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Head of Consumer Research for The Weather Channel Talks About Finding a Competitive Edge in a Mainstream Category

Krista Rouse, Head of Consumer Research for The Weather Channel, emphasized the competitive edge that data-driven organizations have when data is put into a human context.

Rouse began her keynote presentation at the 2019 CIO Leadership Forum: Embracing the Digital Revolution, from Information to Transformation, which was held on April 11 in Atlanta, with the statement, “Weather is an industry that’s really been affected by digital transformation, but so has almost every business category. What does this mean? It means the cost of doing business and competing to win continues to become exponentially higher. It also means that many companies who own their category today may not own their category in the near future,” she said.

“Let’s imagine a world within this digital transformation where your brand is the leader in the market, and your clients continue to choose your products again and again. What does this do? It certainly improves your market share and bottom line. My company, The Weather Channel, owns the weather space, and we’ve enjoyed this leadership position since 1982, when we began as a cable channel. Other brands that have done the same are Amazon, Apple, CocaCola, Google, Southwest Airlines, and more than a hundred others. These brands are winning in their categories. Getting to this position begins with being the best, but that won’t get you too far. You have to be the company that either takes an age-old problem and solves it in a unique way or creates a new category. To do this, the risks are high, but so are the rewards,” Rouse observed.

“The Weather Channel has remained in its leadership position by reinventing itself again and again.” Along with powerful consumer, B2B, and science capabilities, The Weather Channel was the first industry to use Watson technology to facilitate personalized dialogues with consumers at scale. “We just launched a new forecast model this year that’s the first-ever algorithm of its size and is based on AI and other things,” she said.

“This is all to say that, in our category—which is truly mainstream—we continue to have double-digit revenue growth quarter over quarter over quarter. We achieve this using data. McKinsey and others have done studies on the competitive edge that data-driven organizations have. Data-driven organizations have 23 times greater customer-acquisition rates, six times greater customer retention, and a 19 times greater chance of profitability,” Rouse explained.

“I prefer to operate in the creative realm, in the abstract, so when I was asked to take on the work I have now, I was a little intimidated. Data can be scary, overwhelming, or even boring, and that didn’t feed my creative side. I had to become a student of data, and my company has so much data—structured and unstructured, qualitative and quantitative, first-party and third-party. We buy data and industry trends, and we produce algorithms and study financial models. However, simply taking data at face value isn’t what will get you to that aspirational state of owning the market. The secret to getting there is this: Data’s necessary, but it’s best when it’s accompanied by human experience. When you bring this context to your data, you’ll discover the insights that lie within. That’s what gets you to the market leadership position,” she noted.

Rouse presented three case studies of how to incorporate real-world experience as context for analyzing data, and she ended her presentation with five best practices for making data work for organizations: 

  1. Standardize and publish benchmarks.
  2. Analyze outliers for context before discarding.
  3. Be cautious of your personal bias, and apply the human experience.
  4. Don’t assume data correlates to your customer’s perceived value or preference (or lack thereof).
  5. Presentation matters. Present the what with the why and, more importantly, the what next.

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's 2019 CIO Leadership Forum: Embracing the Digital Revolution, from Information to Transformation in Chicago, IL on Oct 17, 2019

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