Immersive journeys to help leaders make more impact in the world.

Consumer Data for Competitive Advantage

December 28th 2012 21:12

Bernice Wong is a 2014 MBA Candidate at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Focused on scaling social enterprises through venture capital and strategic advisory, Bernice also has a passion for sustainable apparel.

Stepping into Bangalore 

It’s the end of day one and I feel as if I’ve just visited the house of the most gracious and engaging host. Bangalore has opened her doors to us and charmed us with her candor, dynamism, and incredible heart for people. I, for one, have been won over. One of key contributors to the day’s success has been the amazing social entrepreneurs that we have had the privilege to meet. Amidst a rainbow of natural fiber crafts at Mother Earth and surrounded by solar powered lamps at SELCO, we were inspired by the organizations’ missions, innovative business models, and stories of success.

Focus on the end consumer

While we covered the smorgasbord of social enterprise hot topics, including the role of systems-thinking, hybrid models, democratization of markets, and local vs. global solutions; one of the most striking findings for me was the social enterprises’ focus on the end-consumer. Visiting IndusTree/Mother Earth, I was incredibly impressed at the organization’s reverence for market dynamics. For an organization of $3M USD in sales last year, the understanding of the end-customer and alignment of the business to meet consumer needs was impressive.

Gone is the notion that social businesses push products into the market with their fingers crossed, hoping that someone will purchase. Successful social enterprises, much like their corporate counterparts, employ sophisticated and rigorous market-analytics to drive their businesses.

Empowering social enterprises through market data

This learning reminded me of the incredible power that we hold as consumers. Through our purchase choices, we signal to the market how valuable a product is. We determine the market value of a company’s social mission. Like many, I would say that I would happily support more socially responsible businesses. However, my purchases don’t always reflect this. Why? I have a whole host of reasons. The product didn’t quite fit my needs or style or, the list goes on. In the past, the story would end there. However, after seeing the use of consumer data at IndusTree, I would like to propose an alternative. Let us share our preferences and feedback with those organizations that we would like to support. Let us empower social enterprises with valuable market data so that they can be more competitive.

So, the next time you turn away a product despite wanting to support its mission, why not send a note to the organization telling them how they could better meet your needs. This is not a guarantee that change will happen. In my experience working in the consumer products space and based on our learning from the social entrepreneurs today, however, consumer data is an invaluable source of competitive advantage. Let us be active and engaged consumers. Let us use not only our dollars but our data to empower social enterprises and equip them to succeed!