Can Product Managers Use Data To Make It Through A Pandemic?

Is it possible that new sources of data will help product managers in hard times?
Is it possible that new sources of data will help product managers in hard times?
Image Credit: Wonderlane

Let’s face it: pandemics suck. Your best laid plans for how you were going to boost the success of your product at the beginning of the year got turned on their heads. As a product manager, you still have the same goals, it’s just that the rules of the game seem to have been changed. What you are going to need is some way to try to understand this new world that we all find ourselves living in. You need more information. Perhaps getting more data might be just exactly what you need to make it through this pandemic?

The Power Of More Data

Let’s face it, in a world that has changed on all of us, the one thing that can help us to find our way in this new territory is data. A good example of the power of data is being shown by the product managers at Bacardi and Mercedes-Benz who have turned in part to a dashboard of analytics that has helped them to extend their product development definition. This data tool pulls in 35 data sources across 30 markets on subjects like ad rates, media consumption habits, consumer sentiment, foot traffic, shopping behaviors, government restrictions put in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fluctuations in local Covid-19 cases and mortality rates.

Just having access to the data is not enough. Product managers have to be ready to act upon what the data is telling them. The Bacardi product managers used what they found in the dashboard to shift marketing dollars toward their ready-to-drink Bacardi Rum cocktails last summer as stay-at-home restrictions eased and people became more willing to venture outside. Covid is not changing the substance of your business, but rather it is changing the way your business reacts to the changed context. Other product managers have developed data-based tools or services to inform decisions related to the coronavirus. This increased use of data to perform product management tasks is going to look good on our product manager resumes.

The product managers at Mercedes-Benz are seeking data to answer questions on customer behavior and economic activity in different regions. What they want to know is if their consumer mobility is increasing at the same time as interest in the category in a given market? How does this align to what survey data is telling them about pent-up demand there? What types of content are customers consuming more of, and how are prices fluctuating. Other product managers are making their own inquiries, tailored to their sectors. An example of this is at Progressive Corp who drew its road map for advertising during the pandemic partly using information from a weekly poll of 1,000 consumers conducted by its ad agency.

How To Use The Data That You Have

The good thing about product related data is that any product manager can make use of it. An example of this is shown by the Hershey product managers who are is using a platform to parse what’s happening across the U.S. as the candy giant ramps up its advertising for the holiday season. The platform uses machine learning to predict rising and falling consumer demand across various marketer categories spanning 32 countries, drawing on online search data and other data sets to track factors such as the rate of new, confirmed and recovered Covid-19 cases, local government restrictions, and unemployment and other economic data.

One of the challenges that these product managers are dealing with is that Hershey is a national advertiser. However, in their market there are state-specific implications which will impact their holiday period. The data within the pandemic-centric tools in many cases are already available from a variety of sources. However, the goal is to pull it together into a more useful picture for product managers. As we all know, it’s about making better decisions, faster.

The arrival of the pandemic has forced product managers to act more quickly in terms of where, how and how quickly they make their media deployments. Decisions that they would typically make annually are now being made on a quarterly or monthly basis. There’s an overall dynamism in our business right now because everything is in flux. Right now product managers can’t assume anything. They have to be led by the data, in real time, to develop an agile response in how they show up to customers.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no doubt about it – the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything. Product managers had plans for how they wanted to grow markets for their products this year and those plans have been upended by the changes that the pandemic has caused. Into this new world product managers have been thrust and we now have to find ways to use our product manager job description to make our product successful when everything has changed. Since we can’t possibly know all of the answers to all of the questions, what we need is data.

The use of data to try to sort out what is going on in your market is something that many other product managers are currently doing. Examples of this can be found at Bacardi and Mercedes-Benz. They are using tools that pull multiple streams of data from different sources and create a dashboard that the product managers can use. The key to getting the most out of the data that you are using is being willing to take action on it. Properly used, data can provide product managers with answers to the questions that they have been asking. Any product manager can put data to work for them. They need to understand the scope of the data that they will be working with. With the right data, product managers will be able to move quickly and react to changing market conditions.

If there is one thing that product managers have to be good at, it’s dealing with change. What this means for us is that the current pandemic should be viewed as simply being a change that we need to understand and adjust to. The good news is that with the proper use of data, we can make changes and find ways to ensure that our products will be successful. Make sure that you have access to multiple streams of data and create ways to allow that data to be presented to you in ways that you can take action on it. Even after the pandemic is over, data driven product management is here to stay.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Does the data that product managers are collecting have to be transformed before they can use it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So if you want to go to a concert, a monster truck show, or a circus, who do you buy your tickets from? If you are like most of us you would go online, go to a website run by Ticketmaster, and purchase your tickets. This is the way that we’ve always done it. Now things are getting ready to change. The product managers at Ticketmaster are getting ready to face the first serious competition that they have had in decades. What makes this an even bigger deal is that the competition is being run by their ex-CEO!