Trovinger has been in the research industry now for over a decade. The beginning of his career was heavy in the CPG space. He started working with P&G on Old Spice during that brand’s reinvention. Then he switched over to the food space and General Mills for five years. Most of the latter half of his career in tech has been between Microsoft and Amazon, where he was senior manager for customer insights, working on Amazon Fresh private brands for stores.
Much of his focus has been in the DIY insights space, and that focus remains in his current role as director of consumer insights for health and pharmacy at Albertson’s. “It’s a totally different industry, but also still requiring that same DIY effort to get the insights needed,” he says. “DIY still persists throughout these big companies. I think people have this notion that Amazon has this unlimited research budget or P&G has this unlimited research budget and that’s not the case. There’s still a lot of value placed on doing more with less.”
If Trovinger learned a simple lesson during the pandemic from his time at Amazon and then Albertson’s, it’s that plans change—whether it’s a DIY plan for a new or established business, a small startup or a larger enterprise. “It was just a really interesting DIY process that again, I’ve never been forced to think that differently before until COVID hit,” he says.
At Albertson’s, like his time at Amazon, Trovinger discovered it was challenging to connect with consumers, especially if they were all staying at home during the pandemic. In this case, however, Albertson’s had an advantage with its large loyalty panel.
Trovinger recalls, “At Albertson’s, it was a new role, and really the first step was what resources do we have. And we had our loyalty panel, which was 40,000 customers. There was a vendor managing it at the time, but it was my team just wanting to do constant surveys of how do we understand this customer. This was an area where COVID just accelerated everything. All of a sudden, we had something like six million new customers come in because they just need to get their COVID shot, but now they’re aware of us, they’re using us. We did everything through that panel from basic awareness and sentiment studies that I was writing and analyzing myself to launching products. Even if we went and did a big independent study or hired a vendor that was not DIY, I would come back and gut check all of it against this loyal group of customers. Knowing that I had this group, they were super responsive and just open to surveys. This was one space where I was heavily reliant on DIY.”
For Trovinger and Albertson’s, while challenges to reach customers remained, he was also able to rely on a solid base of stores and their associates to test concepts.
He continues, “We did a pilot down in our United market, which is down like Southern Texas, New Mexico, and we then did associate focus groups because again the customers were hard to find. And we then held nine half hour focus groups within a week. And it was what worked from a store ops perspective, because we’re now going to need to roll this out to 2,000 other stores. What was the customer feedback? Let’s let our associates just have those conversations in store and relay it back to us. And again, super DIY, but that might have been the biggest product impact and launch impact I had for this entire project, for which we did a ton of research. It was in store, here’s what our associates are saying, here’s what our customers are saying.”
Watch the video for more on Seth Adler’s conversation with Bill Trovinger, as they discuss this year of uncertainty, Amazon Fresh, doing more with less, the speed of insights, getting comfortable with metrics and the insights team.