These are projects posted by the students of Dr. Gove Allen at Brigham Young University. These students have taken one semester-long course on VBA and generally have had no prior programming experience

Monday, December 9, 2013

AC Nielsen Data Analyzer

Executive Summary

A common job for those in consumer marketing/brand management is to analyze large amounts of scanner data from companies such as IRI and AC Nielsen. “Scanner data” is defined as the information collected each time a product stock keeping unit (SKU) is “scanned” in a retail establishment. Scan data reports contain information such as a SKU’s price, whether it was sold on a promotion, and the average number of items sold for a particular brand. It can be at the detailed SKU specific level or as high as the brand and retailer level.

This data comes in a large csv or Excel dump from these providers and is difficult to analyze because there is no industry-wide, uniform data format. This is because each and every brand has its own unique time frames, metrics, and reoccurring formats to compare itself against; thus, there is no single web-based or VBA solution to analyze its data dump. All the data providers can do is provide raw data. Often, companies will spend thousands of dollars trying to develop an Excel model that will allow them to quickly and repeatedly understand scanner data for their brand.

There is, however, a certain methodology that many brands use when making sense of their data. Figure 1 provides is a schematic of that methodology.

Figure 1: Scanner Data Analysis Methodology. Credit: Mike Bond, Brand Management Professor

For this project a large amount of my time was spent understanding how a brand manager thinks and the process they go through to asses a business situation facing his or her brand. To clearly understand this I met with Mike Bond, the Marriott School’s Brand Management Professor and former Sr. Brand Manager at ConAgra Foods, to discuss this process. Here is a summary of how the process works (see Figure 1): The way a brand manager recognizes a business problem with his or her brand is by first looking for a change in a brand’s volume. Once the manager notices a change in volume, the next question is what is driving those changes in volume. The manager will then look at the volume spilt between base (when the brand’s product is sold at regular volume) and incremental (when the brand’s product is sold at a discount). From there a manager would need to consider driver or changes in base and incremental volume. He or she would do this by considering the next level in the chain described in Figure 1. Note that the black boxes are all individual drivers of the of the driver listed above them (e.g., %ACV and Average # of items are drivers of distribution, which in turn is a driver of base volume, which is a driver of total volume).

I developed a VBA model that will use the above methodology to analyze scanner data for a specific category. The scanner data used in the project is real data, but the category name and brands have been masked. The model will allow the user to select his or her brand and it will compare the selected brand against itself 1 year ago as well as against the category. Additionally, as this is a task that is done on a weekly basis, I developed a data import system that allows the user to select a folder where reports will be automatically downloaded to and that opens and imports the data from the latest uploaded Excel file. This assumes that the data reports are uniform for this brand, which is how it would be in the actual company where it would be used. Were someone to take this model and try and connect it to a different brand category, he or she would need to “rewire” the model to work for the specific data organization of that category pull, but typically, once the data report is developed it will be uniform week to week.

The model also provides some protection and clean-up methods that allow the user to interact cleanly with the generated worksheets in the model, thus creating a better user experience. The model boasts clean and well organized ribbon controls to further enhance the user experience. Finally, it automatically creates charts to allow a brand manager to quickly visualize brand performance and it allows the brand manager to select competing brand and compute category wide performance among the selected brands.

The ultimate goal of this project is to allow brand managers to quickly and effectively make decisions based on the data, and spend less time trying to wrestle insights out of it.

The actual Excel file will not be posted here due to data sensitivity.

Logan Dunn

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