From ice creams to body creams, essential dish soaps or indulgent hair conditioners, we want people to love our products. And with 2.5 billion people using our brands every day, that’s a lot of consumers we need to impress.

In 2018 we launched Digital Voice of the Consumer (DVOC) to understand better what quality means to our consumers – where we’re getting it right and where we could do things differently – or make improvements. DVOC helps gather the reviews and feedback people share with our Consumer Engagement Centres or on public social media platforms. We see it, we track it and we act on it quickly to address any quality concerns.

Now we’re building on this consumer-centric concept. This year our eCommerce business has grown beyond even our own expectations, and so in June 2020, we extended this approach to a new initiative, which we’ve imaginatively called ‘eCommerce Digital Voice of the Consumer’, or eDVOC for short.

Launching first in five countries, eDVOC explores how we can get it right first time for the increasing number of consumers who are buying our brands online.

As we work to make Unilever products more widely available on platforms from Amazon, Alibaba and Tmall to dedicated beauty retailers and speciality websites, we’re putting consumers first at every step. We know that it’s all about being connected.

We caught up with Chief Quality Officer Sabina Krzystolik to find out more…

These things matter to consumers and they matter to us

Unilever Chief Quality Officer Sabina Krzystolik

What kind of insights are we looking for in eDVOC?

Shopping online is very different from browsing a store and picking up a product before you buy it – so the quality factors that we need to consider are different too. The consumer feedback we’re looking at isn’t just about how a product performs, tastes, smells or feels on the skin. All those things are important – but with eCommerce there are so many other things we need to explore too.

We need to ensure products are delivered on time. That they don’t leak. That we’re clear about pack sizes so we deliver on consumer expectations. That the packaging isn’t damaged upon arrival. And sustainability factors are important too. We want to avoid over-packaging and single-use plastic wherever we can. These things matter to consumers and they matter to us.

So how do we actually listen to consumers?

We can tap into millions of pieces of publicly available data from ratings and reviews that are published on different sites across our markets. We process this data to group it into topics, using artificial intelligence to recognise certain terms and identify common themes.

We also look at something called sentiment analysis, which creates a score based on consumers’ reviews and comments.

What do we do with the info we collect?

Several teams across Unilever play a part in using the insights to create superior products and deliver great consumer experiences. My colleagues in Quality are of course involved at every stage, but we also bring in experts from Supply Chain, Research & Development, Customer Development, and eCommerce and brand experts from local and global teams.

We work together to prioritise any opportunities that need to be addressed and changes we might need to make. And the information is also used to help shape products of the future. Once we have found out what consumers really want and need, we can build that into our innovation pipeline.

How has the DVOC concept helped us so far?

Consumers may not always reach out to us directly, so we need to proactively understand the feedback that’s publicly available. It has a tangible effect on our business. Even addressing such a basic consumer request as launching a new variant of our product can have a significant effect – we did that in Turkey with Domestos, which had a major impact on turnover.

We are also making improvements. Take our home care products in China, for example, where thanks to DVOC we addressed a lot of leakage issues by redesigning packaging. Or Rafhan Corn Oil in Pakistan, where changing the texture and taste has resulted in significant cost savings. These are just a few examples, but the impact is far greater when you consider the number of products our consumers use every single day.

With DVOC, after making such changes we can immediately see the effect to check if we have done it right. That speed of measuring the reactions really helped us when the Covid-19 pandemic started. We were able to address our consumers’ concerns related to the alcohol content in our hand sanitisers, adjust our advertising and ensure the safety of our products.

Why are we launching DVOC for eCommerce now?

Reviews on eCommerce can make a huge difference to whether a product sells successfully or not. If an item attracts a low rating due to lacklustre reviews, its search rankings will drop. On Amazon, for example, poor ratings mean a product is listed lower than competitors and sometimes Amazon will remove its Quick Buy button too.

Above all, we’re a consumer-centric business. What consumers say matters to us and shapes how our business and brands will grow in the future.

We need to listen, learn and create products that our consumers love and experiences they will remember for all the right reasons.

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