Can you live in a simulation

"You can't simulate real life"

Mr. Krüger, what are your plans for the shopper research and mystery shopping specialist? Testing on a small scale what should work on a large scale. This is how Bonsai started in 2004 and that still marks the basic idea of ​​our approach today. Now we are going one step further and will turn bonsai into a platform for experimental marketing. Bonsai Lab offers trends, learnings and co-creation within the customer journey. With the food pioneers from myEnso, we have exclusive access to innovative and creative consumers, as well as to a nationwide network of retailers from the food retail, pharmacy and drugstore sector. Our goal is to develop concepts and stories that touch people. With Bonsai Sales we want to help start-ups and foreign companies to gain a sustainable foothold in the German market. Under Bonsai Shopper we will offer more classic shopper research than before - we see further potential, especially in the interlinking with the sales data, our know-how in the area of ​​category management.
myEnso as a partner

Through a cooperation with myEnso, an online supermarket founded by Bonsai owners Nobert Hegmann and Thorsten Bausch, Bonsai has access to 40,000 food pioneers who, above all, want to help create intrinsically motivated products, brands or their stories. The community is regularly involved in research.

Which new research tools do you need or want to establish? We love real experiments and real data - whether as behavioral or sales data. Bonsai is data-driven, and that will continue to be the case in the future. Especially if data flows continue to change - for example in the pharmaceuticals sector, with the introduction of the e-prescription, which we expect for the next four to five years, we will have even more options for connecting data. Accordingly, we will invest in the necessary analytical know-how and cooperation. The same applies to understanding - here we will invest more in qualitative methods, but also in social media analyzes. Bonsai is a partner of the Value Index 2020. The value index developed by Peter Wippermann and me in 2009 is based on extensive social media analyzes. It is probably the largest study ever in this form. With social media we will understand our data even better. Listening and observing has always been part of our work in the test market.

Tell me about the test market in Bremen. How is it used? When Bonsai was founded, the possibility of regionally controlling all media, but especially TV, as part of a test market, was the absolute “hot shit”. With the Landesmedienanstalt Bremen in the back and the partners at the time, above all IP Deutschland, we were able to control practically all communication measures of a brand in Bremen. And on the basis of survey data and of course real media and sales data, analyze all conceivable effects and model an ideal media mix for the national launch. For many customers, the results from a real test market are still set. The effort is very high - so the test product, which can only be bought in Bremen and nowhere else in Germany, is produced in small numbers especially for this purpose. And the advertising for this product is also produced and placed for Bremen. We then analyze media and sales data and, last but not least, based on our experience and benchmarks, can provide valid forecasts for the launch. Today we have to provide data for ever shorter-term decisions. The large test markets of up to a year and longer have become rarer. But also the profound changes in the media sector, in particular the ever increasing share of streaming services, have changed the test market. For us this means completely new possibilities for testing, with the advantage that we are no longer tied to Bremen today.

Is mystery shopping still necessary and common these days? What part does this take? Absolutely - three years ago we thought carefully about taking over Kantar's business. Business currently accounts for almost 50 percent of sales. It is correct that new end-to-end solutions such as those from Qualtrics / SAP seem very promising, especially in the area of ​​measuring customer experience. They will certainly replace a large part of the established customer satisfaction approaches. But I find it difficult to believe that we as consumers will in the future give feedback on everything in a self-motivated and automated manner. And not all of the information we receive there can be generalized objectively or even only intersubjectively. Mystery research can be a useful addition here. Sure, mystery research will also change - less mass, but a high-quality area with committed and more highly qualified testers. These will increasingly work differently. We are already working partly covertly and openly. Means that a mystery shopper comes out at the end of a buying or advisory process and gives his feedback openly as a customer and person. This also has an effect on the tested. Mystery is then not just a method, but already a measure and part of an intended change.

With behavioral data - for example from the receipts or by observing the customers in the outlet - a lot can be technically recorded. What role does the survey at the PoS still play? New technologies also enrich our analyzes. In the future, we will continue to rely on collaborations, such as with Eyesquare, whose technology we have been successfully using in individual projects for years. But technology is not a panacea. We will continue to rely on direct interaction with people in the future, as close as possible to their experience. In the discussion of whether we should develop in the direction of virtual, simulated test markets, we have a clear point of view: You cannot simulate real life. It delivers its own stories. And these stories only exist in direct contact with people, whether as retailers or consumers - at the PoS or as part of a co-creation session. Human is the next big thing. Bonsai is already there.

Published in planning & analysis 1/2020