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The power of robust benchmarks

Updated: Aug 1, 2019



What is a benchmark? Noun: “A standard or point of reference against which things may be compared”


There is no industry definition for what makes a benchmark robust. At Lobster we define a robust benchmark as one facilitated by 3 or more evaluation results relating to the same measurement topic i.e. if we are interested in understanding the performance of in-store sampling in Asda we would want to consider a benchmark created from at least 3 evaluations of in-store sampling in Asda and not more generally considering a wider retailer pool.


Robust benchmarks can be a powerful tool within shopper from both an activity evaluation and planning perspective however it is vitally important to ensure benchmarks quoted are robust, accurate and – crucially – contextually relevant. Considering a misused, out-dated or irrelevant benchmark will diminish our true performance understanding.


What follows is a synopsis of the value robust benchmarks can bring to shopper teams?


When analysing the performance of shopper activity, the first question to consider is “How does this benchmark?”. Media performance is a relative measure, and performance data on a page holds very little practical weight unless it can be contextualised. For example, while a piece of media may have achieved a goal of driving a positive ROI, this figure may still be well below the benchmark and thus can be improved on. Marketeers should always seek to optimise executions, and to this end benchmarks facilitate deep investigation around performance and provide tangible insight against this aim.


Benchmarks support investment choices too – here, it is imperative quoted benchmarks are aligned to an objective as well as contextual information including brand maturity. For example, within NPD planning it is not helpful to lean upon benchmarks built from performance history of mature, established products. Within planning not only does benchmarks inform investment decisions but they can aid associated budget sign off and effectively manage internal expectations around performance, whether the forecast view is positive or negative. Being able to expectation manage internally is particularly relevant within test and learn planning.

It should be noted that certain shopper opportunities will not have performance benchmarks including new to market channels or bespoke activity. While the importance of robust and correctly applied benchmarks should not be underestimated, brands should not be put off investing in innovative opportunities if benchmarks are not available. The creation of a separate ‘test and learn’ budget works well to support the evolution of shopper campaigns and continued innovation within shopper.


Quite simply, without benchmarks it is impossible contextualise activity performance or forecast for the future however shopper marketeers should be open to challenge quoted benchmarks and ensure that a culture of an over-reliance on benchmarks does not stifle innovation within the discipline.

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