest chance of success? Where should advertising dollars be allocated, in times when potential customers may no longer be watching TV?
While once a CEO’s hunch might have driven business decision-making, today’s companies seek answers from digital analytics — and from experts in the field like Terri Kochersperger ’83.
“It’s about listening to the consumer, finding out what the consumer really wants and needs and is asking for, and trying to address that,” explains Kochersperger, director of digital analytics for the consumer sector at Johnson & Johnson. “Instead of brands saying, ‘I think this is going to work,’ we can really determine if a move is the right one.”
An approach that looks at online communications, website traffic, social media and other data, digital analytics allows companies to track trends and base decisions on hard evidence. The Bentley alumna, who went on to earn an MBA at Pace University, arrived at Johnson & Johnson three years ago. Today, she and her five-person team are working to build a strong foundation in digital analytics for the global company, which is home to iconic brands including Neutrogena, Band-Aid and Tylenol.
“We shape the digital analytics strategy,” Kochersperger says. “We’re also trying to elevate awareness of the practice within the company, showing what the benefits will be if we look at these measures.”
Tuning in to the Customer
Before taking her current position, Kochersperger spent nearly a decade running the web analytics department at Time Inc., publisher of magazines and websites including Sports Illustrated, Time and Entertainment Weekly. Companies like Time Inc. were leaders in digital analytics, she explains.
“Ten years ago the media companies really started ramping up,” she says, noting that consumer packaged-goods companies like Johnson & Johnson began building their operations more recently. “It wasn’t a huge focus five years ago.”
As new as it is, the field is rapidly evolving. While once a company might have focused its resources on brand websites, digital analytics goes far beyond that, into the mercurial world of social media.
“The scope of it can be challenging,” Kochersperger admits. “Everyone is on different platforms and different apps, Facebook or Twitter. But whether we want them to talk or not, consumers are talking. We’d better start listening.”
Made to Measure
The huge amounts of data involved raise the stakes for choosing the right technology. Johnson & Johnson relies on sophisticated software tools to measure Web and mobile traffic, track performance on social networks, and create data visualizations and reports.
Equally important is assembling a team of people who can look at the data strategically and use it to create a clear picture of the market that will guide company decision-making. As Kochersperger puts it: “A lot of my day is making sure we have the right people in place to leverage this information.”
Much of Kochersperger’s strategy-centric work is proprietary. But she offers a hypothetical example of how digital analytics could help a company make decisions.
Say a brand publishes an email newsletter, regularly sending out coupons and product updates, Kochersperger suggests. The goal is to build consumer loyalty, but how does the company know if it’s working? A digital analytics team could examine the proportion of recipients who open the email, along with the proportion who click through to the brand’s website.
“We can really say, ‘Is this email strategy working for us?’” Kochersperger says. If it isn’t, she goes on to note, perhaps the emails should be retooled — or maybe reaching consumers through Facebook would be more effective.
The job entails long hours and regular international travel from her Connecticut home, where Kochersperger lives with husband John and children Kelly, Ally and Karl. Earlier this year, she hosted a group of current Bentley students at her Manhattan office as part of the university’s Success in the City program. This collaborative venture by Career Services and the Center for Alumni, Parents and Friends takes students to New York to meet with alumni and learn about various industries.
It was, Kochersperger says, an opportunity to urge young people to pursue careers in digital analytics.
“Right now, we’re hiring and we’re trying to find qualified people,” she says, noting a shortage of candidates for the growing number of jobs. Some universities are starting undergraduate majors to meet the demand, and Kochersperger hopes Bentley will one day be among them.
“The talk is all about ‘big data’ and ‘leading with data.’ You can see this wave coming where everyone will use data, across the company,” observes Kochersperger, who, with some amusement, finds herself at the top of a field that did not exist when she was a Management major at Bentley.
“It was so long ago,” she says of days when computers resided mainly in a dedicated campus lab. “For our papers, it was all typewriters.”
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Bentley University is named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the just-published 2016 edition of The Princeton Review Annual college guide, “The Best 380 Colleges,” (Random House/Princeton Review).